Krakow, Poland – New data from the EU’s statistical office sheds some light on how much countries in Europe spend in family and children benefits.
Poland and Hungary biggest spenders in Central Europe
According to Eurostat, family benefits in Poland and Hungary accounted for respectively 12% and 13% of these countries total social protection spending, the third and fourth highest rates in the EU after Luxembourg (15.4%) and Estonia (13%).
Both Poland and Hungary’s conservative governments have made generous social spending for families one of their signatures policies to curb their population’s demographic decline and falling birth rates.
Hungary’s 7-point “family protection plan” introduced by Viktor Orban earlier this year sparked controversy, with Sweden saying it “reeks of the 1930’s” and “will harm the autonomy for which women have struggled for decades”.
In the Czech Republic (8.9%) and Slovakia (9%), the share of family benefits compared to total social protection benefits were slightly lower, but in line with EU average.
Less than 300 euros per inhabitant in Central Europe
Poland is, in both absolute and relative terms, by far the largest spender on family benefits in Central Europe (10.8 billion euros, or 2.5% of GDP). Follows the Czech Republic (2.8 billion euros, 1.6% of GDP), Hungary (2.5 billion, 2.2% of total GDP) and Slovakia (1.3 billion, or 1.6% of GDP).
But when we get in the detail, Visegrad Group countries are not such big spenders as it might first look like.
The Czech Republic only spends around 270 euros per inhabitant on family and children benefits, slightly more than Slovakia (240 euros per inhabitant) and Hungary (260 euros) but right below Poland’s level of expenditures per capita (285 euros) – which is still less than half of the EU average spending per inhabitant.
350 billion euros spent in Europe on family benefits
At the EU level, more then 350 billion euros were spent on family benefits in total, or 2.4% of total GDP and 9% of the total spent on social protection benefits. The average expenditure was 690 euros per inhabitant, with the highest found in Luxembourg (3.000 euros), Denmark (1.7000), Sweden (1.400), Germany and Finland (both 1.200).
All in all, Germany, the U.K. and France alone accounted for roughly two thirds of the EU’s family and children benefits spending.
This huge gap in the level of family benefits granted in individual EU member states was at the heart of the recent spat opposing the Czech Republic and Slovakia to Austria, after Vienna decided to cut family allowances for foreigners working in the country (including to the many Czechs and Slovaks employed in Austria).