1) Monitoring Quality of Life in Europe
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Aberdeen
Unit of AssessmentSociology
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Sociology
Summary of the impact
The University of Aberdeen has played a key role in designing and
analysing surveys for European
institutions to monitor and evaluate quality of life — a concept adopted
as a key measure of
economic growth in Europe in 2000. The research findings (including
insights into particular
aspects of quality of life, such as working life) have been used by the
commissioning institutions to
stimulate debate and shape policy. They have also been used by individual
countries both within
the European Union and further afield, notably in China and Rwanda.
Interactive web resources
have opened up the findings to policy makers and the general public.
Following the 2000 publication of the Lisbon Strategy for economic growth
in Europe, the
European Commission adopted Quality of Life as one of the measures of
progress in European
societies. The need to monitor and compare quality of life data from a
growing number of EU
countries posed major new challenges. It was against this background that
the University of
Aberdeen produced a substantial body of research which — as it was
commissioned by European
institutions — had impact built into it from the outset.
The Aberdeen research was led by Claire Wallace, Professor of Sociology
(at Aberdeen since
2005) and primarily involved designing and analysing surveys for the
including the EU Directorate-General (DG) Employment and Social Affairs
and the European
Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions
(Eurofound), an independent
organisation set up in Dublin by DG Employment and Social Affairs along
with the European
Trades Unions and Employers' Associations. Major projects included design
and analysis of the
Eurobarometer (EB 62.2, one of the main instruments for measuring the
climate of opinion in
European states; 2005/6) and the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS,
The findings highlighted two types of `social capital': formal
(participation in civil society) and
informal (participation in social networks and levels of giving and
receiving social support) [3.1].
Further research showed social capital to be a significant component of
life quality more generally
[3.2]. Both of these were shown to be highest in Northern Europe, but low
in the South and East,
where informal social capital was predominant. In Southern Europe, family
support was the primary
form of social capital.
One of the most important constituents of quality of life is satisfaction
with work. Using the EQLS,
Wallace and her team found that the most main components of job
satisfaction for poorer people
and people in poorer countries were having a regular job and an income
[3.3]. The research
showed that once a certain level of affluence is reached, more intrinsic
rewards of working (such
as job interest and autonomy) become more important. In Southern and
Eastern Europe, poor
working conditions and low job security were factors lowering quality of
life in general.
Working life was explored further in another EU project [3.4], which also
analysed work and care in
terms of the model of social quality that the Aberdeen team had been
developing since 2006,
building on the work of a European Social Quality network. Research
findings added to knowledge
about the social context of quality of life by examining the role of
socio-economic security and
social cohesion, inclusion and empowerment [3.5].
In 2012/13, Pamela Abbott, Honorary Professor of Sociology at Aberdeen
since 2010, conducted
research on social quality in Rwanda, which looked at the extent to which
policies to build social
cohesion in the wake of the 1994 Genocide were succeeding. She found that
security and social integration at community level are improving there is
less evidence that people
are empowered and they are generally dissatisfied with their lives [3.6].
References to the research
3.1 Pichler, F. and Wallace, C. 2007. Patterns of Formal and Informal
Social Capital in Europe.
European Sociological Review 23(4): 423-436.
3.2 Wallace, C. and Pichler, F. 2009. More Participation, Happier
Society? A Comparative Study
of Civil Society and the Quality of Life. Social Indicators Research
3.3 Pichler, F. and Wallace, C. 2009. What are the Reasons for
Differences in Job Satisfaction
across Europe? Individual, Compositional and Institutional Explanations. European
Sociological Review 25(5): 535-549.
3.4 Abbott, P. and Wallace, C. 2013. Social Quality, the Quality of Life
and Parents with Young
Children in Europe, pp. 27-54 in Moreno Minguez, A. (ed.), Family
Perspectives. Social Indicators Research Series 49. London:
3.5 Abbott, P. and Wallace, C. 2012. Social Quality. A Way to Measure the
Quality of Society.
Social Indicators Research 108(1): 153-167.
3.6 Abbott, P. and Wallace, C. 2012. Happiness in Post-Conflict Rwanda,
pp. 361-376 in Selin, H.
and Davey, G. (eds.) Happiness across Cultures: Views of Happiness and
Quality of Life in
Non-Western Cultures. London: Springer Verlag.
2012-2013 European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working
Conditions Quality of
Society and Public Services.
2010-2011. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working
of Life in Candidate Countries: Croatia, FYROM and Turkey.
2010-2012. EU Seventh Framework Programme, Dissemination Grant for work
and quality of life.
2008. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working
Well Being in Europe.
2008. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working
Conditions. Comparison of
2003 and 2007 European quality of life surveys.
2006-2009. European Commission Sixth Framework Programme. Co-ordinator of
Workcare. Social Quality and the Changing Relationship between Work,
Care and Welfare in
Europe, with 10 international partners, €1.3 million.
2006-2007. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working
of EurLife Database.
2005. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working
Conditions. Quality of Life
in Europe, €135,000.
2004. DG Employment and Social Affairs (European Commission). European
Social Cohesion, Trust and Social Participation, €260,000.
Details of the impact
The research described in Section 2 was commissioned primarily by the
and its associated bodies. It was therefore designed to have impact by
stimulating debate and
shaping policy within these organisations. The findings have also been
used by individual EU
governments and beneficiaries beyond the EU.
