With more than 50 countries and non-country territories, many of which boast millennia of global influence, it's no surprise that Europe includes some of the most affluent countries on Earth. What may surprise some readers is just how great the difference is between the richest and poorest countries in Europe.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the richest European countries
The most common fundamental measure of national wealth is Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which measures the value of all the goods and services produced by that country during a given time period (typically a year). Combined, the top six major countries in Europe all had a GDP of more than $1 trillion (US$) in 2020 and tallied a collective GDP of $13.833 trillion (US$). These results make Europe's financial leaders some of the most productive countries on the planet.
Top 10 Richest Countries in Europe by total 2020 GDP (current US$ - World Bank)
* Known for being the largest country in the world in terms of size, Russia is a transcontinental country. Although the majority of Russian territory lies in Asia, 78% of the Russian people live in the country's European portion. As such, Russia is typically considered a European country.
GDP vs GDP per Capita
Useful as GDP is, it favors more heavily populated countries because it makes no account for the number of workers or corporations contributing to its total value. For example, Poland's population in 2020 was just under 38 million, roughly 25.9% of Russia's--however, its GDP was a full 40% of Russia's, which indicates that Poland's economy is actually the more productive of the two. In order to more clearly see scenarios such as this, economists often monitor two additional metrics: GDP per capita and GNI per capita. The first, GDP per capita, simply divides the GDP by the country's population. However, in so doing, it results in a very different list.
Top 10 Richest Countries in Europe by 2020 GDP per capita (current US$ - World Bank)
- Monaco - $190,513
- Liechtenstein - $180,367
- Luxembourg - $115,874
- Switzerland - $87,097
- Ireland - $85,268
- Norway - $67,390
- Denmark - $61,063
- Iceland - $59,270
- Netherlands - $52,397
- Sweden - $52,259
Three tiny-but-wealthy micronations leap to the top in this metric, followed by a parade of Northern European countries. Several non-country territories perform well in this category as well, including Bermuda ($117,098), the Cayman Islands ($91,393), and Greenland ($54,471). This is likely due to several reasons, including (but not limited to) the fact that per-capita metrics are easier to impact in countries with smaller populations and the fact that many of these countries are (or have been) international tax havens, which can artificially amplify GDP.
The final metric, Gross National Income (GNI), is a sort of flip-side mirror image of GDP. While GDP measures the value of goods and services produced and "sent out" of the country's economy (though most are "sent out" to domestic customers), GNI measures the value of all the income "brought in" to the country by those products and services. GNI also includes money that enters or leaves the country through international business transactions, which lessens the degree to which the metric is distorted by tax sheltering activity.
Top 10 Richest Countries in Europe by 2020 GNI per capita (Atlas Method, current US$ - World Bank)
- Liechtenstein - $117,740
- Switzerland - $84,310
- Norway - $78,180
- Luxembourg - $73,500
- Ireland - $64,150
- Denmark - $63,070
- Iceland - $62,420
- Sweden - $54,060
- Netherlands - $51,060
- Finland - $49,700
With the exception of Monaco, which does not appear on this list because its GNI per capita was unavailable (if it were, Monaco would likely rank first), the GNI per capita list is similar to the GDP per capita list, with nine of the same countries in an altered order.