UK Enjoys Highest Net Income in Europe but Life Quality is Poorest
on: October 14, 2009, 4:23 am
UK and Ireland are the worst places in Europe to live, according
to the latest uSwitch.com Quality of Life Index. While the
UK enjoys the highest net household income in Europe, quality
of life is the poorest, proving that there is more to good living
than money. Long working hours, lower holiday entitlement and
a high cost of living all contribute to a poor quality of life
in the UK - and it's not much better for the Irish either:
quality of life can be found in France and Spain. The worst can
be found in the UK and Ireland
•Depressing: UK workers can expect to work 3 years longer
and die 2 years younger than their French counterparts
•Cost of living: consumers in the UK are paying above the
European average for fuel, food, alcohol and cigarettes
•Health and education: the UK's spend on healthcare and
education is below the European average. Only Ireland and Poland
spend less on healthcare, but Ireland has more doctors and hospital
beds and Poland has more beds than the UK
•Longer life: Germany, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands
and Sweden all enjoy longer life expectancy than the UK
•Retirement age in the UK has dropped, but it is still the
4th highest in Europe
•UK enjoys highest net household income, but workers in
the UK get lowest holiday entitlement in Europe.
latest uSwitch.com European Quality of life Index reveals that
people in the UK are still getting a raw deal compared with their
European neighbours. Despite the fact that the UK enjoys the highest
net household income in Europe - GBP35,730 a year, which is more
than GBP10,000 a year above the European average - this does not
translate into a good life. Instead, people in the UK can expect
to work longer, die younger and enjoy lower standards of healthcare
uSwitch.com study examined 17 factors in order to understand where
the UK sits in relation to nine other major European countries.
Variables such as net income, taxes and the cost of essential
goods, such as fuel, food and energy bills, were examined along
with lifestyle factors, such as hours of sunshine, holiday entitlement,
working hours and life expectancy to provide a complete picture
of the quality of life experienced in each country.
findings show that people in the UK and Ireland have the poorest
quality of life, while the French and Spanish enjoy the highest.
The UK gets the lowest number of days holiday per year, pays the
highest prices for diesel and food and spends below the European
average (as a percentage of GDP) on health and education. It also
has the 4th lowest life expectancy in Europe and workers retire
later than most of their European counterparts.
which topped the league, enjoys one of the lowest retirement ages,
has the longest life expectancy in Europeand spends the most on
healthcare Its workers also benefit from 34 days holiday a year
- compared with only 28 in the UK - and it comes only behind Spain
and Italy for hours of sunshine.
which topped the league last year, enjoys the most sunshine -
but it has more to smile about than just that. The Spanish can
expect to live a year longer than people in the UK, enjoy the
highest number of days holiday in Europe (41 days a year) and
pay the lowest fuel prices. And as if that's not enough to celebrate,
they are paying the lowest prices for alcohol too.
year's index does not reveal the full impact of the recession
- this can be expected to show next year. However, France officially
went into recession in May 2009 and has already emerged again
(August 2009). This quick turnaround could see it maintaining
a high quality of life despite the economic difficulties facing
most European nations. Spain entered recession in February 2009
with no official announcement as to when it is likely to exit.
Poland is the only country in the study not to have gone into
recession and it is widely expected to avoid it throughout 2009.
of the two countries experiencing the lowest quality of life,
Ireland went into recession first in September 2008 while the
UK officially went into recession in January 2009. Both are yet
to exit and the impact on the UK is expected to be severe and
long lasting. Unemployment has already hit a 14 year high at 2.47
million workers or 7.9% of the workforce - the highest rate since
1995. Even with the UK due to start recovery shortly, the jobless
toll is still expected to rise with the British Chambers of Commerce
predicting numbers exceeding 3 million next year.
as politicians start to plot a way out of the financial mire,
quality of life in the UK could suffer even more. This is because
public spending is likely to be reined in so that the amount spent
in the UK on education and health could fall. The Labour Government
has already indicated GBP2 billion of cuts to come on education
but it has so far rejected advice from management consultants
to cut the NHS workforce by 10% over the next 5 years. The UK
is already spending below the European average (as a percentage
of GDP) on both health and education.
study shows that the UK has the highest net household income in
Europe. At GBP35,730 it is GBP10,325 higher than the European
average and more than double that of Spain, which has the lowest
net household income at GBP16,789. However, people living in the
UK also have to contend with a high cost of living - the average
household energy bill alone adds up to an eye watering GBP1,239
a year while the average household now pays GBP1,175 a year in
council tax. Even travel is expensive with a 30 mile journey into
London on a train setting commuters back over GBP3,000 a year.
