Findings of the GfK "Challenges of Europe ” 2007 survey
Nuremberg, July 5, 2007 – Although unemployment remains Europeans’ greatest concern, and is cited as the main anxiety by the subjects in half the countries surveyed in the context of the GfK “Challenges of Europe”, concerns are nevertheless receding compared with previous years. Next on the list, but a long way down from unemployment, are prices and purchasing power development, homes and rentals, along with criminality and pensions.
Unemployment has remained at the top of the agenda of Europe ’s citizens since 2001, although the proportion of those expressing concern has been gradually diminishing since 2002. Compared with the previous year, the figure is down by a further 7 percentage points. However, for 30% of all Europeans, resolving the job shortage remains an urgent priority. Where this subject is concerned, Germany tops the list and here, at least two thirds of the population regards dealing with unemployment as one of the most important issues. Germany is followed by France with 54% and Poland with 40% of those expressing concern, although at the same time there has also been a marked drop in the number of subjects expressing concern in these three countries. This factor is most evident in Poland, where the drop is around 30 percentage points.
Unemployment is also considered one of the major challenges in Italy , where 37% expressed concern and Austria , where 31% of subjects cited unemployment as a major concern. On the other hand, only 2% of Britons and 5% of the Dutch regard the situation on the job market as problematic. In Spain and Belgium, around one quarter of the population is concerned and in Russia, the figure is one in ten.
Concerns relating to purchasing power double in Poland
In 2007, Europeans were also preoccupied with the development of prices and purchasing power, with a total of 18% worrying about their financial room to maneuver. With this, the subject continues to rank second in the list of European concerns.
The Poles, in particular, worry about purchasing power and a total of around 30%, which is double the previous year’s figure, expressed dissatisfaction. The main concerns accounting for this do not relate as much to the rate of inflation, which is low at 1.3%, but to achieving a fairer distribution of income and a reasonable standard of living. Conversely, in Russia, the situation has relaxed somewhat, so that at 25%, a 10 percentage point drop in concerns on the subject was recorded. In France and Germany , the importance of purchasing power is also ranked higher on the list of concerns and here, almost one in five members of the population are dissatisfied. Around one in ten Italians, Austrians, Netherlanders and Belgians are critical of price development, and in Austria , the trend in dissatisfaction is even rising. Bringing up the rear is the United Kingdom , where the subject hardly causes a ripple among the population.
Housing is a matter of concern to the Spanish and the Russians
Homes and rentals rose in the rankings of concerns from 4th place the previous year to 3rd place in 2007. The proportion of concerned Europeans was up two percentage points to 14%, which is the highest level to date achieved by this particular subject. In Spain , the value has risen to 30%, almost double the previous rate. This is attributable to the steep rise in housing prices and a draconian increase in loan interest rates in the past years. Russians are also worried about the housing shortage, with just under 26%, or just below half the number for the previous year, expressing concerns and putting the subject at the top of the agenda for action. The French and the Brits, one in ten of whom expressed concern, nevertheless see no great need for action and with values of between 4% and 5%, the housing situation seems to be even less important in Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands. In Germany, Italy and Austria, the housing problem is also only at the periphery of concerns.
Britons would like to see greater effort to combat criminality
The demand for greater effort to combat criminality has risen from 5th to 4th ranking this year. With a rise of 3 percentage points to 14%, the positive trend reflected by the decline in concern over criminality, has come to an end this year. The Britons, above all, expressed concern, with a rise of 8 percentage points on 2006 . In tandem with criminality in general – in a comparison of EU countries, the UK has one of the highest crime rates – for the first time ever, the problem of "knife culture”, where youths carry knives, featured among the concerns on this subject. And certainly, well-founded fears of attack by islamist terrorists are leading to a growing climate of unease in Britain.
In Belgium, fighting crime is also cited as the most pressing challenge, with concerns twice the previous rate at 28%. There is also growing anxiety relating to criminality in Italy, with a rise of 12% to 22% in those expressing concern this year. About one quarter of French and Dutch citizens also regard the problem as a grave one. However, despite the slight rise in concerns about criminality in the Netherlands, a subject which remained at the very top of the agenda for years, these fears have been overtaken by transport policy on the list of Dutch concerns. In Germany, at 10%, anxieties concerning crime remain in the double digit range, although such fears come lower on the list of concerns in Spain, Austria, Poland and Russia .
The Spanish have the greatest fears on the subject of terrorism
In Spain and Poland, general criminality is of minor importance only, since both these countries have special problems of a specific criminal nature requiring attention to contend with. For example, terrorism poses the greatest threat in Spain and a total of 32%, which represents an increase of 5 percentage points, are afraid of attacks and attempted terrorist acts in their own country. In Poland , concerns over corruption have risen from 5% in 2006 to 12% this year.
Pensions problem is gathering momentum, especially in Russia
The problem of pensions is also gaining in significance and with a rise of 3 percentage points to 13%, financial concerns relating to old age now occupy 5th place on the list of Europe ’s top worries.
The subject also polarizes the nations. Russians (21%, plus 7 percentage points) and Germans (18%) are particularly worried about pensions, and with 15% skeptical about conditions, Austrians are also convinced of the gravity of the situation, whereas Italians (9%), Poles (8%) and the French (7%), are rather more relaxed on the subject of pensions. In Belgium, Spain, the UK and the Netherlands, citizens are equally unconcerned.
Resurgence of environmental concerns, particularly in Austria and Germany
Environmental protection, which last appeared on the list of concerns in 2001, has reappeared in the list of the top ten worries this year. With 7%, which represents 3 more percentage points than in 2006, environmental protection is now ranked 9th in the list of European concerns. The publication of the world climate report may well have triggered this effect. Austrians and Germans, 18% and 16% respectively, are particularly focused on the protecting the natural environment and Belgians are in third place with 13%. In the Netherlands and the UK, one in ten members of the population are concerned about the environment, while in Italy and France, the figure is 8% and 9% of survey subjects expressing concern on the subject. In Russia, Spain and Poland, on the other hand, environmental issues are of minor importance only.
The findings indicated have been extracted from the "Challenges of Europe” survey conducted by GfK Marktforschung for GfK-Nürnberg e.V. In the context of the survey, 12,000 subjects in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain and the UK were surveyed. Consequently, the survey is representative of 450 million Europeans. The survey was based on an open-ended question asked in the same form every year: "In your opinion, what are the most urgent issues to be resolved currently in…(the country concerned)?” The survey subjects are not limited in any way as to their responses and multiple answers are possible.
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