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IP/10/773

Brussels, 22 June 2010

New survey reveals more people struggling to make ends meet

One European in six reports a constant struggle to pay household bills and three quarters believe that poverty has increased in their country over the past year. These are the key results from a new Eurobarometer survey on social impacts of the crisis, presented by the EU Commission today. The survey, carried out in May 2010, marks the halfway mark of the 2010 European Year against poverty and comes after EU leaders agreed on 17 June to lift 20 million Europeans out of poverty and social exclusion over the next decade.

Speaking to the media in Brussels, László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion said "The survey results confirm that poverty is a major issue in the EU and that the current economic and financial situation is aggravating the situation further. The crisis is taking its toll and a significant proportion of Europeans today are finding it difficult to make ends meet". He added: "The EU's new strategy for the next decade: Europe 2020 and its target to lift at least 20 million Europeans out of poverty by 2020 sends a powerful message about all countries' genuine commitment to visible results for a more just and inclusive Europe."

Overall, EU citizens believe that poverty has increased in the year prior to the survey, at all levels: 6 out of 10 believe poverty has increased in their local area, three-quarters feel poverty has increased in their country and 60% think poverty has increased across the EU as a whole.

The crisis and calls for austerity measures come through in people's perception of poverty. Greece stands out with 85% of respondents who think poverty has increased in their country. 83% of the French, 82% of Bulgarians, 77% of Romanians and 75% of Italians also share this view about their own country. While in some countries, people expect further difficulties, like seven out of ten Romanians and Greeks expect their household financial situation to deteriorate, perceptions did improve in others. For example, 23% of Latvians expect their households' financial situation to deteriorate (down from 65% in July 2009), 32% of Lithuanians (down from 58% in July 2009) and 20% of Hungarians (down from 48% in July 2009). Now less respondents in Latvia, Poland, the UK, Belgium and Finland expect to remain unemployed if they were to lose their job.

A significant share of EU citizens report being in trouble financially

One in six Europeans reported that their household has had no money to pay ordinary bills, buy food or other daily consumer items, on at least one occasion in the past year and 20% had difficulties in keeping up with household bills and credit commitments at the time of the survey's fieldwork (carried out during May 2010).

For 15% it is a constant struggle, while 3% had fallen behind with some bills and credit commitments and 2% were having real financial problems and had fallen behind with many such payments.

About 30% of citizens find it harder to cope with the costs of healthcare

Around 3 out of 10 Europeans reported that it had become more difficult to bear the costs of healthcare, childcare or long-term care for themselves or their relatives in the past six months: 11% felt it had become “much more difficult” and 18% thought it had become “somewhat more difficult”.

One European in six is not very or not at all confident of keeping their job

As in March 2010, 18% of respondents in employment are not very or not at all confident that they would be able to keep their current job in the next 12 months and 49% think it would be fairly unlikely or not at all likely that they would be able to find a new position within six months, should they be laid off.

The perceived impact of the crisis on future pension entitlements

Finally, in terms of future income, 73% of EU citizens either explicitly anticipate lower pension benefits or think they will have to postpone their retirement or save more money for old age. Meanwhile, 20% are very worried that their income in old age would be insufficient for them to live a decent life, and 34% are fairly worried by such outlook. In 17 Member States, a majority of respondents are very or fairly worried that their income in old age will not be adequate to enable them to live in dignity.

Background

Public perceptions on the social impact of the crisis which broke out in autumn 2008 have been regularly monitored since June 2009 with Eurobarometer surveys especially designed for this purpose. They aim to gauge perceptions about the existence of poverty, the degree of financial difficulty of households, changes in healthcare and social care affordability and how people feel about their financial situation in their old age.

For this last wave, 25,600 citizens in all EU Member States were interviewed mainly by telephone from 18-22 May 2010, following a random selection of respondents, followed by weighting to correct for known demographic discrepancies.

While data (EU-SILC: Income, Social Inclusion and Living Conditions) on which the EU poverty reduction target is based is only available with a lag of roughly 2 years, surveys of public perceptions of poverty provide a quick indication with only a one-month lag on how poverty and exclusion is likely to evolve.

Further information

MEMO/10/268

Eurobarometer survey report : http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/flash/fl_289_en.pdf

European Year Against Poverty : www.2010againstpoverty.eu


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