While Ireland scores highly on many of the indices for quality of life in Europe we must take nothing for granted, address the challenges we face, particularly in areas like housing and health care and above all be ambitious for the future, Mairead McGuinness, MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament told a conference in Dublin today (Thursday).
Speaking at a Citizens Dialogue event in the European Commission offices on the topic of how Ireland measures up with the rest of the EU based on the Eurofound European Quality of Life Survey 2016 the MEP said:
“It’s hardly surprising that we’re close to the top when it comes to our optimistic outlook and our civic and community engagement, because we’ve always has a culture of caring about our neighbours, and our voluntary, sporting and community structures remain strong.
“Again we score well in terms of low levels of societal tensions between different social and ethnic groups and between rich and poor.
“However, these are issues that cannot be taken for granted and require ongoing evaluation and review,” she said.
The MEP said the survey showed increased satisfaction in terms of quality of life on the previous surveys, and a work-life balance that is close to, or above EU averages.
Areas where Ireland scores less well are in housing, and ratings are lower for health services, childcare and public transport, though there is noteworthy improvements in satisfaction with childcare services and facilities and this is positive.
Those in the private rental sector express the most concern about lack of certainty for their housing in future.
Ratings for education and state pension systems were above EU averages.
Ireland was found to have the highest self-reported levels of health in the EU, with 47pc of respondents stating they were in very good health, significantly more than the EU average of 24pc.
Ms McGuinness said housing and health care are absolute priorities for the Government, as is broadband connectivity which is impacting rural areas particularly.
“It’s important that we address these issues fully over the next number of years,” she said.
“One area of major concern is that of mental health which is facing young people and young girls/women in particular.
“Equally, there are concerns about those who are long-term unemployed, who report the lowest level of life satisfaction.
“Given the strong improvement in employment levels and the shortage of staff in some areas, we may need to refocus policies to assist those in long-term unemployment to get into the workforce.
“While there are big challenges, not least of which is Brexit on the horizon, we have every reason to be ambitious in trying to build a future that continues to be socially cohesive and where all strata of society feel not only that they belong but they can contribute and grow, and where they are supported when they fall,” she said.
McGuinness said the report on the European Quality of Life Survey, produced by Eurofound, contains important qualitative data for policy makers.
It points to stark differences in attitudes and approach between member states and provides food for thought.