In June 2010 and November 2012, the Aberdeen team presented their
findings to the Eurofound
Board, which includes European Trade Union leaders and representatives
Federations, the European Commission and EU member states. Robert
Anderson, who oversees
all quality of life research at Eurofound, confirmed the importance of
Aberdeen's work, saying that
it had contributed "to the work of the Foundation which underpins social
policy developments in
Europe" by providing evidence for underpinning policies and discussions
[5.1.] The research also
informed a regional Eurofound meeting with representatives from Croatia,
Macedonia and Turkey
in Zagreb in November 2010, where it was presented to policymakers
responsible for EU
accession negotiations. The Aberdeen reports provided information on a
range of social indicators
to inform accession nations' efforts to meet European standards [5.2].
The Aberdeen team's findings have also been incorporated in the EurLIFE
interactive database, a
Eurofound project set up as a resource for policymakers wishing to access
comparative quality of
life data. Between January 2008 and July 2013, the database had more than
336,000 page views
The European Foundation Reports and the EQLS surveys, to which the
Aberdeen team have often
contributed, were frequently used in policy documents and discussions at a
between 2010 and 2013; this work was also repeatedly cited by the Council
of Europe (3 times),
the European Commission (31 times), the European Parliament (14 times),
Economic and Social Committee (once), European Agencies (twice), European
(twice), European Thinktank's (3 times), EU NGOs (3 times) and
International Agencies such as
the OECD (twice), UNECE (once) and WHO (twice) [5.4].
Wallace gave a keynote address on her findings from the Eurofound
research in June 2013 in
Dublin at the 21st European Social Services Conference. This
gathering was attended by over 360
European policy makers from 32 countries and organised by the European
Social Network (an
independent network for local public social services in Europe) in
partnership with the Irish
Presidency. [5.5] Among those present was the President of Ireland,
Michael Higgins, who
indirectly endorsed the work of Eurofound by stating that "it is time for
socially driven politics based
on normative theory."
Impact on individual countries:
For the benefit of individual countries, the Aberdeen team have distilled
relevant findings on
particular aspects of life quality. For the UK Work Foundation (a provider
analysis, knowledge exchange and policy advice) the Aberdeen team
presented their findings on
quality of working life in two sessions in Edinburgh in 2010 and 2011. At
the 2011 event, the
Aberdeen team also organised a deliberative forum. The results were used
to help inform the
Scottish government's 2012 Parenting Strategy [5.6].
Individual country information has also been made available to
policymakers and the general
public via the Workcare Synergies project, a two-year dissemination scheme
Portugal, Austria, Denmark, England, Scotland, Italy, Poland and Hungary.
gathered for the scheme remains available on its website [5.7].
As a result of this work, Wallace was invited to Germany in January 2013
to present her social
quality model to the Bertelsmann Foundation, an influential think tank.
The Foundation used the
model in their report, Social Cohesion Radar. An international
comparison of social cohesion,
published in July 2013 [5.8]. The report was widely picked up by the
German national media,
including Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Der Tagesspiegel, as
well as Focus and Stern magazines.
In early 2013, Wallace was invited to present her Social Quality model in
Hangzhou in China
(designated City of Quality of Life by the Chinese Government) where the
model had been used by
city government since 2004 in its policies for urban development and to
between different stakeholder groups. Since 2010, the Hangzhou city
authorities have built further
on this model, developing indicators to measure progress [5.9].
For the Senate in Rwanda, Abbott and her collaborators produced a
specially commissioned report
and analysis focusing on how social quality can be used to inform national
policies aimed at peace
and reconciliation [5.10]. Findings were presented to the Rwandan Senate
in July 2013 and
received positive feedback, which were incorporated into the final report.
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 Corroboration of the importance of the work of Aberdeen academics on
the work of the
European Foundation has been provided and is available from the HEI on
5.2 Contact: European Foundation Research Manager, Living Conditions and
Quality of Life Unit
5.3 EurLIFE database http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/areas/qualityoflife/eurlife/index.php
Written confirmation available from HEI on request
5.4 A full list of references to the EQLS surveys (which Wallace helped
to design) and the work of
the European Foundation (to which the Aberdeen team contributed) are
available from the HEI on
request, along with a full list of reports authored by the Aberdeen team.
5.5 Details of 21st European Social Service Conference. This
page shows Claire Wallace's
5.6 The Scottish government's Parenting Strategy 2012 is available at:
5.7 See the Workcare Synergies website (http://workcaresynergies.eu/social-quality/).
5.8 See Social Cohesion Radar (Bertelsmann Stiftung): (http://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/bst/en/media/xcms_bst_dms_38334__2.pdf)
5.9 A letter of corroboration has been provided by the Deputy Director of
the Centre for
Sociological Studies in Zhejiang University in China, confirming that the
City of Hangzhou is using
the Social Quality Model to inform social and public policies that can
improve life quality in the
5.10 The Constant Quest for Solutions through Dialogue and Consensus
in Rwanda. Abbott, P.,
Musonerwa, R. and Lodge, G. 2013. Report to the Senate of Rwanda. The
report has been
presented to the Rwandan Senate to inform discussion in this area, and
will appear on the
Rwandan Parliament website (http://www.rwandaparliament.gov.rw/home/
) (expected autumn