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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Global financial crisis hit happiness and trust in governments – OECD

Average life satisfaction declined by more than 20% in Greece, 12% in Spain and 10% in Italy, according to research

The global financial crisis hit happiness and eroded trust in governments, according to the OECD thinktank.

Its research into the human cost of the crisis found that between 2007 and 2012, reported average life satisfaction declined by more than 20% in Greece, 12% in Spain and 10% in Italy.

"In the wake of the crisis, household income and wealth, jobs and housing conditions deteriorated and have not completely recovered yet in many OECD countries," says the How's Life report.

"This had the effect of increasing poverty and inequalities, especially among young people and low-skilled workers. The number of discouraged workers and inactive people has increased, as did perceived work-life conflicts for employed people. Clear negative trends have also emerged in subjective well-being and civic engagement, with increasing levels of stress, lower life satisfaction and decreasing trust in national governments."

The percentage of people in the worst affected euro area countries claiming to trust national government fell by 10 percentage points in the five years leading to 2012. In the 34 OECD countries as a whole, less than half of those surveyed said they trusted their governments – the lowest level recorded since 2006.

The thinktank's research into Greece suggests the average Greek household has been "severely affected" by the crisis, particularly when it comes to household income, jobs, life satisfaction and civic engagement.

From 2007 to 2011, Greece recorded a cumulative decline in real household disposable income of around 23%, the largest decline among the OECD countries. Between 2007 and 2010, income inequality increased by 2%, well above the OECD average of 1.2%.

The poor employment situation had a major impact on life satisfaction. From 2007 to 2011, the percentage of Greek people declaring being very satisfied with their lives fell from 59% to 34%, the lowest share in the OECD area.

The percentage of Greek people reporting that they trust the government fell from 38% to 13% between 2007 and 2012.

Over the same period, for many countries new forms of solidarity and engagement have emerged, the OECD said. But that trend was not evident in Greece, where the percentage of people reporting having helped someone and having volunteered their time decreased by 4 and 3 percentage points, respectively, between 2007 and 2012.

"Compared with other OECD countries, Greece performs well in only a few of the 11 dimensions that the OECD considers as essential to a good life," the report said.

"Greece ranks above the OECD average in the dimensions of health status, work-life balance and personal security, but below average in education and skills, income and wealth, civic engagement, jobs and earnings, social connections, housing, subjective well-being and environmental quality."

In the US, the pressures of unemployment over the crisis saw around 20% of households move in with other households, the OECD said. Life satisfaction also dropped in there. From 2007 to 2012, the percentage of American people declaring being very satisfied with their lives fell from 78% to 67%.

The percentage of American people reporting that they trust the government fell from 39% to 35% between 2007 and 2012.

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ZURICH (AP) — Football officials in Cyprus have agreed on a provisional deal aimed to uniting the island's two football bodies after separating almost 40 years ago.

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Thinktank ranks UK above average on jobs, earnings and housing in its Better Life Index - but below average on education, skills and income equality

The UK is one of best places to live and work, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, although income inequality has risen by more than in other countries since the global financial crisis struck in 2007.

The Paris-based thinktank has been seeking to measure wellbeing for the 34 nations of the OECD, based on aspects of life such as incomes, education, housing and security. It says the UK ranks above the OECD country average on environmental quality, personal security, jobs and earnings and housing among other measures. It is close to average for work-life balance, but below in education and skills.

That puts the UK alongside Switzerland, Australia, Nordic European countries, Canada and New Zealand in a clutch of highest-performing countries on the latest work for the OECD's Better Life Index.

The thinktank's "traffic light" system for how countries perform on various elements ranks the US, Ireland, Germany and France as average. Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Estonia, Hungary, Greece and Chile are among the countries with a relatively low performance.

Overall, the latest part of the OECD's attempt to find new ways to measure wellbeing beyond simple GDP numbers, paints a picture of substantial pain caused by the financial crisis.

The average British household was only "modestly" affected, said the OECD, but looking across its club of mostly rich nations many people were blighted by higher unemployment, involuntary part-time work, financial insecurity and poverty.

"Life satisfaction and confidence in institutions declined substantially in countries severely hit by the crisis, while people reported soaring stress levels," the How's Life 2013 report says.

"However, there was little or no change in health outcomes for the population at large."

Looking at the UK, the OECD says that over 2007 to 2011 there was a cumulative increase in real household disposable income of around 1%, while in the euro area, income dropped by 2%.

However, income inequality increased by more than average in the UK over that period.

The report adds: "In the OECD as a whole, the poor employment situation had a major impact on life satisfaction. This trend is not visible in the United Kingdom where, from 2007 to 2012, the percentage of British people declaring being very satisfied with their lives increased from 63% to 64%."

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Looking at gender gaps in OECD countries, the research found British women were still less likely than men to have a paid job or be elected to parliament, and more likely to spend many hours performing household tasks.

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