Survey shows families still suffering pay squeeze

Rising prices, inflation and the cost of living are the greatest worry facing individual Europeans today, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey of public opinion in the European Union.

“These findings are just further proof of the urgent need for an EU-wide pay rise for all workers – in both the private and public sectors,” declared ETUC Confederal Secretary Esther Lynch. “Year after year, Eurobarometer surveys have highlighted how working people are struggling to support their families and make ends meet against a background of low pay, rising prices and growing inequalities.”

In the survey, carried out in May 2017, 28% of respondents identified rising prices, inflation and the cost of living as their top concern. But anxiety is much higher in some countries than others. Two-thirds of Lithuanians are worried most about living costs, while in Czechia, Portugal and Slovakia the proportion is above 40%. Slovenians cite living conditions as the prime source of concern. While in the UK, facing more expensive imports and a currency falling in value because of Brexit, 36% of respondents are already most worried about price rises.

“The survey shows that although the EU and national governments claim recovery is underway, the effects are not filtering down to individual households,” said Esther Lynch.

Personal concern about rising prices, inflation and the cost of living has remained at the top of Europeans’ worry list since the question was first asked in 2012. “Europeans have been struggling to deal with rising prices, inflation and the cost of living for well over five years,” she added. “This demonstrates clearly how, over the course of the crisis, citizens’ living standards have been squeezed. It is time for governments to invest in the workers who drive the economy.”

Rising prices, inflation and the cost of living come well above the next causes of anxiety for Europeans personally: 17% of respondents highlighted health and social security and 15% pensions, although 14% were most anxious about the financial situation of their households.

Although inflation fell after 2011, figures for 2017 show prices on the rise again – led by an estimated increase of 4% in annual energy costs in the eurozone in August.