Unemployment is the No. 1 topic in Europe

GfK survey on the concerns of citizens in ten European countries

Nuremberg - For the Germans, but also for most of their European counterparts, there is currently a particularly burning issue: unemployment. This is the key finding of this year�'s Challenges of Europe survey conducted by GfK-Nürnberg e.V.

In Germany, unemployment has been a hot topic for the past decade. However, the proportion of people who said unemployment was a problem had decreased steadily from 86 per cent in 1999 to 59 per cent in 2001. In 2002, this figure rose once more to 74 per cent and in 2003, has again increased slightly to 75 per cent. Whether and to what extent Germans perceive unemployment as a problem is in direct correlation to the development of the official unemployment figures, which had decreased as well from 1999 onwards and started to rise again from 2002.

European concerns

Looking at the major challenges facing Europeans in a country-by-country comparison, some differences emerge. Apart from Germany and Poland, it is only in Spain that the majority of the population worries about the difficult labour market situation. In France, this is a concern for just under half of the population, compared to around 40 per cent in Italy and only a third in Austria. In the UK and the Netherlands, both of which have a relatively low unemployment rate, hardly any respondents expressed anxiety about the current labour market situation.

The topic of crime unsettles the British, Dutch, French and Italians in particular. Around 20 to 25 per cent of people in these countries regard fighting crime as a top priority. In the course of this it is noticeable, that the French saw this problem decisive more important than in 2003. Last year, close to two thirds of French people were concerned about this topic, presumably as a result of it being highlighted in the run-up to the elections. In 2003, the proportion is just under 25 per cent. Germans and Polish people do not seem particularly worried about the question fighting crime, with only ten per cent of people citing crime as a concern. In Austria, criminality does not represent a source of conflict.

There were also discrepancies in Europeans�' concerns over public health. Criticism of medical care was most pronounced in the Netherlands, with 27 per cent, closely followed by the UK with 25 per cent and Italy with 18 per cent. Austrians, the Spanish and the French, by contrast, seem to be generally satisfied with their respective healthcare systems.

Austrians are way out in front when it comes to pension concerns. The pension reform passed in mid-June 2003 was controversial and led to massive protests in the form of strikes and demonstrations against the planned reductions in contributions and raising the retirement age. Reforms are also scheduled for pensions in France, which has resulted in this topic being a source of anxiety for 36 per cent of the population.

Education is a key success factor in international competition. Education policy is therefore among the top ten challenges confronting Europeans, although this takes varying degrees of priority in the individual countries. With a share of almost 25 per cent, criticism of the education policy is particularly evident in the UK.