New Study: Where Are Europe’s Highest Living Standards?


April 28, 2016

Compensation matters. But a larger paycheck isn’t always better for workers. What matters is “purchasing power”—the ability of that paycheck to afford a quality standard of living, including comfortable housing, safe transportation, an affordable education and more.

There are dramatic differences in both wages and the cost of living among European countries. That means the same paycheck is worth dramatically different amounts among countries. And the allure of living in a low-cost-of-living country fades if average pay is also low.

Today we released a new study, conducted by Llewellyn Consulting, titled Which Countries in Europe Offer the Best Standard of Living?. The study compares average wages and living costs in countries throughout Europe, using the United States as a benchmark.

The key findings are in the figure below. It’s a heat-map-style ranking of 18 European countries and the U.S. in terms of average wages, cost of living, and overall “standard of living” once both average compensation and living costs are accounted for. Green denotes the best-rated countries, while red denotes the worst-rated.

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Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (glassdoor.com/research).

Overall, we found the highest living standard for the average worker is in Switzerland, followed by Denmark, Germany and the United States. By contrast, the lowest living standards were found in Estonia, Greece, Portugal and Italy. Although costs of living are relatively low in these countries, wages are also low, resulting in an overall poor deal for the typical worker.

At Glassdoor, our mission is to help people find a job and company that they love. By helping European job seekers better understand how pay and cost of living differ among countries, we hope this report contributes to that goal.