Since 2011, social protection expenditure in the European Union (EU) has increased slightly, from 28.3 percent of GDP in 2011 to 28.7 percent in 2014, according to data from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.
In 2014, social protection expenditure represented at least 30 percent of GDP in France (34.3 percent), Denmark (33.5 percent), Finland (31.9 percent), the Netherlands (30.9 percent), Belgium (30.3 percent), Austria and Italy (both 30 percent).
In contrast, social protection expenditure stood below 20 percent of GDP in Latvia (14.5 percent), Lithuania (14.7 percent), Romania (14.8 percent), Estonia (15.1 percent), Bulgaria and Slovakia (both 18.5 percent), Malta and Poland (both 19 percent), the Czech Republic (19.7 percent) and Hungary (19.9 percent).
“These disparities reflect differences in living standards, but are also indicative of the diversity of national social protection systems and of the demographic, economic, social and institutional structures specific to each Member State,” Eurostat press release reads.
In 2014, social protection expenditure per capita in PPS (Purchasing Power Standards), which eliminates price level differences between countries, showed large differences between EU Member States.
After Luxembourg, the highest expenditures per capita were recorded in Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria at around 35 percent to 40 percent above the EU average, followed by Germany and France at around 30 percent above the average, as well as Belgium, Finland and Sweden at around 20 percent above.
The lowest spending per capita was registered in Romania at more than 70 percent below the EU average, followed by Bulgaria and Latvia (between 65 percent and 70 percent below the average).