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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 24 April 2014

Working conditions: new survey reveals deterioration and wide disparities in worker satisfaction

While just over half of European workers perceive working conditions in their country to be good (53%), a majority (57%) nevertheless think that their working conditions have deteriorated in the last 5 years, according to a Eurobarometer survey published today, which looks at how the quality of work has been affected by the crisis. Although most workers are satisfied with their own working conditions (77% on average in the EU), there is a very wide disparity across Member States, ranging from 94% in Denmark to 38% in Greece. Generally, most workers express high levels of satisfaction with their working hours (80%) and health and safety at work (85%).

The results of the Eurobarometer will feed in to discussions on current and future prospects for EU action in the field of working conditions in Brussels on 28 April. The conference will provide an opportunity to discuss how to further develop a consistent and forward-looking approach to working conditions in the EU, to ensure high levels of quality, safety and equity at work.

"Protecting and promoting working conditions in the EU is about taking care of our human capital. We have a remarkable heritage of law and policies to ensure good working conditions that allow for high levels of satisfaction among European workers. But there is a fear also, and a real risk, that working conditions will suffer in the wake of the economic crisis. Together with Member States and employee and employer organisations, we need to renew our efforts to preserve and improve working conditions", EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor commented.

The Eurobarometer survey, carried out in the 28 Member States, reveals that:

  1. more than 80% of respondents in Denmark, Luxembourg, Finland and The Netherlands consider working conditions in their country to be good. At individual workers' level, Denmark also comes first, with 94% of workers being satisfied of their own conditions at work – Austria and Belgium ranking second with 9 in 10 workers being satisfied, followed closely by Finland (89%), the UK and Estonia (both 88%)

  2. on the opposite side, Greece has the lowest rate of satisfaction at country level (16%) and is the only country where fewer than half of working respondents are satisfied with their current conditions (38%)

  3. to a lesser extent, levels of satisfaction are lower at country level in Croatia (18%), Spain (20%), Italy (25%), Bulgaria (31%), Slovenia, Portugal and Romania (32% for each), but also in Slovakia (36%) and Poland (38%).

A variety of factors can explain this divergence in satisfaction levels: the social and economic context influenced by the crisis but also more structural features in terms of social dialogue, social policies and labour law, which may be stronger or weaker depending on national situations across the EU.

Other key findings from the survey indicate that there is room for improvement, notably in the following areas:

  1. A number of findings tend to confirm an increase in work intensity. Stress clearly emerges as the most important perceived risk at work (for 53% of working respondents). In addition, dissatisfaction regarding workload, pace of work and long working days (more than 13 hours) is more widespread than other issues such as lack of interest in the tasks or inadequate rest periods on a weekly or annual basis;

  2. Regarding work organisation, in relation to work-life balance, 40 % of respondents declare that they are not offered the possibility to use flexible working arrangements;

  3. In the area of health and safety at work, less than one in three workers declared that there are measures in place at their workplace to address emerging risks (for example caused by nanotechnologies or biotechnology), or directed to older and chronically ill workers. Together with stress, poor ergonomics is perceived as one of the most important risks at work, with 28% of respondents identifying repetitive movements and tiring or painful positions as a main health and safety risk in their workplace, and 24% lifting, carrying or moving loads on a daily basis.

Upcoming EU conference on working conditions

At the 28th April conference there will be around 300 stakeholders. Five workshops will allow for in-depth debates on occupational safety and health, restructuring, reconciliation between work and private life, traineeships and the international dimension of EU action in the field of working conditions.

Trade unions, employers' organisations and policymakers, both at European and national level, are invited to reflect and take common initiatives to support working conditions and job quality, which is essential in order to meet the Europe 2020 objectives. Good working conditions, including a healthy and safe environment, are often associated with high worker motivation, creativity and commitment, leading ultimately, to high levels of productivity.


This survey was carried out in the 28 Member States between 3rd and 5th April 2014. 26,571 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed via telephone (landline and mobile phone) in their mother tongue.

Working conditions for the purpose of this Eurobarometer were defined as working time, work organisation, health and safety at work, employee representation and relation with the employer.

The Europe 2020 Strategy sets ambitious targets for increasing employment and reducing poverty. The European Semester, the Employment Package and the Social Investment Package all contribute to address the evolving employment and social challenges in a systematic manner and from the perspective of pan-European interest.

The EU relies on a comprehensive set of policies and legislation that aims at supporting better working conditions in the EU, including minimum standards of labour law and occupational safety and health. Last year, the European Commission also proposed two Quality Frameworks on restructuring (IP/13/1246) and on traineeships (IP/13/1200). The latter was adopted by the Council of Ministers in March 2014 (IP/14/236).

On 7 April 2014, the European Agency for Safety at Health at Work (EU-OSHA) launched the "Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress" campaign to raise awareness about the psychological, physical and social risks linked to stress at work (see IP/14/386).

For more information

Eurobarometer "Working Conditions in the EU" and country fiches in national languages

Conference on Working Conditions, Brussels, 28 April 2014

Rights at work


Youth employment

László Andor's website

Follow László Andor on Twitter

Subscribe to the European Commission's free e-mail newsletter on employment, social affairs and inclusion

Contacts :

Jonathan Todd (+32 2 299 41 07)

Cécile Dubois (+32 2 295 18 83)

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