European Union

The economy

The economy

Operating as a single market with 27 countries, the EU is a major world trading power.

EU economic policy focuses on creating jobs and boosting growth by making smarter use of financial resources, removing obstacles to investment and providing visibility and technical assistance to investment projects.

How big is the EU economy?

In terms of the total value of all goods and services produced, EU gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, when the UK was still part of the EU, was €16.4 trillion.


Over 64 % of EU countries' total trade is done with other countries in the bloc.

With just 6.9 % of the world's population, EU trade with the rest of the world accounts for some 15.6 % of global imports and exports.

Together with the United States and China, the EU is one of the 3 largest global players in international trade.

The EU countries had the second largest share of global imports and exports of goods in 2016.

Their exports amounted to 15.6 % of the world's total, though in 2014 these were surpassed for the first time in the EU's existence by those of China (16.1 % in 2014, rising to 17.0 % in 2016). However, they remained ahead of the US (11.8 %).

The US had a larger share of world imports (17.6 %) than either the EU countries (14.8 %) or China (12.4 %).


The employment rate - the proportion of the working-age population in employment - is a key social indicator used in analysing labour market trends.

The impact of the global economic crisis and Eurozone turbulence in 2008 was followed by a sustained rise in the employment rate over the next few years.

Source: Eurostat


The unemployment rate is the number of people unemployed as a percentage of the total labour force. It is an important indicator with both social and economic dimensions.

The chart below shows unemployment rates in the EU countries.

Source: Eurostat

Gender pay gap

The unadjusted gender pay gap is defined as the difference between the average gross hourly earnings of men and women, expressed as a percentage of the average gross hourly earnings of men. It is calculated for companies with 10 or more employees.

The gender pay gap is generally much narrower for young employees and tends to widen with age. This may be a result of the career interruptions typically experienced by women in the course of their working lives. The pay gap is particularly marked in the case of older women, who have missed out on equality measures that did not yet exist when they started their working lives.

As the chart below shows, the pay gap varies considerably across the EU.

The data are not available for some of the EU countries.

Source: Eurostat


Online shopping is very popular in the EU. E-shopping is growing steadily, with the biggest increase among young internet users.

The chart below shows the most popular goods and services bought or ordered online.

Source: Eurostat

As the chart below shows, nearly 7 out of 10 e-buyers have had no problems buying or ordering goods or services.

Source: Eurostat 


A smooth and efficient passenger and freight transport system is vital for EU businesses and the public alike. EU transport policy is designed to encourage clean, safe and efficient travel throughout Europe.

The 3 charts below show:

  • the split of inland transport (trains, coaches, buses and trolleybuses) in each EU country
  • air passenger transport rates
  • sea passenger transport rates

Source: Eurostat

Source: Eurostat

The data are not available for some of the EU countries.

Source: Eurostat

Renewable energy

Renewable energy sources in the EU include wind power, solar power, hydro power, tidal power, geothermal energy, biofuels and the renewable part of waste. The many potential benefits of renewables include:

  • lower greenhouse gas emissions
  • more diverse sources of energy
  • less dependency on fossil fuel markets (especially oil and gas).

Renewables have grown strongly in the EU over the last few years. In fact, energy from renewable sources has almost doubled its share in gross final energy consumption in recent years, as the chart below illustrates.

Source : Eurostat

Back to top