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How Expensive is the Welfare State?: Gross and Net Indicators in the OECD Social Expenditure Database (SOCX)


  • Willem Adema


  • Maxime Ladaique



This paper first presents information on trends and composition of social expenditure across the OECD. Gross public social expenditure on average across OECD increased from 16% of GDP in 1980 to 21% in 2005, of which public pensions (7% of GDP) and public health expenditure (6% of GDP) are the largest items. This paper then accounts for the effects of the tax system and private social expenditure which leads to a greater similarity in social expenditure-to-GDP ratios across countries and to a reassessment of the magnitude of welfare states. After accounting for the impact of taxation and private benefits, social expenditure (1) amounts to over 30% of GDP at factor cost in Belgium, Germany, and France and (2) ranges within a few percentage points of each other in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United States. Ce document présente les tendances et la composition des dépenses sociales des pays de l’OCDE. Les dépenses sociales publiques brutes on augmenté de 16 % du PIB en 1980 à 21 % du PIB en 2005, dont les retraites publiques (7 % du PIB) et les dépenses de santé publique (6 % du PIB) représentent les plus grandes catégories de dépenses en moyenne en 2005. Ce document examine ensuite les effets de l'intervention du gouvernement sur les dépenses sociales par le système fiscal et la prise en compte des prestations sociales privées, qui ont pour effet d’égaliser les ratios entre les niveaux des dépenses sociales et le PIB. Après la prise en compte des prestations sociales privées et de l’impact de la fiscalité, les dépenses sociales atteignent plus de 30 % du PIB aux coûts des facteurs en Belgique, Allemagne et France ; enfin les écarts entre les dépenses sociales en Autriche, Canada, Danemark, Finlande, Italie, Pays-Bas, Portugal et aux États-Unis ne sont que de quelques points de pourcentage.

Suggested Citation

  • Willem Adema & Maxime Ladaique, 2009. "How Expensive is the Welfare State?: Gross and Net Indicators in the OECD Social Expenditure Database (SOCX)," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 92, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaab:92-en

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    Cited by:

    1. Dahl, Espen & van der Wel, Kjetil A., 2013. "Educational inequalities in health in European welfare states: A social expenditure approach," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 60-69.
    2. Glatzer, Miguel, 2012. "Welfare State Growth and the Current Crisis in Portugal: Social Spending and its Challenges," Institute of European Studies, Working Paper Series qt4702x2jm, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley.
    3. Pasquale Tridico, 2014. "Welfare models, inequality and economic performance during globalisation," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0191, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
    4. Konstantinos, Pouliakas & Ioannis, Theodossiou, 2010. "An Inquiry Into the Theory, Causes and Consequences of Monitoring Indicators of Health and Safety At Work," MPRA Paper 20336, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Isabelle Joumard & Mauro Pisu & Debbie Bloch, 2012. "Tackling income inequality: The role of taxes and transfers," OECD Journal: Economic Studies, OECD Publishing, vol. 2012(1), pages 37-70.
    6. Peter Whiteford, 2010. "The Australian Tax‐Transfer System: Architecture and Outcomes," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 86(275), pages 528-544, December.
    7. Fernando Alexandre & Luís Aguiar Conraria & Pedro Bação & Miguel Portela, 2011. "A Poupança em Portugal," GEMF Working Papers 2011-19, GEMF, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra.

    More about this item


    private social spending; public welfare system; social policy; tax breaks with a social purpose; taxation of benefit income;

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs

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