Mental health as well as citizens'
confidence in the actions of the EU and member state governments have both
declined since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the conclusion of
the study "Living, Working and COVID-19" by the
European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions
(Eurofound) made in spring 2021, which looked at the social and economic situations
of people in Europe.
Psychological well-being is at an all-time low
Europe's population is showing noticeable
signs of "fatigue” after a year of the COVID-19 pandemic and a series of
full lockdowns. The mental well-being of all age groups has now reached its
lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic. Young people and those who
have lost their jobs are particularly affected. One year after the first
businesses closed following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 10 per cent
of respondents who were employed prior to the pandemic were unemployed, an
increase of two percentage points from the situation in the summer of 2020 (8
per cent) and double that of spring 2020 (5 per cent).
Among young people, those aged 18 - 29 are
the most affected, with 17 per cent most recently unemployed as compared to 9
per cent of those aged 30 and over. At the same time, job insecurity increased
among those who had jobs. The feeling that they would lose their job in the
next three months was worst at the beginning of the pandemic (33 per cent),
improved significantly by the summer of 2020 (24 per cent), and worsened again
in the spring of 2021 (26 per cent).
inequalities with regard to vulnerable groups have increased as a result of the
pandemic. People such as those who applied for financial assistance but did not
receive it and those who lost their jobs during the pandemic or were already
unemployed, all found themselves in a precarious situation and many reported
difficulties in "making ends meet" by the end of the month. The
survey also showed the considerable differences that exist between the member
states. The proportion varies from 14 per cent of respondents in Denmark
reporting corresponding financial difficulties to 74 per cent of respondents in
Citizen satisfaction with crisis support
measures has dropped significantly, with only 12 per cent agreeing that support
measures are fair, which is down from 22 per cent in the summer of 2020. The
proportion who thought support measures were simple and effective fell from 16
per cent in summer 2020 to 10 per cent in spring 2021.
Scepticism about vaccines
Confidence in vaccines is also not
absolute. More than a quarter of European citizens have quite a sceptical
attitude towards COVID-19 vaccines. Attitudes toward vaccines correlate with
trust in respective governments and social media use.
Citizens are more sceptical in countries
with less trust in their own government. The question regarding the main
sources of information also had a significant effect on the findings. Whereas
heavy users of social media (three or more hours a day) are somewhat more
hesitant (30 per cent) than others (26 per cent), the percentage of vaccine
sceptics amongst those who use social media as their primary news source is as
high as 40 per cent. The percentage of vaccine sceptics amongst those who use
traditional news sources (press, television, and radio) as their main sources
of information, is only 18 per cent.
The report concluded that preventing
economic and social inequalities between member states and their citizens is
essential; otherwise the weak trust in governments and in the EU’s project will
be further undermined and political discontent will grow with regard to the
"European Social Charter".