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Living, Working and Studying in the EU

To live, work, and study in the EU is a popular dream, and the EU has made it easier and more attractive for that dream to come true.


EU membership has made it easier to travel, live and work wherever we want to in any member state.

* Millions of British holidaymakers travelling in the EU are fully covered for any emergency hospital treatment they may require.
* Pet passports, introduced in 2001, mean British travellers can take their pets with them when they go abroad for work or on holiday.


EU membership has driven up environmental standards.


The EU has introduced a framework to improve air quality further.


EU membership has been good for consumers.

* Competition in the single market has helped to improve product quality, increase variety and keep prices down. EU membership has brought down the price of international phone calls and air travel within the EU.
* All food products must carry "best before" markings, price indicators and a list of ingredients, colourings and additives which they contain. The EU Eco-label gives information about the most environmentally friendly products.


The EU has been active in promoting measures to ensure that disadvantaged groups do not suffer unfair treatment or discrimination.

* Existing and proposed measures for disabled people include ensuring disabled access to all public places and working with airports and airlines to allow passengers with reduced mobility better access to flights.
* Under EU law it is illegal to discriminate in the workplace on the grounds of sex, race or ethnic origin, religion, belief, disability, gender reassignment or sexual orientation.
* Since 2006, EU legislation has outlawed unjustified discrimination in employment on the basis of age.


EU membership has enriched opportunities for cross-cultural study across Europe.

* Well over 1 million young people since 1995 have benefited from involvement in the EU education and training programme, in part working or studying in another member state.
* The EU's principal education and training programme, known as the Lifelong Learning Programme, has a budget of €7 bn to support projects and activities that foster interchange, cooperation and mobility between education and training systems within the EU.


Looking at the EU27, a consistent pattern seems to be that citizens of a country express higher subjective wellbeing when per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is high: witness the difference between wealthy Denmark and the less well-off Bulgaria. But this is not the whole story. For instance, the per capita GDP of Luxembourg is nearly twice that of Ireland. However, the two countries have identical ratings for life satisfaction. Conversely, while Bulgaria and Romania have similar levels of per capita GDP, ratings of life satisfaction in Romania are notably higher than in Bulgaria. It would, therefore, appear that once a country is prosperous enough to meet its citizens’ basic needs, other factors also come into play in determining people’s wellbeing, such as education and life expectancy.


Nevertheless, income still counts, since in nearly all countries, the richest are most satisfied with life, while the poorest are least satisfied. And research underlines the fact that the individual’s level of satisfaction is also related to their country’s prosperity. In rich countries, for example, people in every income grouping are more satisfied than those in poorer countries. So, for instance, people in the bottom 25% of the income scale in Denmark are more likely to be satisfied with their lives than people in the top 25% in Bulgaria.


If contentedness is associated with personal income, how do Europeans fare in terms of their standard of living? One of the key aims of EU policy is to boost poorer regions and create greater harmonisation of wealth. So how much do standards of living vary between and within European countries?


Not surprisingly, pay is an important issue for European workers with around a third considering themselves underpaid, while a little over 40% feel
they’re well paid. Clearly, pay varies greatly depending on the type of work and comparing incomes is difficult when different countries have varying prices for goods and services. But it is clear that huge income differences exist between the EU’s Member States, especially between the NMS12 and the EU15. Moreover, within some countries, substantial income inequalities prevail. Converting incomes into an artificial currency called Purchasing Power Standards (PPS), adjusting for differences in costs of living, can help in this comparison. By this measure, Luxembourg is by far the wealthiest country in the EU, with an equivalised household income of 235 PPS. For the rest of the EU15, the household income ranges between 82 and 112 PPS. By contrast, the household income in Bulgaria – the lowest in the EU27 – is only 34 PPS.


However, the national averages, in many countries, conceal wide income disparities. Two of the candidate countries – FYR Macedonia and Turkey – have the highest income inequalities: the income of the wealthiest 20% of the population in both these countries is around 10 times higher than that of the poorest 20%.


Within the EU, Latvia is the most unequal country, with the richest Latvians earning about eight times what the poorest earn. At the other end of the scale, Denmark, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Sweden are much more equal, the richest citizens in these countries earning only around four times what the poorest earn.


About a third of European workers feel they’re underpaid, while around half feel their career prospects are not good. Workers are more likely to experience job dissatisfaction if they work long or non-standard hours, have to endure greater work intensity, lack control over their job, or if they’re exposed to physical risks or mental strain. When people have more control over their job and have intellectual demands made of them (without undue pressure), they are more likely to enjoy greater job satisfaction. A minority, most likely to be younger men, blue-collar and private sector workers, those with less education, and people on fixed-term contracts or working through temporary agencies, express a high degree of dissatisfaction with their working conditions.


So do European workers have much say in their work? In northern European countries, around half of all workers have some input into how work is organised, with regard to their time and needs. However, in southern and eastern European countries, more than three quarters of workers have no way of adapting to the work schedules set for them by the company.


Likewise, training could be more widespread. In 2005, fewer than 30% of Europeans had received any training in their jobs over the previous 12 months, despite the importance ascribed to lifelong learning. Nor did the levels of training rise between 1995 and 2005. However, workers in northern European countries fare better than their fellow citizens in southern and eastern Europe. While more than 50% of workers in Finland and Sweden received training at work, only 20% of people in Spain did so, and even fewer in Bulgaria (10%). Better educated, better skilled white-collar European workers are much more likely to receive training. Those working part-time or on fixed-term contracts are less likely to have received training than their full-time permanent colleagues (25% as against 30%).


