GDP per capita, consumption per capita and price level indices

Data extracted in June 2018

Planned article update: December 2018

In 2017, Luxembourg recorded the highest level of GDP per capita in the EU followed by Ireland.

Volume indices of GDP per capita, 2017 (EU-28=100)

This article presents the most recent analysis of purchasing power parities and related economic indicators (gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, level of actual individual consumption (AIC) per capita, countries' price level indices) in the European Union (EU) and some other countries for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, but focusing primarily on the latest reference year. The countries included in the comparison are the 28 EU Member States, three EFTA Member States (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), five EU candidate countries (Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Turkey) and one potential candidate (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

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In 2017, Ireland recorded the second highest level of GDP per capita in the EU-28, at 84 % above the EU average, with only Luxembourg at a higher level. Bulgaria was the Member State with the lowest per-capita GDP, at 51 % below the EU average. Levels of actual individual consumption were somewhat more homogeneous, but still showed significant differences across Europe. Luxembourg recorded the highest level of AIC per capita in the EU-28, at 30 % above the EU average. The highest price level among the EU Member States was observed in Denmark, at 41 % above EU-28 average.

Figure 1: Volume indices of GDP and AIC per capita, 2017 (EU-28=100) - Source: Eurostat (prc_ppp_ind)

Relative volumes of GDP per capita

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.

Countries’ volume indices of GDP per capita are shown in the left-hand part of Table 1. 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 37 countries included in this comparison, being more than two and a half times above the EU-28 average. One particular feature of Luxembourg's economy which to some extent explains the country's very high GDP per capita is the fact that a large number of foreign residents are employed in the country and thus contribute to its GDP, while at the same time they are not included in the resident population.

Table 1: Volume indices per capita, 2014-2017 (EU-28=100) - Source: Eurostat (prc_ppp_ind)

Ireland comes out second among the EU Member States, at 84 % above the EU-28 average followed by the Netherlands and Austria at 28 % above that average. The EFTA Member States Switzerland and Norway have a level of GDP per capita of around 60 % and 50 % above the EU-28 average, respectively followed by Iceland at around 30 % above the average.

Other EU Member States with a GDP per capita of more than 20 % above the EU-28 average are Denmark, Germany and Swede,n while Belgium has a level of GDP per capita just below 20 % above the average. Finland, the United Kingdom and France show GDP per capita levels of up to 10 % above the average.

Italy, Malta and Spain have a level of GDP per capita of less than 10 % below the EU-28 average. The Czech Republic, Slovenia and Cyprus have a level of GDP per capita between 10 % and 20 % below the EU-28 average. The GDP per capita of Lithuania, Estonia, Portugal and Slovakia is less than 30 % below that average. They are followed by Poland, Hungary, Greece and Latvia and the candidate country Turkey with a GDP per capita of less than 40 % below the average. The EU Member States Romania and Croatia have a GDP per capita of around 40 % below the EU-28 average and the EU Member State Bulgaria is placed at 51 % below the EU-28 average.

The candidate countries Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia have a GDP per capita at around 60 % below the EU-28 average followed by the potential candidate country Bosnia and Herzegovina and the candidate country Albania with a level of GDP per capita at around 70 % below the EU-28 average.

Relative volumes of consumption per capita

While GDP is mainly an indicator of the level of economic activity, Actual Individual Consumption (AIC) is an alternative indicator better adapted to describe the material welfare of households.

Countries’ volume indices of AIC per capita can be found in the right-hand part of Table 1. Generally, levels of AIC per capita are more homogeneous than GDP but still there are substantial differences across the EU Member States.

The EFTA Member State Norway is the country with the highest level of AIC per capita among all 37 countries included in this comparison at 32 % above the EU-28 average.

It is followed by Luxembourg with the highest level of AIC per capita among the EU Member States, at 30 % above the average of the EU-28. While Luxembourg can be said to belong to "a division of its own" in terms of GDP, this is less so for AIC. One reason for this is that cross-border workers contribute to GDP in Luxembourg while their consumption expenditure is recorded in the national accounts of the country of their residence.

The EFTA Member State Switzerland with a level of AIC per capita at 26 %above the average is followed by the EU Member States Germany and Austria with the level of AIC per capita at around 20 % above the average. Ireland, having the second highest level of GDP per capita in the EU-28, has an AIC per capita at 6 % below the EU-28 average.

Price levels in Europe

Table 2 shows countries' price levels to the right, with the EU-28 average at 100, for AIC only. It also shows the exchange rates applied in the calculation of the price level indices (see methodology described in Data sources). In the following, we will restrict our discussion to the price levels of AIC, since this is closer to the concept of price levels that people are familiar with than a price level indicator based on GDP.

Table 2:Exchange rates and price level indices for AIC, 2014-2017 (EU-28=100) - Source: Eurostat (prc_ppp_ind)

Denmark and Luxembourg have the highest price levels among the Member States, both 41 % above the EU-28 average. However, EFTA Member States Iceland, Switzerland and Norway have higher price levels with price levels of around 70 %, 65 % and 50 % above the EU-28 average, respectively. Other EU Member States with price levels situated at around 30 % above the EU-28 average are Sweden and Ireland with price levels of around 35 % and 30 %, respectively. Finland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have price levels situated between 20 % and 30 % above the EU-28 average. Belgium, Austria and France have price levels situated at around 10 % above the EU-28 average followed by Germany and Italy with price levels situated at less than 10 % above the EU-28 average.

