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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Sunday, 16.06.2019, 10:04

Social protection in the EU and the Baltic States

Eugene Eteris, European Studies Faculty, RSU, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 14.12.2018.Print version
Social protection expenditure in the EU-28 in 2016 has been at the level of 30% of GDP, slightly down compared to 2015, according to data from Eurostat. In the three Baltic States the social protection expenditures (SPEs) have been at the level of 15% compared with about 30-33% in the Nordic states, France, Finland, Austria, etc.

 In 2016, the two main sources of funding of social protection in the EU member states were social contributions, making up 55% of total receipts, and general government contributions from taxes at 40%.

The EU average figures continued to mask major disparities among the EU states: in 2016, social protection expenditure represented at least 34% of GDP in France, 34% in both Finland and Denmark as well as in Austria, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands (all 30%).

In contrast, social protection expenditure stood below 20% of GDP in Romania, Latvia and Lithuania (all 15%), Ireland (16%), Estonia and Malta (both 17%), Bulgaria and Slovakia (both 18%) as well as Czech Republic, Cyprus and Hungary (all 19%).

Social protection expenditure per capita

In 2016, social protection expenditure per capita in PPS (Purchasing Power Standards), which eliminates price level differences between countries, showed large differences among the EU states. After Luxembourg, the highest expenditure per capita was recorded in Austria, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and France (all around 11 thousand PPS).

In contrast, the lowest expenditure per capita was registered in Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia (under 3 thousand PPS).


Table: Social protection expenditures in the Baltic States during 2011-2016 


Expenditure, % of GDP/  per capita*)                         Benefits by function, %

               2011   2015   2016                 Family/children   Unemploym.   Sickness   Old age    Housing


Estonia    15.6   16.1   16.6 / 3.8                  13.0             2.9                  41.3          41.8             1.1


Latvia       15.3   14.9   15.2 /2.9                  11.1              4.7                 34.1           49.0            1.2


Lithuania 17.0   15.6    15.4/3.6                    7.8              3.3                 40.8           45.9            2.3

*) per capita in thousand of PPS

Social benefits by function

 On average in the EU, old age & survivors benefits accounted for nearly 46% of total social benefits in 2016 and made up the major part of social protection benefits in nearly all EU states. The share of old age and survivors benefits in the total was highest in Greece (65%), Portugal and Italy (both 58%), Cyprus and Poland (both 56%), while it was lowest in Ireland (34%), Germany (39%), Luxembourg (40%), Estonia and the United Kingdom (both 42%). 

Sickness/health care and disability benefits accounted for 37% of total social benefits on average in the EU in 2016. Among the EU states, the share of these benefits ranged from 23% in Cyprus and 26% in Greece to over 40% in Croatia (44%), Ireland and Germany (both 43%), the Netherlands (42%) as well as Slovakia, Estonia and Lithuania (all 41%).

Family and children benefits accounted for slightly less than 9% of total social benefits on average in the EU in 2016. The share of family benefits in the total ranged from 4% in Greece and in the Netherlands to over 15% in Luxembourg.

Unemployment benefits have been at the level of 5% and housing and social exclusion benefits for 4% of the total SPEs. Unemployment benefits varied between less than 1% in both Romania and Poland to 10% in Ireland.

Housing and social exclusion benefits ranged from less than 1% in Poland, Greece and Portugal to 8% in Cyprus and 7% in both Denmark and the United Kingdom.


Source: Eurostat statistics at

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