Economy New economic maps of Europe


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I have been working on a lot of new maps for the Economic & Wealth Maps page of this site. There are now over 50 maps, with more coming soon.

The one that took me the longest to make is the GDP per capita at Purchasing Power Standard (PPS) by NUTS2 region.


What is interesting here is how capitals of former Soviet bloc countries that are now in the EU have become beacons of economic development. Prague is now Europe's second richest city in terms of GDP per capita after Luxembourg and ahead of London or Paris! Bratislava, Warsaw, Bucharest and to a lower extent also Budapest all have higher GDP per capita than the German, French or British average, and are indeed wealthier than almost all West European and Nordic cities! They play in the same league as Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich or Vienna.
A new category of maps is the infrastructure.

Here you can see the quality of overall infrastructure (roads, railways, airports, etc.). Ireland, Iceland and Norway performs rathe poorly for some of Europe's richest countries. On the other hand Spain does very well, considerably better than any Nordic country.


The Netherlands has the best quality of roads in Europe, followed by Switzerland, Austria and Portugal. Norway and Iceland may suffer from the frost regularly damaging roads, but Ireland and Belgium have no such excuse.


Switzerland has long boasted the best railway system in the world alongside Japan. The Netherlands and Finland also do quite well. It may come as a shock to some that British railways aren't better than Ukrainian ones (before the war), and are indeed worse than Russian or Chinese ones!


The next map shows the quality of railway service (punctuality, frequency of trains, etc.). Once again the Swiss beat everyone, but the Dutch quality of service does not match the quality of infrastructure.

Another novelty concerns retirement and pensions.

European countries are ageing quickly and especially those of the Mediterranean and Germany. The retirement age is now the highest in Italy, Greece, and more unexpectedly also Denmark - all at 67 years old. The French have been resisting reforms stubbornly for years, taking the streets and going on strike every time the government proposes to increase the retirement age. As a result, France now has one of the lowest retirement age (62 years old) among developed countries - despite the enormous stress this puts on the French pension system (see below).


Natixis, a French bank, published a Global Retirement Index this year, which attempts to rate the best countries to retire based on four categories: Health (insured health expenditure, life expectancy and health expenditure per capita), Material Wellbeing (income equality, income per capita and unemployment), Quality of Life (air quality, biodiversity and habitat, environmental factors, happiness, and water and sanitation), and Finances in Retirement (old-age dependency, bank nonperforming loans, inflation, interest rates, tax pressure, government indebtedness and governance). However material wellbeing relies on employment figures that aren't really relevant to retirees.


The Mercer CFA Institute published a Global Pension Index, which aims to rank countries based on the quality of their pension system. The index is calculated based on three dimensions: Adequacy (benefits, system design, savings, government support, home ownership, growth assets), Sustainability (pension coverage, total assets, demography, public expenditure, government debt, economic growth), and Integrity (regulation, governance, protection, communication, operating costs).


The following map shows the pension fund assets as percentage of GDP. Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, the UK and Switzerland are by far the best funded. All the others may be at risk of not being able to pay pensions in a not too distant futures.


Depending on the country where you get your pension, your monthly allowance may be (almost) as high as your last income/salary before retirement, or it may be a fraction of it. Turkish retirees get slightly more than 100% of their pre-retirement earnings as pension. On the other hand Irish and Polish pensioners only get a bit more than a third of what they used to earn - a big adjustment for their lifestyle.


How much are government really spending on pensions nowadays? That notably depends on how high social security contributions were historically, but also how well they have invested the pension funds, or how fast the economy is growing now. The last factor explains why Ireland only needs to spend 5% of its GDP on pensions (former salaries were lower than present ones thanks to a booming economy), while in Greece it is three times as much (GDP is lower now than in 2008, but pensions aren't lower).

I've driven a rented BMW in Portugal. Their roads and highways are very nice indeed. But I'm not really a fan of round-abouts, probably because I'm not used to them.

Nowadays there are roundabouts everywhere in Europe. It started in the UK in the 1960's and spread slowly to the rest of Western Europe in the 80's and 90's, but the trend greatly accelerated in the 2000's. It does have its advantages. No need for traffic light, so traffic is smooth all the time and you don't have to wait for nothing at the red light when there is no car coming the other way. It's also much safer than intersections without traffic lights with just a yield or stop sign.

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