[Excerpt] In spring 2013, after five years of economic unrest, the European Union exited recession. The recovery was modest, but it is enduring. By the end of the year, even the countries with the most fragile economies were expected to see some strengthening of economic activity. Unemployment stabilised, but remains unacceptably high in several Member States with stark differences across the Union while the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion continues to climb, rising to 125 million by the latest estimates.
Eurofound puts flesh on these statistics to provide the knowledge that policymakers need to develop policies to tackle the social and work-related challenges facing Europe today. For instance, Eurofound’s labour market analyses in 2013 showed that middle-paying jobs, which declined heavily in the crisis, continue to be lost; while growth is occurring in higher-paying jobs, it does not outweigh that job loss. The jobs being lost are those that employ men mostly; meanwhile, employment of women has been growing modestly and they are taking a greater share of those high-paying jobs. Still, seven and a-half million young people are out of work and not in any form of education, which represents an estimated loss of about €163 billion annually in welfare transfers and lost incomes and taxes. The failure to secure a job is delaying their transition into adulthood, preventing them from achieving economic independence (and often delaying their establishment of families), with potentially detrimental consequences for their long-term financial security and well-being. In this context, decline of trust in public institutions (parliaments and governments) across Europe comes as little surprise, but what is perhaps unexpected is that the main influence on people’s trust, uncovered by Eurofound’s research, is not the perceived economic situation of their country but the quality of public services. In this difficult context, Eurofound also focused its analysis on such issues as changing working conditions, the evolution of pay and undeclared work.