The mood among Europeans: time for a bounce back
Conducted between 5 and 19 November 2021, when the Delta variant was already having a significant impact and Omicron was still in its infancy, the Observatoire Cetelem Barometer highlights the renewed optimism of Europeans. Whether they are asked about the general situation in their country or their personal circumstances, the mood among consumers is better than it has been in many years. The billions of euros of support provided and the numerous measures taken by governments to alleviate the devastating effects of the Covid-19 crisis on economies have put Europeans back on track financially. Their consumption levels remain sensible and are coupled with a strong tendency to save. But just as the skies look to be clearing, new clouds are rolling in: a return to high inflation and the strength of the Omicron wave mean that the next few months will continue to be marked by uncertainty. We should therefore take heart from the good news this Barometer brings, without necessarily minimising the concerns it raises.
The 2021 Observatoire Cetelem Barometer left us in no doubt regarding the gloom felt by Europeans. Successive Covid waves had eroded the euphoria observed the previous year.
High scores for national situations
This latest edition sees a smile returning to people’s faces. The average score people give the general situation in their country is 5.4, exactly the same as before the crisis and the highest score in the last 15 years.
And yet, this average figure masks disparities between the countries. The “happy” countries in the North post particularly high scores. Indeed, Denmark, the birthplace of hygge, the art of happiness, and Norway post the highest score: 7.1 out of 10. Conversely, the more “timorous” countries tend to be concentrated in Eastern Europe, with Bulgaria and Slovakia in particular posting a feeble rating of 3.8. What’s more, Slovakia and the Czech Republic post lower scores than in the previous edition.
France, Spain and the United Kingdom display the biggest improvements: +1.1 points. It is also worth noting that, despite this bounce, several countries are a long way off returning to the high scores of the 2020 edition.
This is especially true for Austria and Germany (-1.1 pts and -0.7 pts respectively between 2020 and 2022) (Fig. 1 Barometer).
From a personal standpoint, things are good and things are better
As is usually the case, people view their personal circumstances more positively than the overall situation. And here once again, the bounce back has been tremendous. With an average of 6.2, Europeans have never been so optimistic. Also significant is the fact that no nation scores lower than 5 out of 10, with only the Czech Republic posting a lower rating than previously (by just 0.1 points).
The rises posted fall short of the increases recorded for overall national situations, with the United Kingdom again registering the sharpest growth (+0.9 pts), joining Italy and Spain in a trio of European populations who consider their circumstances to be better than they were before the crisis.
One quirk in the data is that the Danes and Norwegians score their personal circumstances lower than the general situation in their country (Fig. 3 Barometer).