How per capita purchasing power has changed after the first pandemic year

This year the average per capita purchasing power in Europe is €15,055. This was shown by the recent study ‘GfK Purchasing Power Europe 2021’. This means that per capita purchasing power has increased slightly this year, but the differences between countries are enormous.

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Per capita purchasing power rises slightly

In 2021, people in Europe will once again be able to spend more money on food, housing, services, energy costs, private pension provision, insurance, holidays, mobility and consumer desires. "After purchasing power stagnated last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year people can at least partially compensate for rising inflation with nominal purchasing power gains," explains Filip Vojtech, GfK retail expert in geomarketing. Purchasing power refers to disposable income excluding taxes, social security contributions and transfer benefits, and is shown per capita and year in euros as an index. 42 European countries were surveyed down to the postcode level in the ‘GfK Purchasing Power Europe 2021’ study.

  • In Liechtenstein, which as in previous years takes the purchasing power ranking lead far ahead of all other countries, the per capita purchasing power is €64,629. This puts Liechtenstein almost 4.3 times above the European average.
  • Ukraine brings up the rear: in the country with the lowest purchasing power in the study, people have just €1,892 per capita, less than 13 per cent of the European average, at their disposal. 

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom makes it into the Top 10

But the purchasing power trend is not the same in every European country. "While the United Kingdom moves up two places and into the purchasing power ranking’s top 10 due to a stronger pound, neighbouring Ireland slips down three places," says Filip Vojtech. Unchanged and in the same order as last year, the top 10 after Liechtenstein are Switzerland, Luxembourg, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Germany and Sweden. They all have very high per capita purchasing power, at least 55 per cent above the European average. For the United Kingdom, which just makes it into the top 10 for the first time this year, purchasing power is at €23,438 per capita.


Paris takes the top spot in its purchasing power ranking

But things have also changed within the countries. The GfK expert cites France as an example "where the purchasing power gap is widening".

  • With a per capita purchasing power of €20,662, France ranks 15th in Europe.
  • Its own top 10 mainly consists of counties located in the Île-de-France and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regions.
  • Parisians have an average of €34,536 per capita at their disposal this year – 67 per cent above the national average and more than 129 per cent above the European average.

At the bottom of the table is the district of Saint-Denis, north of Paris. Per capita purchasing power here averages €14,086, about 32 per cent below the national average. "The development of the regions with the highest and lowest purchasing power in France shows that the gap between rich and poor has been widening in recent years," say the editors of the study


Highest spending potential around Budapest and towards Austria

In Hungary, the average per capita purchasing power is €7,643, which gives it just under 51 per cent of the average purchasing power in Europe. This puts Hungary in 30th place in the country comparison again this year.

  • Looking at the 20 counties within Hungary, Budapest continues to occupy first place.
  • People here have €9,722 per capita at their disposal for spending.
  • This puts Budapest's spending potential a little more than 27 per cent above the national average, but still almost 35 per cent below the European average.

Also unchanged from the previous year is the number of counties with above-average purchasing power: people have more money than the national average in just five of Hungary’s 20 counties. They are all geographically located in and around the capital Budapest and towards the Austrian border.


After the coronavirus crisis, per capita income has again recorded slight nominal growth of 1.9 per cent this year. However, how much consumers have at their disposal for spending and saving differs not just from country to country, but also within countries, sometimes very significantly. The order of the countries with the highest per capita purchasing power has remained largely constant. The only new ranking was where the United Kingdom (due to a stronger pound) just managed to slip into the purchasing power ranking’s top 10, in tenth place.


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