Spain and Cyprus have price levels of around 10 % below the EU-28 average followed by Slovenia, Portugal, Greece and Malta at around 20 % below the EU-28 average. Estonia has a price level situated at around 30 % below the EU-28 average followed by Latvia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Croatia with their price levels situated at more than 30 % below that average.

The Member States Lithuania, Hungary and Poland and the candidate country Montenegro have price levels between 40 % and 50 % below the EU-28 average followed by the Member State Romania and the potential candidate country Bosnia-Herzegovina with price levels at around 50 % below the EU-28 average.

The candidate countries Albania, Serbia, Turkey, the Member State Bulgaria and the candidate country the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have price levels at less than 60 % below the EU-28 average.

Exchange rates are crucial in determining price levels, and exchange rate movements consequently often have a big impact on the development of price levels over time. In fact, several of the major price level changes observed between 2014 and 2017 can be at least partly explained by fluctuations of country's currencies against the Euro. In 2017, the national currency of Iceland showed the largest appreciations against the Euro. The same country shows the largest price levels increase between 2014 and 2017. The national currency of Turkey showed a large depreciation in 2017, the same country showing the largest price levels decrease between 2014 and 2017.

The last three rows in Table 2 show the coefficients of variation of the price levels for three groups of countries: the euro area (EA-19), the 28 EU Member States and the entire group of 37 countries. A time series of these coefficients can be interpreted as a rudimentary price convergence indicator.

These figures tell us that, firstly, and unsurprisingly, the price dispersion is much less pronounced in the euro area than in the EU as a whole and in the 37-country group, which can be partially impacted by the volatility of exchange rates. Secondly, price levels are slightly diverging within all country groups over this four-year period.

Data sources

The data in this article are produced by the Eurostat-OECD Purchasing power parities programme. The full methodology used in the programme is described in the Eurostat-OECD Methodological manual on purchasing power parities.

Purchasing power parities (PPPs) are currency conversion rates that are applied in order to convert economic indicators from national currency to an artificial common currency, called the Purchasing Power Standard (PPS), which equalizes the purchasing power of different national currencies and enables meaningful volume comparisons between countries. For example, if the GDP or AIC per capita expressed in the national currency of each country participating in the comparison is divided by its PPP, the resulting figures neutralise the effect of differences in price levels and thus indicate the real volume of GDP or AIC at a common price level. When divided by the nominal exchange rate of a given year, the PPP provides an estimate of the price level of a given country relative to, for instance, the EU-28 total.

PPPs are established on an annual basis. According to the regular publication calendar, PPPs are released as preliminary estimates 12 months after the end of the reference year and revised after 24 months, while the final results are released 36 months after the end of the reference year. In addition, an early estimate of PPPs, partly based on projections, is published 6 months after the end of the reference year. This regular PPP revision and release calendar is in line with the data delivery timetable for national accounts data as given in the ESA 2010 Regulation 549/2013 of 21 May 2013. Thus, the 2014 results presented in this publication should be regarded as final, while the 2015, 2016 and 2017 results are still preliminary.

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 2.84 euro and in the United Kingdom it is 2.20 pound sterling, the PPP for hamburgers between France and the United Kingdom is 2.84 euro to 2.20 pounds or 1.29 euro to the pound. In other words, for every pound spent on hamburgers in the United Kingdom, 1.29 euro would have to be spent in France in order to obtain the same quantity and quality – or volume – of hamburgers.

The indices of relative volumes of GDP and AIC per capita published in this article have been adjusted for price level differences, and are expressed in relation to the European Union average (EU-28=100). Thus, for instance, if a country's volume index is below 100, that country's level of GDP (or AIC) per capita is lower than for the EU-28 as a whole. The price level adjustment factors, referred to as purchasing power parities, can also be used in comparison of countries' price levels.

Price level indices (PLIs) 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. They are presented 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 and vice versa. The EU average is calculated as the weighted average of the national PLIs, weighted by the expenditures corrected for price level differences.

Volume and price level indices are not intended to rank countries strictly. In fact, they only provide an indication of the order of magnitude of the volume or price level in one country in relation to others, particularly when countries are clustered around a very narrow range of outcomes. The level of uncertainty associated with the basic price and national accounts data, and the methods used for compiling PPPs imply that differences between countries that have indices within a close range should not be over-interpreted.

In national accounts, Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) denotes expenditure on goods and services that are purchased and paid for by households. Actual Individual Consumption (AIC), on the other hand, consists of goods and services actually consumed by individuals, irrespective of whether these goods and services are purchased and paid for by households, by government, or by non-profit organisations. In international volume comparisons, AIC is often seen as the preferable measure, since it is not influenced by the fact that the organisation of certain important services consumed by households, like health and education services differs a lot across countries. For example, if dental services are paid for by the government in one country, and by households in another, an international comparison based on HFCE would not compare like with like, whereas one based on AIC would.


GDP per capita volume indices (on a regional basis - see GDP at regional level) are used in the allocation of Structural Funds within the EU. Regions where real GDP per capita is less than 75 % of the EU average (taken over a period of three years) are eligible for support from the Structural Funds.

Eurostat is co-operating closely with other international institutions in the production and dissemination of PPPs. It co-operates with the OECD to produce PPP statistics for the OECD countries and with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to produce global PPP data. See external links below.

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External links

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 ESA2010 aggregates (prc_ppp_ind)
Convergence indicators (prc_ppp_conv)