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(12 March 2018) - Among the main functions of general government expenditure in the European Union, ‘social protection’ was by far the largest in 2016, equivalent to 19.1% of GDP.

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© Nick Youngson

The next most important areas were ‘health’ (7.1%), ‘general public services’ such as external affairs and public debt transactions (6.0%), ‘education’ (4.7%) and ‘economic affairs’ (4.0%). ‘Public order and safety’ (1.7%), ‘defence’ (1.3%), ‘recreation, culture and religion’ (1.0%), ‘environmental protection’ (0.7%) and ‘housing and community amenities’ (0.6%) had more limited weights.

Social protection represented the largest area of general government expenditure in 2016 in all EU Member States. The ratio of government social protection expenditure to GDP varied across EU Member States from less than 10% in Ireland (9.9%) to over a quarter in Finland (25.6%).

Eight Member States – Finland, France, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Greece, Sweden and Belgium – devoted at least 20% of GDP to social protection, while Ireland, Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Malta, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria each spent less than 13% of GDP on social protection.

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