Europe has endured a decade of disruption, with strong growth following the Great Recession short-lived before the economic and social disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The human toll of the pandemic, which touched every community throughout the EU, no sooner abated than the war in Ukraine began – with people throughout Europe responding in a wave of solidarity and support for the Ukrainian people.
We now face a winter of uncertainty, and potentially discontent. The cost of living is rising rapidly, and the spectre of recession looms.
The average inflation rate across the EU was close to 8 per cent in March, and citizens are feeling the pinch, with 53 per cent of respondents to Eurofound’s Living, working and COVID-19 e-survey reporting that their household had difficulties making ends meet in spring 2022, and 16 per cent indicating being in arrears on their household utility bills.
These issues are impacting citizens’ trust in institutions. Eurofound’s e-surveys indicate a decrease in trust in national institutions in the EU among respondents by 13.4 per cent on average since the beginning of the pandemic in spring 2020. This includes decreases in trust in national governments (-24.5 per cent), healthcare systems (-10.2 per cent) and the police (-8.1 per cent).
All the more of concern, these declines in trust were recorded at a time of an upswing in economic activity with decreasing restrictions and unemployment declining, to a rate where it was below pre-pandemic levels.
The spread of misinformation on social media and increased isolation during the pandemic may, therefore, have been a key driver. Indeed, Eurofound research indicates that trust in institutions is lower when social media is a primary news source.
The economic challenges that Europeans are currently facing, and those to come in the months ahead, may act as a catalyst for the spread of misinformation, making a challenging situation even worse, and sowing the seeds of discontent and dissatisfaction among the most vulnerable and isolated.
It is in this context that Eurofound is branching out with its communications. Eurofound, or more officially, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, was one of the first EU agencies to be established, taking its seat in Dublin shortly after Ireland entered the EEC in 1973.
Eurofound has been producing research for close to 50 years on how to improve the living conditions, working conditions, and the quality of life of people throughout the EU.
Eurofound Talks is part of Eurofound’s overall rapid research and communications response to the challenges of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The podcast series explores critical social rights issues on the EU and national agenda, how they affect citizens’ individual lives and work, and what can be done to shape a better future for Europe.
While Eurofound’s in-depth research reports and data remain at the centre of its activities and are of critical interest to policymakers at both national and EU-levels, Eurofound Talks also speaks directly to citizens and those that want to find out more about how Europe is changing, and in what way.
So far, the series has explored how to make work engaging and rewarding throughout the life course, how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted various aspects of young people’s lives across the EU, setbacks on the road to gender equality, and the importance of adequate minimum wages in Europe.
The most recent episode casts an eye on the digital age, and specifically platform work: its potential, and how its growth has presented legislative and practical challenges for Europe. In this context, Eurofound’s experts discuss the broader implications of new forms of employment on the labour market, the increasing influence of algorithms on our lives, and how new technologies can impact long-standing issues such as the right to disconnect and difficulties finding work-life balance.
Eurofound, through its near five decades of experience and commitment to evidence-based research on what it is really like to live and work in Europe, is a trusted source of objective information for those close to these policy issues in the EU. As a result, much of the work of the agency’s experts is often unglamorous and deliberately understated.
Eurofound Talks is built upon countless hours of careful research and is in that regard an ideal resource for citizens fatigued with a clickbait culture that seeks to provoke outrage and stoke fear and confusion.
Subscribe where you get your podcasts, or listen for free and without advertisements on Eurofound’s website, and follow the facts on how Europe is changing and what it means for all of us.