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Evaluating the quality of society and public services

Rose, Richard and Newton, Kenneth (2010) Evaluating the quality of society and public services. [Report]

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A person’s quality of life is not only shaped by individual choices and behaviour: the surrounding environment and the public services on offer have a big influence on how people perceive the society they live in and on their evaluation of their own quality of life. Institutions influence the quality of society through collective actions that individuals cannot undertake themselves: for example maintaining schools, hospitals and roads. Public policies are also responsible for ensuring that water and air are not polluted, and for reducing tensions between different social groups. If public policies are effective and these services are provided to a high standard, the quality of society will improve, with a positive impact on the overall quality of life of citizens. This is why European policymakers and citizens share a common concern regarding the quality of society and public services: the actions of policymakers should contribute to improving the quality of citizens’ lives. To evaluate whether this is in fact happening, one needs to look beyond objective measures of material wealth such as gross domestic product (GDP) and find out how citizens assess the conditions in their society. The second European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), carried out by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) in 2007, asks European citizens to evaluate multiple aspects of quality of society. The result is a comprehensive picture of the diverse social realities in the 27 EU Member States, in Norway, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey.