The FINANCIAL -- Since 2010, social protection expenditure in the European Union (EU) has increased slightly, from 28.6% of GDP in 2010 to 29.0% in 2015, according to data from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.
In 2015, the two main sources of funding of social protection at EU level were social contributions, making up 54% of total receipts, and general government contributions from taxes at 43%.
The EU average continued to mask major disparities between Member States. In 2015, social protection expenditure represented at least 30% of GDP in France (34%), Denmark and Finland (both 32%), Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Italy (all 30%). In contrast, social protection expenditure stood below 20% of GDP in Romania and Latvia (both 15%), Lithuania and Estonia (both 16%), Ireland (17%), Malta, Bulgaria and Slovakia (all 18%) as well as in the Czech Republic (19%).
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.
Social protection expenditure per capita varies substantially across Member States
In 2015, 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 (see country note), the highest expenditure per capita were recorded in Denmark and Austria (over 11 thousand PPS). In contrast, the lowest spendings per capita were registered in Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia (under 3 thousands PPS).
Highest share for old age and survivors benefits in Greece, Italy and Portugal
On average in the EU, old age & survivors benefits accounted for 45% of total social benefits in 2015 and made up the major part of social protection benefits in nearly all Member States. The share of old age and survivors benefits in the total was highest in Greece (65%), Italy and Portugal (both 58%), Romania and Cyprus (both 55%), while it was lowest in Ireland (33%), Luxembourg and Germany (both 39%), the United Kingdom (41%) and Belgium (42%).
Sickness/health care and disability benefits accounted for 37% of total social benefits on average in the EU in 2015. Amongst Member States, the share of these benefits ranged from 26% in Cyprus and Greece to over 40% in Croatia (46%), Germany and the Netherlands (both 43%), the United Kingdom (41%) and Slovakia (40%).
Family and children benefits accounted for slightly less than 9% of total social benefits on average in the EU in 2015, unemployment benefits for 5% and housing and social exclusion benefits for 4%. The share of family benefits in the total ranged from 4% in the Netherlands to almost 16% in Luxembourg. Unemployment benefits varied between less than 1% in Romania and 12% in Ireland, and housing and social exclusion benefits from less than 1% in Greece, Estonia, Portugal and Italy to 8% in Cyprus and 7% in both Denmark and the United Kingdom.