For Latvia, the increase was slightly higher, at 5%. However, it should be noted that the rise took place against a background of very high inflation in 2022.
In 2022, social protection benefits expenditure increased in almost all EU countries for which 2022 estimates are published. The exceptions were Malta, where it decreased by 5% and Ireland, where there was no percentage change compared with 2021.
The largest increases between 2021 and 2022 (measured in national currencies) were recorded in Bulgaria (+28% compared with 2021), Cyprus (+18%) and Hungary (+10%), while the smallest increases were registered in Austria (+1%), and France, Denmark, Slovakia, Finland and Germany (all with +2%).
This information comes from early estimates on social protection expenditure published by Eurostat. They are the main indicators of the European System of Integrated Social Protection Statistics (ESSPROS) and are provided by the reporting countries on a voluntary basis.
While social protection expenditure in national currencies rose in most EU countries, when analysing expenditure as a percentage of GDP, data shows a decrease in 2022. This is because GDP increased more than the expenditure on social benefits in a rebound effect from the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2022, social protection benefits expenditure represented 27.2% of the EU’s GDP, a 1.5 percentage points (pp) drop compared with 2021.
For Latvia, too, the figure fell from 18% in 2021 to an estimated 17.2% in 2022, continuing a downward trend from 2020's figure of 19%.
Between 2021 and 2022, social protection benefits expenditure as a percentage of GDP decreased in all EU countries (with available early estimates), except for Cyprus, Bulgaria and Luxembourg. In these cases, there was an increase in social protection benefits expenditure as a percentage of GDP: +1.4 pp for Cyprus to 23.2% of GDP, +1.2 pp for Bulgaria to 19.5% of GDP and +0.1 pp for Luxembourg to 21.6% of GDP. The largest decreases were observed in Malta (-2.8 pp), Austria (-2.6 pp) and Denmark (-2.2 pp).
Among EU countries for which 2022 estimates are published, social protection benefits expenditure as a percentage of GDP was highest in France (32% of GDP), Austria and Italy (both 30%), while it was lowest in Ireland (11%), Malta (15%), as well as Estonia, Lithuania and Hungary (all 16%).
Old age and sickness/health care benefits accounted for the main part of social protection benefits in all EU countries for which data are published.