Poverty in large wealthy countries

Among the large rich countries, France is the one where the poverty rate (8.3%) is – by far – the lowest. It is two times lower than in the United States (17.8%), which leads the rankings. The situation is clearly deteriorating in Germany.

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With a poverty rate of 8.3% in 2016 at the 50% threshold, France is clearly the social model that best combats poverty, according to OECD data. At the other end of the ranking, in the United States, the share of people living below the poverty line is twice as high (17.8%). Next come Japan and Spain (15.7 and 15.5%), Italy (13.7%), the United Kingdom (11.9%) and Germany (10.4%).

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International rankings often mix very many countries of such different sizes that the comparison makes little sense. If we had completed our ranking by the main European countries, only Finland and the Netherlands would be better ranked than France.

France does better than other comparable countries in terms of poverty rate. With Japan, it is also one of only two countries where this rate has decreased slightly compared to 2012, according to OECD data. Even though Japan started from much higher, since the poverty rate had climbed to 16.1% in 2012. Spain with + 1.5 points and especially Germany (+ 2 points) are the countries where the the number of poor increased the most during the period. Germany, which was in the top ranks in the world in the early 2010s, saw its social situation deteriorate profoundly in four years.

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International data highlights patterns from different countries. The Anglo-Saxon countries and Japan, where the standard of living is high, experience large differences and the redistribution of wealth, less developed, leaves a higher level of poverty. In the less wealthy Mediterranean countries, the standard of living of the poorest is particularly low. Finally, the countries with the lowest poverty are those which combine both high standards of living and significant redistribution of wealth. The innovation of these last years is the tilting of Germany from this last group of countries towards the Anglo-Saxon model.

Poverty rate of large rich countries
2012-2016 evolution in points
United States17.2 (1)17.80.6
Japan16.115.7 (2)-0.4
United Kingdom10.511.90.6

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