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France confirmed as European champions for welfare spending

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France confirmed as European champions for welfare spending
Photo: AFP
13:02 CET+01:00
France devotes more than one third of its GDP to providing its citizens with welfare protection, according to new figures. No other country in Europe is as generous.

The new figures from Eurostat will give ammunition to right wing presidential candidate François Fillon, who has vowed to dramatically shred pubic spending if elected next May.

In the year 2014 France spent 34.3 percent of its GDP on welfare, well above the European average of 28.7 percent.

Behind France came Denmark which dedicated 33.5 percent of GDP on social spending then Finland (31.9 percent), the Netherlands (30.9 percent).

The UK was down in ninth place after spending 27.4 percent of GDP on its welfare state, just behind Germany on 29.1 percent.

The figures show France’s welfare spending has jumped dramatically since 2008 when it devoted 30.4 percent of GDP on social spending.

That rise was mirrored, to varying degrees by most other countries, although the jump was far narrower in the UK, which saw a hike of 1.5 percentage points in welfare spending between 2008 and 2014 and Germany, where spending rose by 2 percentage points.

Most of welfare spending goes on pensions and other benefits and services directed towards the elderly (45.5 percent), while health care also takes up a huge chunk (35 percent). Other areas of welfare spending include family allowances, unemployment benefits and social housing.

But when the overall social spending is broken down into categories France does not always come out on top.

Indeed when it comes to family allowances both the UK (2.8 percent of overall welfare spending) and Germany (3.1 percent) both spend more than France (2 percent).

As for unemployment benefits, another hot potato issue in France that those on the right want to dramatically cutback, France dedicates 6.2 percent of overall social spending, well above the UK’s 1.7 percent.

With France under pressure from Brussels to cut its debt and François Fillon the favourite to be elected president next May, France may not hold onto to its title of European champion for much longer. 

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