A survey released at the end of last year placed the UK as the worst place to live in Europe, in terms of quality of life. And guess who came out on top? Yes, France topped the chart, thanks to the earliest retirement age in Europe, the highest percentage of GDP spent on healthcare (11%) and the longest life expectancy. France’s lucky workers also have 36 days holiday a year (compared to the UK’s lowly 28) and are only behind Spain and Italy in terms of hours of sunshine.
So why did the UK fair so poorly? Not only do we pay the most for food and diesel, the government spends below the European average on health and education. As the coalition government cuts take effect across the UK, things are not likely to get better, with over £300 million siphoned off the education budget. This lack of outlay into health and education could directly contribute to the UK’s lower life expectancy- studies suggest that those with better educations live longer and more healthy lives.
The average net household income in the UK is above the European average, thankfully. Indeed with the higher cost of living here the extra income is needed for utility bills, food and items such as cigarettes and alcohol. Debt is also a serious problem, with 18% living through their bank loans, 14% straining to meet repayments and as many as 49% feeling worse off than ever before.
We work longer, retire later, receive less annual leave then most of Europeans and get less sunshine (no surprise there). To top it off, people in the UK die on average two years before the French.
Time for a move across the channel then?
Unsurprisingly, 3 in 10 people think that now is a good time to emigrate. And so do we. Past research (by Natwest International) has shown that fewer and fewer expats say they’ll return to the UK in the future. Even though natural environment, climate, culture and leisure, healthcare and education take priority for most over financial issues, it’s interesting to note that professional expats are typically earning over £20,000 more than their UK peers, with 92% reporting an increase in salary over the past three years.
As an added bonus, remember that the new 20% VAT rate introduced this year in the UK now means that we’ll be paying more VAT than the French (the standard being 19.6%).