Top 10 economies in Europe

Laura Mullan
- Leadership - Oct 05, 2018

When searching for a new business hub, economic stability is a pressing concern for any firm. Using data from the World Bank, Business Chief examines which European countries have the biggest gross domestic product (GDP) and explore the industries that helped to establish them as economic powerhouses.


10. Belgium

Belgium’s central geographic location and highly developed transport network have worked in its favour — recording a GDP of US$493.68bn in 2017, the country is one of Europe’s strongest economies.  Metallurgy and steel production have grown to become two of the country’s key industries with the Global Steel Trade Monitor citing Belgium as the world’s eighth-largest steel exporters. Large-scale companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, and telecom Proximus Group are also headquartered in the country.


9. Poland

Poland is the only EU nation that managed to avoid a recession, and today its economy is still strong. Last year, the nation reported a GDP of $524bn, with the pharmaceutical, agriculture, mining and banking sectors being some of the economy’s key industries. The country has a population of around 38mn and uses the Polish z%u0142oty as its currency.


8. Sweden

The Scandinavian country of Sweden also has a robust economy. The nation is primarily export-focused, with products like timber, hydropower and iron ore playing key roles in its foreign trade. With a population of around 9.9mn, Sweden’s GDP was approximately $538bn last year. Some renowned Swedish firms include IKEA, H&M and Spotify.


7. Switzerland

Switzerland reported a GDP of $678.8bn last year, making it the seventh biggest economy in Europe. Discover Switzerland reports that approximately 74% of Swiss GDP is generated by the service sector whilst 25% comes from industry. The EU is the country’s key trading partner: around 78% of Swiss imports come from the EU, while 43% of the country's exports are destined for EU countries. Glencore International, Nestlé and Zurich Insurance Group are just some of the companies headquartered in Switzerland.


6. Netherlands

Playing a key role as Europe’s transportation hub, the Netherlands recorded a GDP of $826.2bn last year. With Schipol airport in Amsterdam, one of the busiest airports in Europe, and the port of Rotterdam, which is the largest port in Europe, logistics is one of the country’s most significant industries.The  Netherlands’ economy is also bolstered by a strong natural resources sector. The country is home to Royal Dutch Shell, the largest company in Europe by revenue, and it currently stands as the largest producer of natural gas in the European Union.


5. Spain

Spain’s economy is returning to health after the recession. In 2015, the country recorded the sharpest drop in its unemployment rate since it adopted the Euro in 1999. Today, with a GDP of $1.3trn, Spain now stands as the fifth largest economy on the continent. Tourism accounts for 11% of Spain’s economy and in 2017, the number of international tourists visiting Spain broke records for a fifth straight year. Spain is now the world’s third-most visited country, behind only France and the United States.


4. Italy

With a population of around 59.7mn, Italy had a GDP of $1.93trn in 2017, according to World Bank. Italy is the world’s 10th-largest goods exporter, with the apparel and textile playing an important role in the country’s GDP and export earnings. Italy's apparel market is expected to reach a value of $42bn by 2020. The country’s unemployment rate was 11.1% in January 2018, down from 11.9% the year earlier according to Trading Economics. Companies including Fiat, Geox, and Armani are headquartered in the country.


3. France

France is one of Europe’s biggest economies, generating a GDP of $2.57trn in 2017. The nation has a highly educated workforce, with Focus Economic noting that France has the highest number of science graduates per thousand workers in Europe. As a result, companies such as Airbus, L’Oreal, Groupe PSA and Veolia have positioned their headquarters in the country.  The chemical industry is also a key contributor to the French economy. Today, the chemical sector has 3,335 companies in France who employ 165,000 people. Tourism is also a particularly important sector for its GDP, with the country attracting more than 84mn visitors every year.


2. United Kingdom  

Reporting a GDP of $2.62trn in 2017, the United Kingdom has firmly established itself as the second biggest economy in Europe. It is also the sixth-largest economy in the world, with a population of around 66.6mn. The service sector is one of the UK’s leading industries, contributing to over 70% of its GDP. Additionally, the UK has also gained a world-class reputation as a financial hub, with the sector generating £119bn for the UK economy last year. HSBC Holdings, the largest bank in the world, is located in the capital and the London Stock Exchange (LSE) has a market capitalisation of over $6trn, making it the third largest stock exchange in the world. The nation also has a very robust tourism sector, with London being the second-most visited city in the world.


1. Germany

Topping the leaderboard, Germany is the largest economy in Europe, accounting for 28% of the continent’s GDP. Aided by its low unemployment rate, low crime, developed infrastructure and qualified workforce, the nation reported a GDP of $3.67trn in 2017. The country’s economy is largely fuelled by its service sector, including the tourism and banking industries. The industry contributes to almost 70% of the country’s GDP and employs around 72% of the working population, according to Business Development Germany. The manufacturing and construction sectors — spanning across the automotive, machinery and chemical markets — also contribute hugely to the country's economy. For instance, Volkswagen Group, the largest carmaker in Europe, is headquartered in Wolfsburg in Germany.

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