In fact, consumers in the UK are
paying above average for most of the essentials:
•Fuel: at GBP1.08 a litre, the UK is the second most expensive
country in Europe for unleaded petrol. However, diesel is more
expensive in the UK than anywhere else in Europe - GBP1.13 a litre,
which is 19p or 20% above the European average (GBP0.94). Spain
has the lowest price for diesel at only GBP0.81 a litre.
•Food: again, the UK is paying more than all its neighbours.
The same basket of goods that costs GBP134.48 in the UK costs
GBP124 on average in Europe and only GBP118.76 in France, which
enjoys the lowest food prices.
•Cigarettes and alcohol: not essentials, but nevertheless
only Ireland and Sweden pays more for a round of drinks than the
UK and only the Irish pay more for cigarettes than smokers in
UK is spending below the European average (as a percentage of
GDP) on both education and health. The largest shortfall is on
health though, where the UK is spending 8.2% of GDP compared with
the European average of 9%. Only Poland and Ireland spend less
on health than the UK. France is the biggest investor, spending
11% of GDP on health, closely followed by Denmark and Germany.
UK has 2.1 doctors per 1,000 people and 3.9 hospital beds. In
contrast, France has 3.4 doctors and 7.3 beds. Poland, which spends
less than the UK on health, has more hospital beds - 5.2 beds
per 1,000 people. While Ireland spends less than the UK, but achieves
a greater number of doctors per 1,000 and a higher number of hospital
beds (2.9 doctors per 1,000 and 5.6 beds).
spending on education and health could also be a contributing
factor to the UK's lower than average life expectancy, which is
4th lowest in Europe. There is some evidence to suggest that people
who are better educated live longer and in better health than
those who are less educated. This link between education and health
cannot be explained by behavioural differences alone and has led
scholars to suggest that having the right educational policies
could improve a nation's health considerably.
well as shorter lives, people in the UK can expect to work for
longer than most of their European neighbours too. The average
European retirement age is 62 years old, however UK workers can
expect to carry on working for 6 months longer than this. Poland
has the lowest retirement age at just over 59 years old, closely
followed by France. In real terms, these differences mean that
UK workers can expect to work 3 years longer and die 2 years younger
than their French counterparts.
in the UK put in an average of 37 hours a week. Spain, France,
Italy and Poland all work longer hours, but they also benefit
from more days off. While workers in the UK get the lowest holiday
entitlement in Europe - 28 days a year - the Spanish benefit from
41 days a year, the highest entitlement. As a result, UK workers
can expect to work an average of 5 days more a year than their
European counterparts and 13 days a year more than their Spanish
counterparts. Over a lifetime of work (45 years) a Spanish worker
could expect to have over 5 years off as holiday, while a UK worker
could expect to have just over 3 years off.
Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, says: "There is more to good
living than money and this report shows why so many Brits are
giving up on the UK and heading to France and Spain. We earn substantially
more than our European neighbours, but this level of income is
needed just to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table and
our homes warm. It's giving us a decent standard of living, but
it's not helping us achieve the quality of life that people in
other countries enjoy.
too long the focus in the UK has been on standard of living rather
than quality of life. As a result we have lost all sense of balance
between wealth and well-being. The recession could prove to be
a turning point, forcing us to re-evaluate our way of life, get
back to basics and to the things that really count. Consumers
are already beginning to do this - the Government and its policymakers
would do well to follow suit."
more information please contact:
Jo Ganly 0207 802 2925 / firstname.lastname@example.org
uSwitch.com is a free, impartial online and telephone-based comparison
and switching service, helping consumers compare prices on gas,
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