Vizard, Polly Ann (2014). 'Inequalities in capabilities in Europe and the impact of the crisis: Latest findings using the European Quality of Life Survey' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

This paper will draw on a recent research report published by Eurofound in 2013, under the title ' Quality of life in Europe: Social inequalities'. The report was authored by Ellie Suh; Tiffany Tsang, Polly Vizard and Asghar Zaidi with Tania Burchardt. The paper itself will also be jointly authored. The research report and an executive summary can be found here http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/htmlfiles/ef1362.htm.

The report examines social inequalities in the distribution of freedoms and opportunities among individuals and population subgroups in Europe. Using data from the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), the report builds up an evidence base on social inequalities in four critical areas of life: health, standard of living, productive and valued activities, and individual, family and social life. It examines the role of important determinants of social inequalities including gender, age, disability status, employment status and citizenship status, as well as other drivers. The report finds that, in some instances, there is evidence of disadvantages becoming more prevalent and social inequalities widening between the second wave of the EQLS in 2007 and the third wave in 2011. It recommends that growing policy attention to the multidimensional aspects of well-being be coupled with effective public action to address social inequalities and integrated into general policies at the European and Member State levels.

A paper drawing on the research report will be completed in advance of the conference. In line with the conference themes, the paper will examine how the capability approach has been applied in the report as a conceptual and measurement framework for evaluating social inequalities in Europe across different critical domains of life. Disaggregating findings against key indicators will be reported, with a particular emphasis on examining inequalities in central freedoms and opportunities by gender, age, disability status, employment status and citizenship status. The role of other important potential drivers of social inequalities such as educational attainment, occupational group, urban or rural location, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, income, income inequality and social arrangements (such as different welfare and healthcare systems) will also be addressed.

The paper will set out empirical findings on the impact on social inequalities in Europe of the financial crisis that began in late 2007 and erupted into a full-blown economic crisis in 2008. In the research report, results from the European Quality of Life Survey 2011 are compared with those in 2007, in order to evaluate trends in areas such as self-reported health, mental health, access to healthcare and material deprivation over the period 2007-2011. The report identifies a number of instances where the relative position of disadvantaged population subgroups has further deteriorated since the onset of the crisis. The position of countries hard hit by the crisis such as Greece is also highlighted.

 

Key findings

Social inequalities in Europe in 2011 in health, standard of living, productive and valued activities, and individual, family and social life are  identified by gender, age, disability, employment status and non-EU citizenship at the EU27, EU15 and EU12 levels. In some instances, there is evidence of disadvantages becoming more prevalent and social inequalities widening between 2007 and 2011.

Health

  • Women, older people and unemployed people were found to be disadvantaged across a range of health indicators. People who experience a 'limiting long-standing physical or mental health problem, illness or disability' were more likely to report difficulties in accessing healthcare.
  • Being unemployed had a negative impact on self-reported health, even after controlling for other factors.
  • The proportion of the EU27 population reporting bad self-rated general health increased between 2007 and 2011.
  • There was also an increase in the proportion of young people whose mental health is at risk.

Standard of living

  • People who experience a limiting disability or health condition, older people, unemployed people and non-EU citizens were more likely to report  material deprivation.
  • Income, occupational group and education level had an effect on material deprivation after controlling for other factors. Widowhood, lack of social support, GDP and social arrangements for welfare were also important.
  • The proportion of the EU population who experienced material deprivation increased between 2007 and 2011, with above-average increases among people with a limiting disability or health condition, the long-term unemployed and people aged 50–64.

Productive and valued activities

  • Informal care activities are still mainly undertaken by women.
  • Older people and people with a limiting disability or health condition made a major social contribution as providers of informal care in European.
  • Informal carers for the elderly aged 65 or over, and those who have a limiting disability or health condition, are often engaged in informal care activities for 20 or more hours a week.

Individual, family and social life

  • Having a limiting disability or health condition and being unemployed were associated with disadvantage against each indicator in the individual, family and social life domain.
  • Older age was a risk factor for lack of social support, with the disparities most pronounced for those aged 81 or over.
  • Older age was found to be a risk factor for perceived social exclusion in EU12 countries.
  • Non-EU citizens were more likely to report feeling treated with a lack of dignity and respect, and to perceive themselves as being socially excluded.
  • Poverty, education and occupational group had an effect on perceived social exclusion. Being 81 or over, widowhood and lack of social support were also important.