In 2021, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita expressed in purchasing power standards (PPS) ranged between 55% of the EU average in Bulgaria and 277% in Luxembourg.
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The data show substantial differences between the EU Member States in terms of GDP per capita, used to measure economic activity.
In 2021, Luxembourg and Ireland recorded the highest levels of GDP per capita, at 177% and 121% above the EU average.
In international comparisons of national accounts data, like GDP per capita, it is desirable not only to express the figures in a common currency, but also to adjust for differences in price levels. Failing to do so would result in an overestimation of GDP levels for countries with high price levels, relative to countries with low price levels.
The dispersion in GDP per capita across the EU Member States is quite remarkable.
Luxembourg has by far the highest GDP per capita among all the 27 countries included in this comparison, at 177% above the EU average.
This is to some extent explained by the fact that a large number of foreign residents are employed in the country and thus contribute to its GDP, while they are not part of Luxembourg’s resident population. Their consumption expenditure is recorded in the national accounts of their country of residence.
Ireland comes out second among the EU Member States, at 121% above the EU average, followed by Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Austria, each with a GDP per capita more than 20% above the average.
The high level of GDP per capita in Ireland can be partly explained by the presence of large multinational companies holding intellectual property. The associated contract manufacturing with these assets contribute to GDP, while a large part of the income earned from this production is returned to the companies’ ultimate owners abroad.
Germany, Finland and France are the other EU Member States with a GDP per capita above the EU average.
Malta, Italy and Czechia are less than 10% below that average, followed by Slovenia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Estonia and Spain at 10% to 20% below.
The GDP per capita of Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Romania and Latvia is less than 30% lower than the EU average, while Croatia, Slovakia and Greece are less than 40% below. Bulgaria records a GDP per capita at 45% below the EU average. ■