Comparative price levels for investment
Data from December 2020
Planned article update: June 2021
In 2019, price levels for investment in the EU were highest for Finland (32% above the EU average) in Finland and lowest for Romania (35% below the EU average).
Price level indices for investment, 2019 (EU-27=100)
This article focuses primarily on price levels of investment in the European Union (EU) Member States, covering also United Kingdom, three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), as well as five EU candidate countries (Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey), and one potential candidate country (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
In 2019, the highest price levels for investment among the EU Member States were observed in Finland at 32% above the EU average, while in the least expensive EU Member State, Romania, the price level was 35% below the EU average. These are the main conclusions drawn from the results of two price surveys carried out in 2019 within the Eurostat-OECD Purchasing Power Parities (PPP) Programme. The two surveys cover construction (residential buildings, non-residential buildings and civil engineering works) and machinery, equipment and other products.
The results of the surveys are expressed in price level indices (PLIs), which provide a comparison of countries' price levels with respect to the EU average.
Figure 1 shows the 2019 PLIs for total investment. Norway, Switzerland and Finland record the highest price levels for investments, with PLIs of 140, 137 and 132, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, the least expensive countries for investment are North Macedonia and Turkey, with PLIs of 55 and 57.
Machinery, equipment and other products
Figure 2 shows the PLIs for machinery and equipment, including metal products and equipment, electrical and optical equipment and transport equipment (see classification of investment products used). The most expensive countries for machinery, equipment and other products are Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Denmark and Malta with respective PLIs of 121, 120 115, 115 and 113, while Poland and Hungary are the least expensive countries, with respective PLIs of 91 and 92. The main characteristic shown by this chart is that the price levels for this type of product are relatively homogeneous across countries.
Table 1 shows the countries’ PLIs for the aggregate machinery and equipment as well as for its three main sub-categories: metal products and equipment, electrical and optical equipment and transport equipment. In addition, the PLIs for software are shown. Countries are sorted according to their overall price level for investment shown in the first column. The shaded fields indicate the highest and lowest PLIs per category among all 37 participating countries. The highest and lowest PLIs among the 27 EU Member States are marked in bold.
The results show that Portugal and Denmark are the most expensive EU Member States for total machinery and equipment. The Netherlands shows the highest price for transport equipment. As for the other two sub-categories, the most expensive EU Member State is Malta, for electrical and optical equipment as well as for metal products and equipment. Finally, Cyprus is the most expensive EU Member State for software.
By contrast, Poland is the least expensive EU Member State for total machinery and equipment, as well as for all three sub-categories: metal products and equipment, electrical and optical equipment and transport equipment. Belgium is the least expensive EU Member State for software.
Among all 37 countries, Iceland is the most expensive country for total machinery and equipment. Iceland also has the highest price level for electrical and optical equipment. Norway has the highest price level for transport equipment and Switzerland is the most expensive country for metal products and equipment. Serbia has the highest prices for software.
Poland is the least expensive country for total machinery and equipment when taking into account all 37 countries. Poland also has the lowest price level for electrical and optical equipment as for transport equipment. For metal products and equipment, North Macedonia is the least expensive country. Again, Belgium is the least expensive country for software.
At the bottom of the table, coefficients of variation are provided for the euro area (EA-19), the European Union (EU-27) and the group of all countries participating in the program (All 37). The coefficient of variation is defined as the standard deviation of the PLIs of the respective group of countries as percentage of their average PLI. The higher the coefficient of variation, the higher is the price dispersion in the respective category.
The coefficients of variation at the bottom of Table 1 confirm the relatively low price dispersion across countries for these investment products. The highest homogeneity is visible within the euro area.
Among all 37 countries, software shows the lowest price variation and transport equipment the highest price variation across countries.
Figure 3 presents the PLIs for construction. The most expensive countries for construction investment are Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Germany and Iceland with PLIs of 175, 150, 147, 144, 144 and 138 respectively. On the other hand Turkey, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Romania, Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia are the least expensive countries for investment in construction, showing price levels below 50% of the EU average. The lowest construction price levels were observed in Turkey and North Macedonia, both with a PLI of 37.
Table 2 shows the PLIs for the main categories of construction expenditure (residential buildings, non-residential buildings and civil engineering works). Countries are sorted according to their overall price level for investment shown in the first column. As in Table 1, the shaded fields indicate the highest and lowest PLIs per category among all 37 participating countries. The highest and lowest PLIs among the 27 EU Member States are marked in bold.
Finland is the most expensive EU Member State for all construction sub-categories, except for residential buildings, for which Germany has a higher price level. At the other end of the spectrum, the least expensive EU Member State for construction investments is Romania, showing the lowest PLIs for the sub-categories residential buildings and civil engineering works. Croatia is the least expensive for non-residential buildings.
Among all 37 countries, Switzerland has the highest price levels for overall construction and for the sub-categories residential and non-residential buildings. Finland is the most expensive for civil engineering works. The lowest price level for residential buildings was observed in North Macedonia, while for non-residential buildings Turkey was the least expensive country. For civil engineering works, Bosnia and Herzegovina had the lowest price level.
Price dispersion is higher within the 37-country group. It is much less significant in the euro area (EA-19) than in the EU as a whole. Price dispersion for all categories of construction is higher than that for total investment, due to the higher share of labour input into construction and the high dispersion of wages across countries. Price dispersion is the highest for residential buildings, followed by non-residential buildings.
The data in this article are produced by the Eurostat-OECD Purchasing Power Parities (PPP) Programme. The full methodology used in the programme is described in the Eurostat-OECD Methodological manual on purchasing power parities available free of charge from the Eurostat website.
