25. Slovenia

Yellow pop of color in winter scenery at Log pod Mangartom in Slovenia.
@9_fingers_ / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $20,820
  • Average household net wealth: $203,044

While its net-adjusted disposable income has risen 0.6% since 2005, Slovenia sits far below the OECD world average.

The country’s average household wealth ranks 23rd best among OECD countries. Around 18% of income goes to housing, which is an average of 1.5 rooms per person. While the country doesn’t offer much in the way of economic social programs, Slovenians benefit from the public employment services, which helps young people on their career paths as part of the European Youth Guarantee.

Where Slovenia has an edge on this list is in its social inequality ranking. With a score of 3.7, it ranks fourth out of the OECD countries. For this ranking — much like golf — the best scores will be lower, with 1 being the best score a country can achieve.

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24. Portugal

Travel, Portugal
@foksia / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $21,203
  • Average household net wealth: $232,666

Portugal’s income has been trending downward since 2005, both for household net wealth and net-adjusted disposable income.

The job market in Portugal is heavily based on entrepreneurship, and the country is vying to become the startup capital of the EU. Due to its relatively affordable costs, location within Europe and favorable living conditions, it is an appealing place to start a tech business.

The government's economic minister, Pedro Siza Vieira, announced the Europe Startup Nations Alliance (ESNA) in November of 2021. It’s a new initiative that will support 26 EU countries and Iceland in the launching of startups. The country is also investing an additional €250 million to expand Portugal Tech, a government investment program.

23. Denmark

Food Market, Copenhagen Denmark
@sashapritchard / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $29,606
  • Average household net wealth: $118,637

While the country’s averages sit below the OECD average, Denmark’s overall household net-adjusted disposable income has been trending up since 2005 by 1.2%.

The labor market in Denmark functions on a “flexicurity model” following three core elements: flexible hiring and dismissals, generous unemployment benefits and substantial spending on active labor market policies. This has helped Denmark maintain a long-term unemployment rate of 1.3%, better than the average set by the OECD.

Denmark also has the Ethnic Coach for Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs project to help support ethnic minority social and entrepreneurial networks. This project earned them a European Trailblazer Award and was selected as a European best practice in the 2011 Interreg IVC project, Enspire EU (Entrepreneurial inspiration for the European Union).

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22. Korea

Collection key lock symbol of peace and love at Seoul Tower, South Korea.
@wang72624 / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $21,882
  • Average household net wealth: $285,980

Korea sits well below the OECD average, but it’s also rebounding from its position as one of the poorest countries in the mid-20th century. Its overall income growth has been trending up by 2.4% since 2005 for disposable income and 2.1% for wealth since 2013.

Korea’s Employment Insurance System is one of several factors that have successfully led to the country’s 0% long-term unemployment rate. It combines unemployment benefits and job programs for workers and shows employers how to retain employees to make them more employable in the future.

This model has helped employees maintain employment through training programs rather than just outright firing them. Korea invested in its system tenfold in 2009 to help mitigate widespread unemployment and curb the effects of its economic crisis.

21. Ireland

Hiking in cliffs, Ireland
@bred234 / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $25,310
  • Average household net wealth: $217,130

Ireland’s averages aren’t anything significant, and are below the OECD averages. Its overall household disposable income average has also been trending up by 0.4% since 2005.

Where Ireland does have an edge, however, is through skill-boosting programs that train people in high-level skills.

Among them is Skillnets, which supports workplace training by offering the Momentum program, training for high level skills, and Springboard+, which provides more than 9,000 free part-time and full-time training opportunities.

20. Israel

Market full of people in Israel
@yanavisuals / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: ~$24,863
  • Average household net wealth: ~$243,587

While there are no firm numbers for Israel, OECD determined these approximate averages based on available data.

Israel doesn’t have any “better policies” regarding income or employment as deemed by the OECD, but its long-term unemployment rate is the fourth lowest among OECD countries at 0.5%. It’s also fourth-best with regards to tackling gender inequality in the workplace.

Israel runs a vocational education and training (VET) system that helps its post-secondary graduates get the training they need for better jobs. As the country’s economy is dominated by services, VET programs are aimed at labor-focused bodies that run through the Ministry of Labor.

19. Netherlands

Adults having a conversation - café in Haarlem, the Netherlands
@raisazwart / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $29,333
  • Average household net wealth: $157,824

The Netherlands’ overall disposable income has risen 0.7% since 2005, but its household net wealth has trended downward by 3.5% since 2010.

This could be because the Netherlands is experiencing a housing crisis coupled with household debt at more than 200% of disposable income, one of the highest among OECD countries. This combination of high debt and illiquid assets is causing huge fluctuations in interest rates and household wealth.

