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Nearly One in Five EU Residents Struggle to Cope Financially

by John Chapman and Femke De Keulenaer

Eastern European households see most impact of financial crisis

BRUSSELS -- In July 2009, at a time when several European economies were just coming out of recession, nearly one in five (18%) European Union residents said their household had at some time in the past year run out of money to pay ordinary bills or to buy food or other daily consumer items.

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Romanians (45%) and Latvians (40%) were most likely to say they had run out of money to pay for essential goods and services in the 12 months before the survey. In a number of other eastern European countries, such as Hungary, Bulgaria, and Lithuania, about a third of respondents said their household had gone through a similar experience. However, far fewer residents reported such problems in Denmark (5%), the Netherlands (8%), Sweden and Luxembourg (both 9%), and Germany (10%).

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Looking ahead to the next 12 months, slightly more than one-quarter (26%) of EU residents expected their household's financial situation to deteriorate. More than half (55%) of respondents expected that their household's financial situation would be stable and 16% anticipated that their household's financial situation would improve.

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Residents in Latvia (65%) and Lithuania (58%) were the most likely to expect their household's financial situation to be worse in the 12 months following the poll. At least 4 in 10 residents expected the same in Hungary (48%), Ireland (43%), Estonia, Greece, and Romania (all 41%).

Among the least likely to be pessimistic about their household's future financial situation (that is, thinking it would deteriorate) were those in Denmark (10%), Finland and Sweden (both 15%), Luxembourg (17%), and Austria (18%). Furthermore, at the time of the survey, at least one in five respondents in Sweden (24%) and Denmark (21%) expected an improvement in their household's financial situation in the year to come.

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The EU residents most likely to expect their household's financial problems to get worse in the next 12 months were the unemployed (33%), retirees (31%), and those aged 55 and older (31%). Furthermore, 42% of those residents who had been unable to pay essential bills thought their household situation would get worse, compared with 23% of those who never had that experience.

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These results show the picture of how EU residents were coping with the effects of the financial crisis in July 2009. Early next year, we will publish another article on this same topic.

Eurobarometer Reports

Gallup conducts Flash Eurobarometer surveys for the European Commission. These surveys enable European policymakers to hear the voices of EU residents in the 27 member states. Gallup has worked with the Commission on more than 90 Flash Eurobarometer surveys (with close to 1.5 million interviews) on subjects from the euro to consumer protection and from higher education to the financial crisis.

Read the full report online.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews, with some face-to-face interviews due to the low fixed-line telephone coverage in certain east European countries, with 25,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted from July 8-12, 2009, in 27 EU member states. For results, based on the sample in each member state, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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