Majority struggle to make ends meet in 11 EU countries

Despite all the claims that economic recovery is underway in Europe, more than half the population of 11 EU Member States say that they still have difficulty making ends meet.

This is the shock finding of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) latest European Quality of Life Survey for 2016, published today (7 December 2017).

In Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Greece and Slovakia, households report some or great difficulty getting by on their monthly incomes. Greece, Croatia and Romania are the worst hit countries, with 86% of respondents in Greece struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their families.

“This state of affairs is totally unacceptable in a European Union that claims to promote social progress and the welfare of its citizens,” said Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). “The European Commission continues to talk about robust recovery, but with wages falling or stagnating, many people in Europe are worse off than they were a decade ago. European workers desperately need a pay rise.”

Households in seven EU countries – Croatia, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Slovakia and Spain – say their living conditions are still more difficult than before the 2007 crash. Some of those countries were subject to punishing austerity regimes following the crisis. And in Italy and Croatia the proportions of people reporting difficulties since 2011 have also risen – by +9 and +8 percentage points respectively.

The study confirms that there is still a long way to go to close gaps within and between countries and boost the process of upward convergence, with inequalities persisting between gender, age and income groups. “Much stronger steps are needed to tackle poverty, inequality and the lack of convergence between east and west, which generate social dumping and unrest, and undermine European integration,” insisted Luca Visentini.

The survey covers nearly 37,000 people from 33 countries, including the EU-28. In two-thirds of Member States, more than half of the respondents also have concerns about insufficient income in old age, against a background of squeezed pension payments and care budgets.

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