UK is worst place in Europe to live and over 12% want to move abroad, poll shows

by Ray Clancy on October 5, 2011

Brits unhappy with quality of life in UK

High living costs, a poor work life balance and low government spending on healthcare and education has made the UK is the worst place to live in Europe according to new research.

France is the best country followed by Spain and then the Netherlands in the latest uSwitch Quality of Life Index which calculates an overall quality of life score for ten European nations based on 16 factors.

It is the first time the UK has been bottom of the list and it is joined there by Sweden and Ireland. The countries were assessed on net income, VAT and the cost of essential goods such as fuel, food and energy bills, as well as lifestyle issues like hours of sunshine, days holiday, working hours and life expectancy.

‘The UK is now officially at the bottom of the pile. We may still be enjoying the fourth highest household income in Europe, but the high cost of living means that we’re living to work,’ said Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.

Despite having higher than average pay, the UK’s overall score was dragged down by long working hours, the lowest number of holiday days a year, a high retirement age, the most expensive food, high energy prices and higher than average petrol costs, as well as very few hours of sunshine.

The UK’s comparatively low investment in health and education also had a significant impact on its score, and with the government looking to cut public spending, things could get worse before they get better.

The UK spends just 11.2% of GDP on health, which is higher than last year, but well below the European average of 12% with only Poland and Sweden spending less.

The UK now spends less on education than it did in 2010, falling below the average and food and diesel prices are the highest in Europe and alcohol is the third most expensive.

With quality of life in the UK now the worst in the Index, an accompanying poll found that nearly half, 46%, of those questioned have thought about emigrating.

France may have achieved the highest Quality of Life score, but most people would actually prefer to live in Spain, which took second place. Some 13% of Brits said that if they could live in any European country they would choose Spain, while 7% chose France.

Spain has more to offer would be expats than the obvious sunshine: the Spanish can expect to live a year longer than people in the UK, they have the highest number of days holiday in Europe and the lowest prices for alcohol.

Social issues were not included in the Index, but they are concern many people in the UK, the poll showed. The biggest concern is ‘broken society’, the second biggest concern was immigration, while unemployment and job security came third, followed by the cost of petrol and the weather.

‘It’s not surprising that one in ten of us have seriously contemplated starting a new life abroad. 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,’ said Robinson.

‘Cutting back where possible to help combat our high living costs will go some way to improving our quality of life. This may be the only way to steer through these turbulent times until we reach a point where we can start to see our quality of life improve,’ she added.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

tee October 6, 2011 at 7:04 am

this paragraph sounds more like the netherlands to me "Despite having higher than average pay, the UK’s overall score was dragged down by long working hours, the lowest number of holiday days a year, a high retirement age, the most expensive food, high energy prices and higher than average petrol costs, as well as very few hours of sunshine."

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Phil October 7, 2011 at 10:18 pm

I live in Madrid and alot of people work long hours and coupled with long lunches mean they arrive home very late. Agreed, they have a great climate and cuisine but Spain is becoming more and more expensive every year and if you throw into the mix poor job prospects, poor education (unless you can pay private) and high levels of bureaucracy and corruption together with a distinct lack of choice through little or no investment and competition the picture doesn't look so rosey. So before you have a good moan about the UK you should know a few truths about real life abroad.

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Nick March 2, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Well Said Phil,how could Sweden come below Italy??? this survey seems fishy to me!

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