This renewed optimism also characterises the opinion held by European households when it comes to their personal circumstances. Once again, there has been an improvement and the average score recorded is the highest since the start of the economic crisis (5.6/10).

While the individual increases posted by each country are less pronounced, Spain and Italy are gradually climbing back towards the European average, while the Belgians and British return to the top of the pile alongside the Germans (6.2/10).

As is the case every year, European consumers have a better opinion of their personal circumstances (Fig. 2) than of their country’s overall situation (Fig. 3), the difference being approximately one point. The gap is even wider in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, where consumers are much more optimistic regarding their own fate.

The feeling of insecurity is subsiding

Although this indicator has risen very little on average, it is worth noting that 28 % of Europeans give their personal circumstances a score of between 1 and 4, compared to 33 % in 2015. Individual assessments of personal circumstances are less polarised and pauperism is in decline. At the other end of the scale, the proportion of Europeans who gave a score of 9 or 10 has not increased (there has been a slight drop, to 6 %). This small change should not disguise the fact that the situation remains very tough for more than a quarter of Europeans, who continue to describe their personal circumstances in negative terms.

Fig. 2 How would you rate your current personal circumstances on a scale of 1 to 10?
Source: L’Observatoire Cetelem de la Consommation 2016.

Fig. 3 How would you rate the general situation in your country on a scale of 1 to 10?
Source: L’Observatoire Cetelem de la Consommation 2016.

But others always seem to have it better…

Despite this convergence of opinion and this relative optimism, it should be noted that almost 40 % of those surveyed believe that their income is lower than that of their fellow citizens (Fig. 4). That’s twice as many as those who believe their income to be higher than that of the majority of their compatriots (almost 19 %).

Many Europeans therefore underestimate their income. This is especially the case in Eastern and Northern European countries (Poland, Hungary, Denmark, Czech Republic) and less so in the West (France, Belgium, Portugal).

Fig. 4 With regard to your current income, would you say that it is higher, lower or similar to that of the majority of your country’s population?
Source: L’Observatoire Cetelem de la Consommation 2016.