Also, tax subsidies and rent regulations are making it cheaper to rent than buy. They have allowed private investors to suck up more than 20% of the housing market and pay less per property than first-time homebuyers.

18. Finland

Reindeer racing in Finland
@rbabakin / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $29,943
  • Average household net wealth: $200,837

Even though Finland’s averages fall below the OECD average, its overall net wealth is increasing, and it has one of the highest social inequality ratings of any OECD country.

Finland is one of the few countries that has tried a universal basic-income model. The aim was to reduce poverty and social exclusion, improve incentives to work and ease pressures from social benefits and taxation. The two-year pilot involved paying 2,000 random unemployed citizens €560 every month.

The money given did not help the recipients get jobs, and Finland ended the trial in 2018. But the recipients did report feeling happier, less stressed and more trusting of other people.

17. Italy

Beach in Vernazza, cinque terre, Italy
@hannievanbaarle / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $26,588
  • Average household net wealth: $279,889

Italy’s overall household net wealth has taken a huge hit in recent years, dropping 7.6% since 2011.

The drop could be attributed to growing wealth inequality. From 1995 to 2016, the wealthiest 1% in Italy saw their share of wealth grow from 16% to 22%, with the top 0.01% growing from 1% to 5%. Meanwhile, the poorest 50% have seen an 80% decrease in their average net wealth.

This wealth divide has only intensified during the pandemic, with Italy’s economy and job market taking a massive hit in those first few months.

16. Spain

Girl in Barcelona, Spain
@slizkow / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $23,999
  • Average household net wealth: $373,548

While Spain sits in the middle of this list, its overall household net wealth has been trending down by 4.4% since 2009.

It makes sense, as Spain’s job numbers are some of the worst in any OECD country. It’s ranked 34th in employment and 38th in job security and long-term unemployment.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has committed to increasing the country's minimum wage to protect worker spending power. This year also marked the first time since 1975 that the number of people registered for unemployment dropped.

15. New Zealand

Surfing school at the beach of New Zealand
@reportpics / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: ~$25,074
  • Average household net wealth: $388,514

New Zealand has one of the better net wealth scores compared to other OECD countries, ranking eighth overall. But what’s dragging the country down is its low ranking in disposable income.

This could be attributed to rising housing costs that have followed a jump in household net wealth. Also, while rent is cheaper, the overall cost of living is 6.68% higher than in the U.S.

New Zealand increased its minimum wage to $20 an hour this year, which could reduce the disparity between wealth and disposable income. It also plans to raise its top tax rates for the wealthiest people to 39%.

14. Japan

Busy street crossing in Tokyo, Japan
@javan / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $29,798
  • Average household net wealth: $305,878

The OECD found that Japan’s tax wedge is relatively flat, and low-income families with children pay higher than average taxes.

Japan has also tried to improve its redistributive power by reducing the required number of years of work to receive public pensions and increasing benefits for low-income pensioners.

The Japanese government has also tried to change its social assistance and enhance working incentives. In 2019, the OECD worked to propose a different tax benefit structure Japan could implement including taxes on wealth, indirect taxes, early-retirement benefits, sickness benefits and in-kind transfers.

13. France

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France
@vinnikava / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $31,304
  • Average household net wealth: $280,653

France’s overall net disposable income has been trending up 0.6%, while its net wealth has been trending down by 0.6%. This could be because it is one of five countries to see its wealth gap diminish over the past 20 years.

France is the only country in the OECD that spends more than 30% of its GDP on social services. This spending is due to the fact that France relies on its pension system, which takes up around half of its social spending.

The country’s security in its wealth has also made it so the debt it takes on isn’t an issue. While France’s debt is around 117.8% in 2021 with a projected drop to 116.3%, it’s likely the debt will stay stable all the way through 2024.

12. Sweden

Man by the water in Stockholm, Sweden
@@heatherdeffense / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $31,287
  • Average household net wealth: ~$299,779

There aren’t any solid numbers for Sweden’s net wealth, but the country’s disposable income is ranked 10th among OECD countries and has been trending up by 1.8% since 2005.

To help Swedish citizens prepare for their financial future and understand their pensions, the government created a website. Those who sign up will be able to get an overall picture of their earned pension rights daily and help them make projections to help them in budgeting when they start collecting their pensions.

The website has more than 2.1 million registered users and more than 12 million pension agreements collected in its database, covering around 99% of existing pension funding in the country.