The PPP concept
In their simplest form PPPs are nothing more than price relatives that show the ratio of the prices in national currencies for the same good or service in different countries. For example, if the price of a hamburger in France is EUR 2.84 and in the United Kingdom it is GBP 2.20, the PPP for hamburgers between France and the United Kingdom is EUR 2.84 to GBP 2.20 or EUR 1.29 to the pound. In other words, for every pound spent on hamburgers in the United Kingdom, EUR 1.29 would have to be spent in France in order to obtain the same quantity and quality – or volume – of hamburgers.
Published PPPs usually refer to product groups or broad aggregates like gross domestic product (GDP) rather than to individual products. However, these aggregate PPPs are based on data for individual goods and services.
Price level indices
Price levels as presented in this publication are the ratios of PPPs to exchange rates. They provide a measure of the differences in price levels between countries by indicating for a given product group the number of units of common currency needed to buy the same volume of the product group or aggregate in each country.
Price level indices (PLIs) provide a comparison of the countries’ price levels relative to the European Union average: if the price level index is higher than 100, the country concerned is relatively expensive compared to the EU average, while if the price level index is lower than 100, then the country is relatively inexpensive compared to the EU average. The EU average is calculated as the weighted average of the national PLIs, weighted with expenditures from national accounts, corrected for price level differences.
Price level indices are not intended to rank countries strictly. In fact, they only provide an indication of the order of magnitude of the price level in one country in relation to others, particularly when countries are clustered around a very narrow range of outcomes. The degree of uncertainty associated with the basic price data and the methods used for compiling PPPs may cause minor differences between the PLIs and result in differences in ranking which are not statistically or economically significant.
The impact of exchange rate changes on PLIs
As explained above, the PLI for a given country is calculated as its PPP divided by its annual average exchange rate to the euro. This implies that exchange rate movements have an impact on the PLIs. The depreciation of a country’s currency against the euro will make the country less expensive in comparison to euro area countries and this will be shown as decrease of the relative price level expressed in the PLI.
Main characteristics of the survey on prices for machinery, equipment and other products
The survey on prices for machinery, equipment and other products is carried out every 2 years. The last survey was carried out in April, May and June 2019. Countries collected prices for around 500 items, divided over nine sub-groups. The survey covers the three main sub-categories of machinery and equipment (metal products and equipment; electrical and optical equipment; and transport equipment) as well as the software category.
From the sub-groups listed as investment categories, no prices are collected for other transport equipment, boats, steamers, tugs, floating platforms and rigs, locomotives, rail-cars, vans, wagons and other rail equipment, aircrafts, helicopters, hovercrafts and other aeronautical equipment, and products of agriculture, forestry and other products. PLIs for these sub-groups are estimated taking PPPs of other sub-groups as proxy.
Prices refer to purchasers’ prices including non-deductible VAT.
Main characteristics of the survey on construction prices
The 2019 survey on construction prices, whose results are published in this article, was carried out in three months - May, June and July 2019.
Countries collected prices for a list of "bills of quantities", which are comparable construction projects such as a detached house, an office building or an asphalt road. Each bill of quantities consists of a number of chapters or major components (like earthworks, concrete, masonry, etc.) which are made up of items or elementary components (like excavation of the terrain, dumping and compacting of soil, etc.).
The construction projects are divided into 3 sub-categories: residential buildings (comprising 4 bills of quantities: a detached house, a house representative for Portugal, a house representative for Nordic countries and an apartment building), non-residential buildings (comprising 2 bills of quantities: a light industrial building and an office building) and civil engineering works (also 2 bills of quantities: an asphalt road and a bridge).
Countries are asked to collect purchasers’ prices for the bills of quantities, i.e. prices actually paid in markets for the elementary components that make up those bills of quantities and the additional expenses incurred that build up to the project total cost paid by the client. Non-deductible VAT is added to these purchasers’ prices.
Purchasing power parities (PPPs) are indicators of price level differences across countries. PPPs tell us how many currency units a given quantity of goods and services costs in different countries. PPPs can thus be used as currency conversion rates to convert expenditures expressed in national currencies into an artificial common currency, the purchasing power standard, eliminating the effect of price level differences across countries.
The main use of PPPs is to convert national accounts aggregates, like the gross domestic product (GDP) of different countries, into comparable volume aggregates. Applying nominal exchange rates in this process would overestimate the GDP of countries with high price levels relative to countries with low price levels. The use of PPPs ensures that the GDP of all countries is valued at a uniform price level and thus reflects only differences in the actual volume of the economy.
PPPs are also applied in analyses of relative price levels across countries. For this purpose, the PPPs are divided by the current nominal exchange rate to obtain a price level index (PLI) which expresses the price level of a given country relative to another, or relative to a group of countries like the EU-27.
The common rules for the provision of input data, and for the calculation and dissemination of PPPs, are laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1445/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2007.
- Comparative price levels (tec00120)
- Price and volume convergence between EU Member States (tec00121)
- GDP per capita in PPS (tec00114)
- Purchasing power parities (PPPs), price level indices and real expenditures for ESA 2010 aggregates (prc_ppp_ind)
- Convergence indicators (prc_ppp_conv)
- Eurostat-OECD Methodological manual on purchasing power parities
- Purchasing power parities (ESMS metadata file — prc_ppp_esms)
- Regulation (EC) No 1445/2007 of 11 December 2007 establishing common rules for the provision of basic information on Purchasing Power Parities and for their calculation and dissemination
- Summaries of EU Legislation: Purchasing power parities