Two-thirds of respondents from the EU and 10 neighbouring countries reported difficulties making ends meet in the fifth round of the Living, working and COVID-19 survey. This was notably higher in EU neighbouring countries than in the EU, with 81% in neighbouring countries reporting difficulties making ends meet, compared to 48% in the EU27. Respondents from the EU neighbouring countries also reported high risk of depression; the results are particularly alarming for those aged between 18 and 44, with 75% being considered at risk of depression.
The new factsheet on Living, working and COVID-19 in the European Union and 10 EU neighbouring countries presents a selection of results from the fifth round of Eurofound’s e-survey which extended to 10 neighbouring countries for the first time. The spring 2022 survey, which covered EU Member States, as well as Albania, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Georgia, Moldova, Palestine**, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia reveals serious concerns about the rising cost of living across all countries.
The factsheet also shows a low level of life satisfaction among respondents, which was noted especially across all 10 EU neighbouring countries, and is particularly widespread among younger respondents, who also exhibit a strong feeling of social exclusion. 28% of respondents aged 18-29 years in the EU27 and 41% of respondents of the same age in EU neighbouring countries expressed such a feeling. This reflects the lasting effects of the pandemic, painting a bleak picture across Europe and highlighting the need for further policy attention, especially regarding young people.
With regards to education, respondents pointed to the low quality of education services, with an average score of 3.4 in the EU neighbouring countries and 4.8 in the EU27. Over 70% of EU neighbouring country respondents reported lacking sufficient access to education and training programmes, as compared to 36% of respondents in the EU27. Overall, most unemployed respondents find it difficult to access further education and training programmes, ranging from 62% in the EU27 to 84% in EU neighbouring countries, while employed respondents and those with higher levels of educational attainment are overrepresented in such schemes. The 2023 European Year of Skills will be an important opportunity to promote effective and inclusive investment in training across Europe.
Poor work-life balance was reported across the board. The findings show huge diversity among countries in terms of working hours and work fatigue, with women reporting a higher frequency of tiredness due to performing most of the unpaid household work in their free time, especially in EU neighbouring countries. This highlights the need for gender-responsive active labour market measures targeting women especially, as well as effective public policies in the health and care sector.
Speaking on the publishing of the joint factsheet, Eurofound Executive Director Ivailo Kalfin said, 'This research highlights both the commonality of the challenges faced by people in the EU and neighbouring countries, as well as particular issues of concern for those in more socio-economically deprived areas. Of particular note is the mental toll that the pandemic has taken on citizens, and there is evidence that the cost-of-living crisis is exacerbating this issue further. The partnership between Eurofound and ETF on this study has expanded the scope of the research and brings further evidence of the priority areas for policymakers across Europe and beyond.
Xavier Matheu, Director ad Interim of ETF said, 'The pandemic has brought many challenges for all of us, not least for our Eastern European neighbours. We must strive to consolidate their social protection schemes and keep up our support for the consolidation of education and job-matching services. At the ETF we continue to help our neighbours to ensure that their education and labour market policies reflect changing learning and working patterns and people’s preferences and expectations. The ETF’s close cooperation with Eurofound has proven to be very effective and we look forward to continuing our collaboration to research and understand those factors that affect most the lives of people in Europe and Europe’s neighbouring regions.'
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
** This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual position of the Member States on this issue.