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Brussels, 2 February 2010

Social Situation Report and Eurobarometer social climate survey

What is the Social Situation Report (SSR) and what issues does it cover?

The Social Situation Report is one of the Commission's main tools for monitoring developments in the social field across the EU Member States. The annual report aims to inform public debate on social policy by providing key data and in-depth analyses. It provides key indicators covering all social policy areas, most of which are derived from a major European survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). Each report analyses some specific issues in more detail; this year focussing on housing and on the economic crisis. In addition, this year’s report includes the results from a recent Eurobarometer survey about the social climate in the EU, containing questions about Europeans’ satisfaction with their lives, their countries and their public administrations and social services.

The Report complements other regular Commission analyses in the social field, such as the Employment in Europe report, the annual report on gender equality and the Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion.

How do Europeans perceive their lives in general?

Fieldwork for the Eurobarometer survey was conducted in May-June 2009, a period in which the economic crisis had firmly taken hold. Despite the difficult economic situation, a majority of Europeans are satisfied with their life in general, giving an average score of +3.2 points (on a scale of -10 to +10). But there are big differences between Member States: the highest level of satisfaction was reported in Denmark (+8.0), with Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland also having high levels. The lowest levels of satisfaction were reported in Bulgaria (-1.9), followed by Hungary, Greece and Romania.

People’s perception of how things have changed over the past five years and the outlook for the year ahead tends to be related to their current level of satisfaction: the most satisfied citizens also expect the biggest improvements; in the countries with the lowest satisfaction levels, people expect things to get worse.

People's satisfaction with l ife in general, 2009

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: Special Eurobarometer no 315.

'Current situation': On the whole, are you very satisfied, fairly satisfied, not very satisfied or not at all satisfied with the life you lead?

'Expectations': What are your expectations for the next twelve months: will the next twelve months be better, worse or the same, when it comes to your life in general?

'Experiences': Compared with five years ago, would you say things have improved, gotten worse or stayed about the same when it comes to your life in general?

How the scores have been calculated

The satisfaction score used in these analyses was calculated by giving the value -10 to the response ‘not at all satisfied’, -5 to ‘not very satisfied’, +5 to ‘fairly satisfied’ and +10 to ‘satisfied’. The average score for a country or the EU as a whole can therefore, in theory, range from -10 (all respondents saying that they are not at all satisfied) to +10 (all respondents saying that they are satisfied).

For changes over the past five years ('experiences') or the next twelve months ('expectations'), respondents had the choice between ‘better’, ‘worse’ or ‘the same’. A score was obtained by calculating the difference between those who said that things are getting better and those who said that they are getting worse. The resulting score can thus vary between -100 (all respondents saying that things are getting worse) and +100 (all respondents saying that things are getting better).

Are Europeans satisfied with how their public administrations are run?

Despite feeling positive about their lives in general, Europeans are on average quite dissatisfied with the way their public administrations are run (-1.2 points on average). In every country apart from Luxembourg and Estonia, Europeans feel this has worsened over the last five years and they expect it to continue to get worse in all countries except in Luxembourg.

People's satisfaction with t he way the public administration is run, 2009

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: Special Eurobarometer no 315.

Europeans rated the provision of healthcare much more positively (+1.3 points). Respondents in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg had particularly high scores (over +5 points) while those living in Bulgaria, Greece and Romania were most dissatisfied (-3 points or less). Most Europeans felt that healthcare provision had worsened over the last five years, and that it was likely to worsen further in the next year.

However, Europeans were particularly dissatisfied with the way inequalities and poverty are addressed in their country (-2 points). Only Luxembourg and the Netherlands registered a positive score, while respondents in Latvia and Hungary were the most strongly dissatisfied (-5 points or worse). In all countries except Malta, Europeans feel that policies in this area have got worse and respondents in all countries expect the situation to worsen in the future. In this context, the current European Year for combating poverty and social exclusion clearly responds to an issue of major public concern.

How many Europeans own their homes?

The structure of housing tenure varies markedly across the EU. In all countries, most people own their own homes. This is especially so in central and eastern European countries, where – with the transition to a market economy – most people acquired possession of the housing they occupied. The proportion owning their own homes, therefore, is as high as 85–90% in the three Baltic States, Hungary and Slovakia and around three-quarters or more in all the other EU-10 countries, except Poland. A majority of those owning their own home do not have mortgages.

Division of population by housing tenure, 2007

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Note: EU refers to EU25 but excluding MT.

Source: EU-SILC 2007

What do Europeans think about affordability of housing?

There is a strong feeling of dissatisfaction with the affordability of housing across the EU, with Europeans awarding this -3.1 points on average. Cypriots are by far the least satisfied with a score of -7.5. Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, Spain, Hungary, Poland and Malta also register low scores, all below -5.0. On the other hand, people in Sweden and Estonia are most likely to consider housing affordable (+1.1), followed by Denmark, Latvia and Germany (above +0.7).

There is a strong feeling that the situation has deteriorated over the past five years in almost every country, and most people think that the situation will not improve over the next twelve months.

People's satisfaction with the affordability of housing, 2009

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: Special Eurobarometer no 315.

What are the main components of housing costs?

Data on housing costs from the 2007 EU-SILC shows that, on average, Europeans spend one-fifth of their disposable income on housing. Over two-thirds of this amount is on repairs and utility bills, with only one-third spent on mortgage payments or rent. There are, however, large variations between Member States. Following housing privatisation, most people living in countries from the central and eastern EU Member States (notably Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania) own their own homes, and charges for repairs, maintenance and fuel make up around 90% of total housing costs.

Average housing costs in relation to disposable income, 2007

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Note: EU refers to EU25 excluding MT. DE not included in the EU average. Data for DE not shown. Source: EU-SILC 2007

Which groups are most burdened by housing costs?

The report shows that the burden of housing costs is higher for people who live alone, for lone parents and for people aged 65 and over. For those people living at risk of poverty (in other words with an income below 60% of the median income in the country) housing costs can rise to over a third of their income. While the average proportion of disposable income spent on housing in the EU is 20%, for people living at risk of poverty, housing costs constitute around 36% of disposable income. The trends in the figure below are similar in most countries.

Average housing costs as % of disposable income by household type for the total population and for Europeans at risk of poverty in the EU, 2007

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Note: 'Other' includes households with more than two adults. Source: EU-SILC, 2007

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