Just 12% of people believe the support measures rolled out to help deal with the implications of the pandemic were fair, with the same proportion believing that the measures reached those who needed them. These results from the third round of Eurofound’s Living, working and COVID-19 online survey, carried out in February and March 2021, highlight a marked decline in public satisfaction with pandemic support measures since summer 2020, growing difficulties in making ends meet among those already in a precarious financial situation, and significant differences in financial fragility based on employment status.
The survey looks in detail at economic and social situations of respondents across the EU and the analysis of the latest round is based on a sample of 46,800 responses. Overall, by spring 2021, 38% of people had requested support of some kind or another during the pandemic. A third (33%) received at least one type of support, while 7% have had at least one request rejected. The spring round also reveals a large degree of unmet need for financial support, with one-third of those who had requested support with expenses receiving a rejection. It also indicates significant processing delays for support, including one in ten people requesting paid sick or care leave awaiting a decision.
Between summer 2020 and spring 2021 there was a decline in satisfaction with support measures across various indicators. This included a decline in those agreeing that obtaining support was easy and efficient (down from 16% to 10%), those believing support measures were reaching those that needed them the most (down from 20% to 12%), those affirming that the rules for obtaining support were clear and transparent (down from 25% to 15%) and those expressing the view that the support measures were fair (down from 22% to 12%). There were also notable differences between Member States, with satisfaction particularly low in Czechia, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain (where under 15% expressed satisfaction in all indicators). Conversely, all statements reached at least a 15% agreement level in Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia.
The e-survey also shows that while overall levels of financial fragility have remained stable, it is considerably higher among those on temporary contracts and the unemployed. Financial fragility is widespread among those whose request for some form of financial support had been rejected. This is also reflected in the proportion of those finding it difficult to make ends meet, with over 8 in 10 people who requested financial support but did not receive it, who lost their job during the pandemic, or who are unemployed, reporting in spring 2021 that their household had difficulties making ends meet.
Speaking about the findings, Massimiliano Mascherini, Eurofound Head of Unit for Social Policies, expressed concern at the implications for levels of equality in Europe: ‘Unfortunately the survey shows a growing divide in Europe between countries and population groups, with those that were already most economically and financially vulnerable facing a disproportionate social and economic burden from the pandemic. In the immediate term this places a high toll on citizens and undermines trust in institutions, but in the long term it could also have broad and negative implications for socio-economic convergence in the Union.’