Work intensity also appears to be on the rise. Increasingly, Europeans have to work faster, meet tighter deadlines and lack sufficient time to get the job done. In 1991, 36% of workers said they never had to work at a very high speed. By 2005, that had fallen to 21%. Similarly, the proportion of workers who said they never had to work to tight deadlines fell from 31% to 19%. Work intensity has risen sharply in Belgium, Italy and Denmark. In a number of countries – Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, Greece, Cyprus, Denmark and Austria – more than 50% of workers find themselves working harder. Workers in France, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal are better off, with fewer than 40% in this position.


Most Europeans, however, still tend to work a standard week of five days, totalling around 40 hours. This standard model of employment is reflected in where they work. Almost 60% of workers in the EU work all (or nearly all) the time in their company’s premises. Telework, despite being much discussed as a viable alternative to office-based work, is still in its infancy. Fewer than 3% of working Europeans telework all or nearly all the time, and only 8% telework at least a quarter of the time. As might be expected, self-employed people are much more likely to telework than others, and those working in real estate, financial services and education do so much more often. Generally, workers in the Scandinavian countries and in the Netherlands are more likely to telework. Working at home, with or without the aid of computer technology, app ears to bring benefits. Interestingly, some 48% of those working at home are very happy with their work-life balance, as against 32% of those who work at their company’s premises, and 28% of those who work elsewhere.


Since 1991, there has been a clear trend towards a shorter working week. The average worker in the EU27 works 39 hours over five days a week. In fact, it is notable how persistent the pattern of a ‘standard’ working week is: a substantial majority of workers in most countries follow this routine, and more than half of Europe’s workers do the same number of hours every day, with fixed starting and finishing times. Furthermore, despite predictions of a move towards a 24-hour society, the number of Europeans who work at weekends or at night appears, far from rising, to have fallen slightly since 1992.


Countries in which agriculture is still an important part of the economy, such as Turkey and Romania, have the longest working weeks – 55 hours a week and 45 hours respectively; in countries with a strong agricultural element, people also work the most days per week. Workers in the Netherlands, by contrast, have the shortest average hours, at around 34 hours per week. In general, people in eastern and southern Europe work the longest hours, while those in central and northern Europe work the shortest.


Concern over the length of the working week is widespread across Europe – for good reason. Those working more than 48 hours a week are twice as likely as other workers to feel their health and safety is at risk. They are also more likely to feel their job damages their health and three times as many feel their working hours don’t fit in with their family and social commitments. Unsurprisingly, countries with longer working weeks show the greatest number of people working long hours. Men and the self-employed are more likely to work long hours: men are more than twice as likely as women to work more than 48 hours a week, while the self-employed are more than four times as likely as an employee to work long hours.


Flexible working is increasingly becoming a feature of European working life. A key reason for this, according to company managers, is to facilitate workers in better combining their work and family life. Around half of those companies with 10 or more employees have some sort of flexible working time scheme, the simplest form allowing employees to decide their own start and end times within a given working day. Others allow employees to build up time credit or debit in hours and to take time off in compensation – up to a day, in the most advanced schemes. The greatest flexibility is offered by schemes that allow employees to build up credit hours and to take extended periods of leave (a ‘working time account’). Companies in Cyprus, Portugal and Greece are least likely to offer some form of flexible working, fewer than one third of companies doing so. By contrast, about two thirds of all companies in Finland, Latvia and Sweden do so. The type of flexibility offered varies. Most forms of flexible working in Germany and Austria involve some type of working time account, while in southern Europe this is offered in fewer than half the companies that offer flexible working options. Flexible working is somewhat more likely to be used in the service sectors than in manufacturing, and in larger companies than smaller. Similarly, big companies are around twice as likely to offer schemes such as working time accounts, which require a certain minimum uptake to make their setup costs worthwhile. Moreover, such companies can more readily redeploy workers to cover for those not working.


As was noted above, women have joined the EU labour market in increasing numbers in recent decades but differences still remain. More men than women have paying jobs – 55% of men as against 44% of women. Nonetheless, in three of the eastern European NMS, the proportions are almost equal, with 49% of women in the workforce. By contrast, in a number of Mediterranean countries, it is much lower: 27% in Turkey and 31% in Malta, for instance.


Women also still tend to work in different jobs: they are, for instance, more likely to work in sales, health and education. They are also more likely than men to work at, or near, the bottom of the career ladder. And sectoral segregation is still marked in Europe. For instance, in construction, 89% of the workforce is male. Similar male dominance can be found in electricity, gas and water supply and in transport and communication. By contrast, women make up 79% of the workforce in the health sector and 72% in education. Occupations are also heavily segregated. Most senior managers are men, while women account for the majority of clerical workers. In fact, less than a quarter of the workforce works in an occupation that is gender balanced (in which at least 40% of the workforce is male and 40% female). Furthermore, women appear to be less intellectually challenged or stimulated in their work than men are, and they tend to do more repetitive and monotonous work. Women, however, are slowly rising into the ranks of management. The number of Europeans reporting directly to a female boss stood at 25% in 2005, and this was higher still at 40% in Finland and Estonia. However, these figures are only averages: the majority of workers reporting to a female manager are themselves likely to be women; on average, across Europe, fewer than 10% of men have a female manager. In addition, women are more likely to manage workers lower down the
organisational hierarchy. And still today, European women earn less than their male counterparts – and not just because they are more likely to work part time. Even women who work full time, who have enjoyed the same job tenure and hold the same occupation as a male counterpart, are likely to be paid less; this contributes to the fact that around a half of all European women find themselves in the bottom third of the income scale.


With that said, Europe is definitely not a place where there is plenty of gender discrimination. The EU takes pride in maintaining gender equality, and will take necessary action to eliminate such prejudice.

Source: Europa, Fco

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