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Europeans' social expectations in 20 years' time

European Commission - MEMO/08/467   02/07/2008

Other available languages: FR

MEMO/08/467

Brussels, 2 July 2008

Europeans' social expectations in 20 years' time

A Eurobarometer survey, carried out in April this year, sheds light on what Europeans believe their social reality will be in 20 years' time. It examines their expectations in terms of improvement or deterioration of their lives in general, how they think social conditions will evolve over that period, and how they think society should deal with future challenges.

How optimistic are Europeans about their lives in 20 years' time?

  • Nearly half of respondents (49%) believe that, in 20 years' time, life will be worse than today. Fewer than 4 Europeans in 10 (38%) anticipate that people's lives will improve.

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

  • Optimism about people’s lives in 20 years’ time decreases with age, but increases with educational attainment and degree of urbanisation.
  • People in the newer Member States (NMS) are significantly more optimistic than people in the EU15 countries. 59% of NMS citizens expect their lives to improve, compared to only 32% in the EU15, while only 24% in the NMS expect a deterioration in 20 years, compared to 56% in the EU15.

Wide differences between NMS and EU-15

% (rounded)
EU15
NMS12
Better than today
32
59
Worse than today
56
24
Neither better nor worse
8
11
DK/NA
4
7

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

What improvements do people expect in social conditions?

The concept of active ageing seems to be widely accepted among the general population, as 80% of EU citizens believe that two decades from now, people will work until a later age.

Improvements, especially towards a more equal society in terms of gender balance, at home and at work, and in terms of chances in life, are also expected as:

  • 7 citizens out of 10 think that:
  1. 'Young people's chances in life will depend much more on their own efforts, and less on their family and social background'
  2. 'Opportunities at work will be more equal for women and men'
  3. 'Men will take a more equal share of the daily tasks at home'

And what do they see as the main challenges?

Overall, however, the social fabric is expected to be put to the test in many areas:

  • 8 citizens out of 10 think that social inequality will increase in their country
  • 7 citizens out of 10 think that:
  1. 'It will be more difficult to find affordable housing'
  2. 'Many people will not be able to afford the medical treatment they need'
  3. 'Even if people have high educational qualifications, there will be no guarantee that they will find a good job'
  • A majority (57%) thinks that people will earn less than today because of competition from emerging countries

German respondents are the most likely to expect a widening of the gap between the rich and the poor (90%) – while Estonia and Malta stand at the other end (54% and 53%, respectively).

Greek citizens are the most likely to believe that people will earn less than today because of competition from emerging countries (77%), while Lithuanian citizens are the least likely to share this view (30%).

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

What do people see as the main political solutions?

When asked about the political directions and decisions that shape the long-term future of their country:

  • 9 citizens out of 10 believe that there should be:
  1. stricter rules to ensure that everybody's lifestyle is more respectful of the environment
  2. stronger public support for people who give time to others and to social causes
  3. policies ensuring that the gap between the rich and the poor is reduced significantly in their country

The fear of long-term impoverishment of whole segments of society seems to be particularly deeply felt as nearly half of EU citizens agree strongly that future policies should aim to reduce financial inequality (44%).

  • 8 citizens out of ten think that:
  1. 'policies should put less emphasis on individual consumption, and more emphasis on other aspects of the quality of life'
  2. 'the weight of caring for elderly and sick people should rest more on society as a whole than on individual families'
  3. 'the European Union should find ways of economic and social development which depend less on the rest of the world'

On the other hand:

  • Only 29% agree that 'people who do not have children should pay higher taxes in order to help those who are raising children'
  • And 4 people out of 10 think that 'we should all accept to pay higher taxes in order to have better public services, an improved infrastructure and support for people in need'

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

In nearly all Member States more than eight out of 10 respondents agree that politicians should take action in protecting the environment, giving greater support for people who give time to social causes and preventing an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.

The picture is less clear when it comes to tax increases: Denmark is the most likely to agree with increasing taxes for a better infrastructure (62%), and Slovakia (22%) the least likely to do so. More than half of citizens in Germany (56%) and Austria (46%) support the idea of increasing taxes for people who do not have children in order to support those who are raising a family, whereas between one and two people out of ten do so in Sweden, Denmark, and the UK (14%, 16%, 17%).

IP/08/1070: Commission proposes Renewed Social Agenda to empower and help people in 21st century Europe

Further information:

http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=89&newsId=367&furtherNews=yes


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