Cost of living crisis took its toll on EU households in 2022, new statistics show

A woman checks the price of a water melon in Essen, Germany, Wednesday, May 31, 2023.
A woman checks the price of a water melon in Essen, Germany, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. Copyright Martin Meissner/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Mared Gwyn Jones
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The EU's official statistics agency on Monday released its annual key figures for Europe providing a snapshot of the continent's economic and societal health over the past 12 months. We picked out those you must know.



Annual inflation in EU countries averaged 9.2% in 2022, as Russia's aggression in Ukraine dealt a major blow to commodity markets, data from Eurostat show.

It was highest in the Baltic states, reaching a staggering 19.4% in Estonia.

Households across the EU struggled to pay their way as housing, water and energy prices spiked by 18.0%, transport by 12.1%, and food and non-alcoholic beverages by 11.9%. 

Cost of living crisis

In January 2023, almost half (47.1%) of average household expenditure in the EU went towards the three expenses seeing the steepest increases, namely household, transport and food bills.

The result, according to data released today by Eurostat, is a deepening cost of living crisis. Last year, 21.6% of the EU population, some 95.3 million people, were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The share was highest in Romania (34.4%) and Bulgaria (32.2%).

Almost one in three of the EU population were unable to face an unexpected bill in 2022, 1.3% more than in the previous year. This figure was also highest in Romania, where almost half (47.9%) were unable to absorb an unforeseen expense.

From trade surplus to deficit

Meanwhile, the EU recorded its first trade deficit in a decade in 2022. The value of goods imported into the EU from non-EU countries exceeded the value of EU exports by €430 billion. This follows a decade of trade surplus for goods between 2012 and 2021. 

Both import and export volumes broke previous records, suggesting that wold trade is booming in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The US was the EU's leading export market for goods in 2022, accounting for 19.8% of the total export value, followed by the UK at 12.8%. Between 2021 and 2022, the value of exports from the EU to Russia dipped by 38.1% as the war in Ukraine paralyzed the trading relationship.

China was by far the EU's leading importer of goods, accounting for more than one-fifth (20.9%) of all imports. 

But the US and the UK are the EU's biggest trading partners for services, both countries accounting for around a fifth of services exported from the EU. By contrast, around a third (34.5%) of services imported into the EU come from the United States.

Other figures provided in the annual report include stats on the continent's population, its education and health as well as the state of its environment and natural resources.

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