As you know, Alhambra International is strongly engaged in Europe with a presence in Benelux, Germany and France. We have also some links and exchanges with other countries such as Spain, Italy, England and Eastern Europe. This is why it sounds interesting for us to analyze the OECD Better Life Initiative in the main European countries in order to promote professional mobility in our continent.

The OECD Better Life Initiative focuses on the aspects of life that matter to people and that shape the quality of their lives. The initiative comprises a set of regularly updated well-being indicators and an in-depth analysis of specific topics, published in the How’s life report.

The countries being analyzed in this report are: France, Germany, Benelux, Spain, United Kingdom and Italy. All the comparisons are made with respect to the OECD average value or percentage.

How’s life in Europe in 2016?

France’s performance is mixed. Average household disposable income per capita is around 28000 USD and is above the average. While 8.2% of French employees regularly work very long hours, French full-time employees report having more time off on average. Average life expectancy in France is 82.3 years, which is among the highest. France’s voter turnout for Presidential elections stands at 80.4% compared to the OECD average of 68.4%.

French people experience lower job security and are more likely to be long-term unemployed. Between 2009 and 2014, long-term unemployment rate increased in France by one percentage point, to 4.2%. Trust in other people is the lowest among European standing at 5 on a scale from 0 to 10, with 5.8 as average.

Germany is among the OECD countries with relatively high average household disposable income per capita. German employees receive higher average earnings, enjoy higher job security and report having more time off. Regarding educational attainment, while 86.3% of the German adult working-age population has completed at least an upper secondary education, this share is only 77.2% in the OECD on average.

Germany has a relatively high level of social network support. While 94.9% of Germans are satisfied with water quality, air quality (assessed in terms of air pollution) lies below the OECD average in Germany and less than average German adults perceive their health as good.

In Belgium net household financial wealth is among the highest, there are higher average earnings but long-term unemployment rate stands at 4.3% compared to the OECD average of only 2.6%. Belgian full-time employees report having more time off. Air quality is low, regarding educational attainment; only 72.8% of the Belgian adult working-age population has completed at least an upper secondary education compared to the OECD average of 77.2%. Belgium’s voter turnout stands at 89.4% and is among the highest. Belgium’s self-reported assault rate is the third highest in the OECD.

Netherlands performs well across the OECD’s indicators. Average earnings lie above the OECD average, and the risk of becoming unemployed (the indicator used to assess job security) is comparatively low. Only 0.4% of employees usually work very long hours.

On average the population in the Netherlands enjoys very good housing conditions. However, air quality is low. The literacy and numeracy skills of Dutch adults lie far above the OECD average. Life satisfaction in the Netherlands is also substantially high and the trust in other people is very high reaching 6.9 in value.

Luxembourg performs very well. Average earnings in Luxembourg are among the highest and the long-term unemployment rate stands at 1.6%. Only 3.5% of employees in Luxembourg usually work very long hours compared to the OECD average of 12.5%. Luxembourg also performs well with regard to housing conditions. Luxembourg’s voter turnout stands at 91.2% and is the second highest.

During the past few years Spain has faced several challenges to the material well-being of its citizens. Average household disposable income per capita and average earnings dropped substantially between 2009 and 2013. Spanish employees also experience very low job security. Between 2009 and 2014 the long-term unemployment rate increased by 8.7 percentage points to 12.9%, the second highest rate. Life expectancy in Spain is 83.2 years and among the highest, while time off is also above the OECD average. With respect to educational attainment, Spain ranks towards the bottom of the OECD: only 55.6% of the Spanish adult working-age population has completed at least an upper secondary education compared to the average of 77.2%. Trust in other people is 6.3, a quite high level.

The United Kingdom has a high rate of employment, and a high level of job security. However, between 2009 and 2013, average earnings in the United Kingdom decreased by 4.3%. Housing affordability is comparatively low due to price of real estate. Personal safety is comparatively high in the United Kingdom, and the rate of deaths due to assault is one of the lowest. Trust in other people has a level of 6.1.

Italy’s performance across the different well-being dimensions is mixed. In 2009, the average household net adjusted disposable income in Italy was close to the OECD average, but it fell by almost 9% between 2009 and 2013. This stands in contrast to an average cumulative growth of 1.5% across the OECD during the same time period. The employment rate in Italy (56.5%) is one of the lowest, and the long-term unemployment rate (7.8%) is 3 times the OECD average. However, only 3.8% of Italian employees usually work very long hours compared to the OECD average of 13%. At 82.8 years, life expectancy in Italy is among the highest. Educational attainment stands below the OECD average: only 59.3% of the adult working-age population has completed at least an upper secondary education compared to 76.4% average.

Going local: measuring well-being in regions

France has in-average inequalities: Ile de France is the richest region with 40% higher income than Nord-Pas-de-Calais, unemployment rate is higher in the North while educational attainment is lower in Corsica with a gap respect to Brittany that is the largest in OECD countries.

Germany has lower inequalities: household adjusted disposable income is 1.3 times higher in Bavaria than in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and unemployment rates range from 2.9% in Bavaria to 9.8% in Berlin. Educational attainment is higher for instance in Saxony than in Bremen but with a small gap.

Belgium has smaller regional inequalities compared to other OECD countries such as Spain or Italy: the Flemish part is the richest one while Brussels Capital Region has the highest unemployment rate and also higher poverty level. This trend is true also for educational attainment but with smaller differences.

In Netherlands there are very small inequalities: the West part is slightly richer but unemployment rate and educational attainment are basically constant.

Spain has very high differences: the Basque region is the richest and the one with higher educational attainment while Extremadura is the poorest and less educated. Unemployment rate is very high in Andalusia and lower in Navarra.

United Kingdom presents high inequalities in incomes that are almost 60% higher in Greater London than in Northern Ireland, but unemployment rate is very homogeneous. Educational attainment is higher in London and lower in Northern Ireland.

Italy has large inequalities: incomes are 84% higher in Bolzano than in Campania and in Sicily there is a higher relative poverty level. Unemployment rates range from 4.4% in Bolzano to 23.4% in Calabria and educational attainment ranges from 73% in Lazio to 54% in Sardinia.

Even if regional inequalities persist in Europe, thanks to European Union, the structural funds have permitted to reduce them. Free Trade inside European countries and projects have helped the less advanced regions to have better infrastructures (roads, schools, hospitals, telecommunications…) in order to welcome companies which invest and hire workforce and give to the population and the future generations a better quality of life.

Daniele ColellaAlhambra International – Junior Consultant

Pierre Maurin –  Alhambra International – Senior Partner