An EU survey asking citizens in 75 European cities to assess their quality of life has found that while people perceive a clear decrease in the availability of jobs, most people seem to be coping financially in the current recession.
The survey contacted city-dwellers in all EU member states as well as candidate countries Croatia and Turkey, covering all capital cities of the aforementioned states, together with between one and six more cities in the larger countries.
The Eurobarometer threw up some predictable results but also a number of surprises. The key comparison, one EU source noted, is with the 2006 survey of the same name. Given the onslaught of the global recession since late 2008, the economic backdrop behind the two polls could hardly be more different.
As such, one could reasonably expect that all social and employment indicators would show that citizens feel worse about their situation and prospects. This is indeed the case when it comes to employment: there were only six cities where more than half of respondents agreed that it was easy to find a good job.
Also, when asked to list the three main issues facing their city, respondents typically highlighted "job creation and reducing unemployment".
However, on another social indicator, namely the financial difficulties people have in paying their bills at the end of the month, the picture was not as bleak. A clear majority of city-dwellers felt they were as comfortable in this respect in 2009, or in many cases even more so, than in 2006.
While this seems counterintuitive, Commission sources explained to EURACTIV that this may, in part, be due to the fact that respondents in a phone survey may be reluctant to admit that they have financial difficulties themselves.
Also, a European Commission representative told EURACTIV that "the statistics merely report how people have responded to the questions, they do not investigate the reasons behind the answers".
Of the cities with the biggest increase in people who have no difficulty paying their bills, the situation improved in six cities, of which three were in Poland. This would appear to corroborate economic evidence that Poland has withstood the worst effects of the crisis better than most of its EU partners.