Friday, November 25, 2011
Want to be happy? Live in France – not the UK
The UK and Ireland have been named as the worst places to live in Europe for quality of life, according to research published today.
The UK has the 4th highest age – 63.1 – at which people choose or can afford to take retirement, and one of the lowest holiday entitlements. Net household income in the UK is just £2,314 above the European average, compared with £10,000 above average last year, falling behind Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark.
UK workers enjoy a week less holiday than the European average and three weeks less than the Spanish, while the UK's spend (as a percentage of GDP) on health and education is below the European average and UK food and diesel prices are the highest in Europe. Unleaded petrol, electricity, alcohol and cigarettes all cost more than the average across the continent.
Ireland has the lowest numbers of hours of sunshine, the second lowest government spend on health as a proportion of GDP and the second highest retirement age of 64.1.
If that's not bad enough, France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Italy all enjoy a longer life expectancy than the UK, according to uSwitch.com's latest Quality of Life Index.
The study examined 16 factors to understand where the UK sits in relation to nine other major European countries. Variables such as net income, VAT 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.
France took the top spot for the second year running, despite families earning an annual net income of only £32,766 – £4,406 below that of the UK. In fact, the UK scores well in several categories (such as low VAT, decent pay and reasonable working hours) making its overall ranking surprising.
uSwitch explained that it did not give each individual factor a standardised weighing because each category has "different levels of importance to each individual". It said the UK's investment in health and education – or lack of it – had a significant impact on its score in the index.
France enjoys the earliest retirement age (joint with Poland), spends the most on healthcare (11% of GDP) and has the longest life expectancy in Europe at 81.09 years. Its workers also benefit from 36 days holiday a year – compared with just 28 in the UK – and it comes only behind Spain (second in the rankings) and Italy for hours of sunshine.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: "Last year compared with our European neighbours we were miserable but rich, this year we're miserable and poor. Whereas some countries work to live, UK consumers live to work. The picture looks bleak for British consumers, with confidence crumbling as the reality of the government's deficit reduction starts to bite. But for those of us who decide to stick it out and ride the storm, there will be no choice but to batten down the hatches.
"There are positive signs that consumers are already cutting back, curtailing spending and trying to clear outstanding debt, but more could be done. Taking control of our household finances may be the only way we can steer through these turbulent times until we reach a point where we can start to see our quality of life improve."
Thanks to Robin at WoW for this article.