In an increasingly globalized world, Europe faces major social, economic, cultural and technological challenges. In Europe 2020, the European Union develops a strategy “to help us come out stronger from the crisis and turn the EU into a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy delivering high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion”. To realize the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth that the EU envisages, the human capital of Europe’s populations is the continent’s largest asset. To capitalize on that asset asks for a constant reappraisal of how Europeans arrange their lives, both as individuals and as countries. The economic crisis affects not only day-to-day decisions, but also fundamental choices at all stages of people’s lives: marriage and childbearing, the combination of employment and caring responsibilities for the young and the old, retirement, housing, and ageing well. How Europeans cope with these fundamental choices has important consequences for their personal well-being, but also for the adaptability and competitiveness of the societies in which they live.

Given the extent and urgency of the challenges facing Europe’s populations, policy makers and the general public require scientific information on how to effectively deal with them. In order for the social sciences to work out sustainable responses to current policy challenges, high-quality data are needed. The Generations and Gender Programme Research Infrastructure has been developed to provide scientists and policy makers with a scientifically-grounded international database to enable researchers to contribute answers to these key policy questions. The Infrastructure is run by institutes with strong traditions in academic research on population and family change and on survey methodology. It provides users with an accessible data source of nationally comparative surveys and contextual data which significantly improves the knowledge base for social science and policymaking in Europe and developed countries elsewhere. The GGP surveys focus on intergenerational and gender relations between people, expressed in care arrangements and the organization of paid and unpaid work. Crucial to understanding behaviours across the life course is the longitudinal panel design of the GGP surveys. The contextual database provides information on variations in context over time and across regions that are believed to have an impact on relationships between genders and generations.

The first GGP panel waves were conducted in 2004. To date, at least one wave of the Generations and Gender Survey has been conducted in 19 countries, while 12 countries have carried out multiple waves. The GGP is unique in its large coverage of Central and East European countries, and is also the only comparative longitudinal panel study that covers the almost entire adult age range. At the same time, a contextual database with information from 60 countries on more than 100 indicators has been developed and compiled.