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Weekend reading: Britain worst place to live in Europe, apparently

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Some quick thoughts, then the best links, rounded up and revealed.

Here’s a finding to depress my domestic readers: Britain is now the second worst place to live in Europe, according to uSwitch.

The news is doubly dispiriting. Not only is Britain officially a rubbish place to live, but we can’t even claim the top (bottom) spot, which goes to Ireland!

According to the report:

The UK came 9th out of the 10 European countries in the Index, thanks to high living costs, below average government spending on health and education, short holidays and late retirement.  The Index shows that people in France enjoy the highest quality of life, closely followed by Spain.

People in the UK pay the highest prices for food and diesel, yet the government spends below the European average (as a percentage of GDP) on health and education. We also work longer hours, retire later, receive less annual leave than most of our European counterparts and get less sunshine along the way – not to mention the fact that we can expect to die two years younger than our French counterparts.

The UK no longer has the highest net household income in Europe, after falling behind Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark. In the past, the relatively high net income in the UK has offset the poor quality of life, but this year net household income it is only around £5,000 above the European average, compared to £10,000 above last year.

Of course, you discover what you measure.

As our annual three week summer ends bitterly (although temptingly sunny looking, as I gaze out of my home office window) and the six-month winter slog begins, I couldn’t bear to live anywhere else in the UK than London. And most of the good reasons why I choose London aren’t measured by this survey.

Still, I can certainly relate to the lack of sun, the expensive alcohol, and the prevalence of tattoos scrawled across over-flabby flesh even here in Central London, where the UK’s last skinny people seek refuge from the fattening, fighting provincials.

But perhaps the most depressing line in the report is this one:

As it stands, people in the UK can expect to work four years longer and die two years younger than their French counterparts.

Are you planning your escape from the rat race, or do you intend to slog to the end with your stoical co-workers?

Nobody says they wished they’d spent more time ducking the inevitable on their deathbed.

On the blogs

From the Money Maven network

Stories from the  big boys

  • Independent Commission on Banking kicks off – Get the PDF
  • Five lies about index funds – Forbes
  • Corporate bond ISA boom – Motley Fool
  • Where every country is in the debt cycle [Bit silly!]Business Insider
  • Gold touches $1,300 record high – BBC Business
  • Food price rises are a growing concern – BBC Business
  • Can an ETF collapse? – FT Alphaville
  • Three equity bears tell a cautionary tale – FT
  • Income from beyond the FTSE 100 – FT
  • Stocks on track for best month of the decade – FT
  • Eyes turn to Japanese stocks after Yen sell-off – FT
  • An end to self-cert loans at last? – FT
  • Mortgage lending hits ten-year low – The Independent
  • UK housing on track for double-dip – The Guardian

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • 1 ermine September 25, 2010, 10:53 am

    Classic case of sample bias 🙂 Let’s also hear it for some of the the good things about the UK

    A generally tolerant people. You don’t get that impression from reading the papers but it’s been my experience, both in South and West London, Southampton and in Suffolk

    Fantastic countryside and a remarkable variation in a relatively small geographical area.

    The long coastline and the remarkable wildlife spectacles associated with it

    world-class universities – okay my experience of this is old, but they were real inspirations to learning then

    the English language

    we’re not all fat and ugly. I’m not claiming personal achievemnts here unfortunately, but I don’t find it too hard to find a pleasant place to rest my gaze 😉

    easy process of establishing a business – just ask anyone who’s tried in France! For a sole trader you pretty much just do it, and even establishing a limited company isn’t too bad
    .-= ermine on: the Autumnal Equinox- when the light surrenders to the darkness =-.

  • 2 Thomas Jones September 25, 2010, 11:16 am

    The focus has been on “standard of living” in the UK at the expense of “quality of life” which the French appear to value more.

    For all the hours we work here in the UK and it’s often quoted that our working week is, on average, the longest in the European Union doesn’t mean that it’s efficient. I often wonder how, if we are to believe what we are told, the French work less hours and retire far earlier. The operative word is “efficiency” oh…and also by being belligerent in making sure that their government doesn’t try and change the retirement age.

    For the younger generations they look like they’re being shafted by the system into an expensive lifestyle without the rewards from all the tax we pay e.g. quality healthcare and education.

    I can’t wait for the VAT increase on 4th January 2010!!! [irony]

  • 3 Tyro September 25, 2010, 11:27 am

    Well, I agree France has got a lot going for it as a holiday destination, but for any longer? … I wouldn’t be able to stand the social conformism of everyday French life nor the bossiness and alacrity of ordinary French people in enforcing it.

  • 4 Salis Grano September 25, 2010, 11:39 am

    This is a snapshot. We all know where longer retirement is going to lead to. France and the PIGS are living on borrowed time.

    However, there are clearly things to fix in the UK. Spending more on public services isn’t always the answer (sometimes it is, though).

    Subjectively, I like living in London. I may consider relocating to a small town or more rural area at some point, but leave Britain — never! -SG
    .-= Salis Grano on: Roundup 24-09-10 =-.

  • 5 RetirementInvestingToday September 25, 2010, 2:55 pm

    Could it be that the French and Spanish just haven’t owned up to reality yet. Once the governments realise they can’t afford to pay the pensions then the retirement age will surely rise.

    As for dying younger I think that’s mostly just a case of people need to help themselves. I don’t feel I will die earlier just because I’m in the UK. A little more excercise and healthier eating would surely help many here which would push up the average age of death. When in the queue at the Tesco’s checkout I am sometimes shocked at what the people in front of me are buying to feed there families.
    .-= RetirementInvestingToday on: Gold Priced in British Pounds GBP – September 2010 Update =-.

  • 6 Forest September 26, 2010, 9:09 am

    Not loved in UK for over 3 years now….. Looks bleak 🙁 but I do miss a lot of things that I am afraid will not be the same if I ever go back!
    .-= Forest on: What to do if a debt collector calls =-.

  • 7 Bret @ Hope to Prosper September 26, 2010, 7:46 pm

    Keep a stiff upper lip.

    We get the same bad rap in the U.S. about long working hours and lack of government mamby-coddling. But, we are rugged-individualists and most of us wish the government would stop wasting our tax dollars on silly social programs. The reality of global competition and social liability is already starting to catch up with France and Spain.

  • 8 Money Funk September 28, 2010, 4:23 am

    Well that is sad news, “As it stands, people in the UK can expect to work four years longer and die two years younger than their French counterparts.” And you say Ireland bottom – is it not a country made up of like 90% young adults (under 35)? I read that somewhere. That would be a good explanation to its bottom spot.

    Well thank you for including me in your roundup. 🙂 I always wish I was in Britain during its Sid & Nancy punk revolution or during the screaming Beetles era. Fascinating.
    .-= Money Funk on: What is Debt Recycling =-.

  • 9 The Investor September 29, 2010, 8:12 am

    What a fabulous collection of comments and insights from everyone — thanks very much, I’m not sure I have much to add except to say I was merely the reporter here, and I had my tongue slightly in my cheek.

    Like any Brit I could live anywhere in Europe, and I have other options to me also. But here I stay for now.

    That said, while I adore the UK countryside and have walked much of the coast, I do think London is a different country to the rest of the UK. Which is why much of the rest of the UK hates us/it, of course!

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