What do different EU governments spend their budgets on?

What do different EU governments spend their budgets on?
By Emma Beswick
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How much did your country's government spend on health, education or defence compared with other EU Member States?


EU member states on average spend the biggest chunk of their budgets (41.2%) on social protection, according to 2016 figures from Eurostat.

The data, gathered from national authorities, spent the least on recreation, culture and religion (2.2%), environment protection (1.6%) and housing and community amenities (1.3%).

Defence was the fourth-smallest expenditure for EU member states, making up on average 2.9% of their total spending.

Social protection

Perhaps unsurprisinly, Finland spent nearly half of its budget (45.8%) on social protection, while fellow Nordic countries Denmark (43.6) and Sweden (41.7%) came in close behind.

Mediterranian countries including France (43.3%), Italy (42.7%) and Greece (41.5%) as well as Germany (43.6%) were also big spenders in this area.

Iceland came bottom of the list seeing just under 30% of its total spending used in this area, followed by Hungary, Croatia, Czech Republic and Malta at just over 30%.


Switzerland was the top spender on education in Europe with 16.3% of its budget going to this sector.

Cyprus topped the list in the EU with its spending reaching 15.6%. Italy came last, with its spending dipping to 7.9%.

The UK came halfway down the list, investing 11.2% of its spending in education.


Iceland's government spent just a minute fraction (0.1%) of its budget on defence compared to other Member States. Other countries that spent very little in this area included Luxembourg, Ireland, Austria, Hungary and Belgium, which all saw around 1% of their total budget invested in defence.

The UK was the second-largest spender (4.8%), topped only by Estonia (6%). Lithuania, Latvia and Greece all saw over 4% of their total spending in the area of defence, while central European countries like France (3.2% of total), Italy (2.6%) and Germany (2.3) appeared further down in the table.

The "defence" category took into account research and development (R&D), military defence, foreign military aid and civil defence.


Out of all the Member States, Greece, the Netherlands and Malta appeared to be the biggest champions of environmental protection when it came to their spending with around 3% of their total going on this.

Austria, Denmark, Cyprus, Sweden and Finland all saw less than 1% spent in this area, which included waste management, pollution abatement, protection of biodiversity and landscape, waste water management and R&D.

Central European countries France, Italy and Germany all came around the middle of the table with between 1.5% and 2% of their total spend.

Here is the full table which breaks down each Member State's total spending:

Correction: This story was updated to show that Switzerland is the top spender in education, not Sweden.

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