The European Social Network (ESN) member, Bertelsmann Stiftung, recently published the report ‘How are you doing, Europe? Mapping social imbalances in the EU’ in collaboration with the Jacques Delors institute. Its findings show that despite an economic recovery, social inequalities are still a pressing issue with differences in social conditions reinforced across the EU following the global economic and financial crisis.

Six social challenges were specifically identified in the research for being large in scale across Europe and for having a direct impact on people’s lives.

Employment and joblessness 

The report brings to attention the different forms of joblessness. This includes the economically inactive and people in long-term unemployment, which can have detrimental effects on mental health. Review our 2018 seminar on Active Inclusion, to see policy and practice recommendations for social services when supporting people furthest from the labour market.

Precarious work

Many Europeans work under precarious conditions affecting their well-being. This includes the rise in temporary contracts for young employees or scant social protection and career opportunities for certain groups.

Obstacles to free movement

EU citizens still face various obstacles to living and working in another EU member state due to difficulties in the recognition of workers’ qualifications. The lack of recognition of social work qualifications between countries was one issue included in our 2016 study on the social services workforce. Read the report to see detailed analysis on managing the social services workforce.

Gender inequalities

The report highlights how gender imbalances accumulate over time right up to retirement, stemming from imbalances in education, career opportunities and the reconciliation of working and care obligations.


With some 113 million Europeans living at risk of poverty or social exclusion, the study shows the challenges of material deprivation that many Europeans face. The first meeting of ESN’s working group on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals tackled how social services can contribute to eradicate poverty. See the briefing here.

Access to healthcare

Regional imbalances in healthcare provision are presented as well as the effect of different income levels on the ability to afford healthcare. As a result of our working group on Ageing and Care (2014-2018), we published a toolkit where we analyse key issues around health and social services. Access it here.

This report provides new perspectives on well-known social challenges in Europe and how they directly impact upon Europeans’ daily lives. Furthermore, it draws on many case studies collected across different countries and regions providing a nuanced portrait of the social conditions across the EU today.