11. Norway

Boarding the Hurtigruten cruise ship, far inside inside the Arctic Circle in Norway
@Dalboyne / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $35,725
  • Average household net wealth: $228,936

The first country on this list to score over the OECD average for net-adjusted disposable income, Norway’s ranking is dragged down by its net wealth ranking — where it sits at 20th. While the ranking is relatively low, the country has experienced a 7.6% increase in its net wealth since 2011.

Norway’s economy has a high level of social cohesion and prioritizes egalitarianism. They’ve been able to do this through comprehensive tax and benefit systems that effectively redistribute wealth. Its tax system targets income taxes from a thriving labor force and uses them to fund public services.

There have been moves to shift the system’s reliance on income tax to other methods, as the current method limits economic diversity and impacts cost competitiveness.

10. Germany

Cologne, Germany
@Fabio_F / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $34,294
  • Average household net wealth: $259,667

Germany’s overall disposable income is the fifth best of all OECD countries and has been trending upward by 1.7% since 2005.

This could be because Germany officially legislated a minimum wage in 2015 of €8.50 per hour. This legislation impacted the 4 million employees making less than that — corresponding to 11.3% of the overall workforce.

The effect of the increased wages on monthly salaries was subtle, however, as companies partly reduced working hours and increased intensity. The minimum wage has risen with inflation, but the government plans on raising it in 2022 by 25%.

9. Austria

Ski lodge, Austria
@s_madeleine_2006 / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $33,541
  • Average household net wealth: $308,325

Austria’s overall disposable income has trended positive at 0.3% since 2005, but its net wealth has been trending down by 2.8% since 2011.

COVID tore through the country, affecting an economy that relies on tourism. The country implemented a lockdown in November of 2021, which was then lifted for vaccinated individuals in December. The country is also working to close a skills gap regarding tech in the labor market.

In 2021, the Austrian government presented plans to overhaul its tax system. This included reducing personal income tax rates by July 2023, increasing family bonuses and reducing small income health care contributions.

8. Belgium

People outside a pub, on the last day of a weeklong festival. Ghent, Belgium
@Nervafilip / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $30,364
  • Average household net wealth: $386,006

Though Belgium’s net wealth is what brought it up to this spot — ranked ninth among OECD countries — it’s currently trending downward by 2.5% since 2010.

The government issued a wealth tax in 2021, which will annually hit securities accounts — both Belgian and foreign — that exceed €1 million in average value at around 0.15%. In 2020, Belgium saw its national debt grow to €524 billion, the first time it has exceeded €500 billion.

Of the eurozone countries, Belgium has perhaps been the hardest hit by the pandemic, and its economy will likely not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2031.

7. Canada

Two moms with strollers walking in Toronto, Canada
@Hanni / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $30,854
  • Average household net wealth: $423,849

Canada has had a positive trend regarding its ranking, with its disposable income up by 1.7% since 2005 and its net wealth up by 3.9% since 2012.

To weather the pandemic, Canada implemented a number of recovery benefits that carried over into 2021 and also expanded its unemployment benefits. In 2021, the country’s least wealthy citizens saw a small increase in their wealth while decreasing their debt.

The pension system in Canada offers a variety of income streams and relies on private optional instruments compared with other OECD countries.

6. Australia

Couple at the beach, Australia
@mariopalufi94 / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $32,759
  • Average household net wealth: $427,064

Wealth in Australia has been hitting record highs, rising 1.7% in disposable income since 2005 and 2.3% in net wealth since 2011.

This wealth boom has mainly been impacting Australian assets. Lower mortgage rates and work-from-homer’s craving space allowed the housing market to soar by $576 billion over 2021. This is great news if you have assets that could be cashed in.

Australians who don’t have assets, or have assets in the middle of Australia, have seen lower returns from this wealth boom. The Hilda survey, which has tracked more than 17,500 people in 9,500 households since 2001, found that casual employee hourly rates have risen slower than other forms of employment, which isn’t great for young people in the country.

5. Iceland

Hot spring in Iceland
@sydneyspencer470 / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: ~$31,929
  • Average household net wealth: ~$473,315

There aren’t any solid numbers regarding Iceland’s wealth, but one thing the country has going for it is its spot at No. 1 for being the most equitable country regarding wealth among OECD countries.

With large wage increases and employment growth, Iceland has the lowest poverty rate of any OECD county, particularly among the elderly, which sits at 2.8%. They’ve also established strong trade unions and wage bargaining units to help promote equality among the working class.

Iceland also has partnerships with labor markets that offer welfare payments, including a fully funded occupational pension system, sickness funds, rehabilitation funds for long-term illnesses or injuries and funds for continuing education for low-skilled workers.

4. United Kingdom

Double decker bus in London, UK
@teamjackson / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $28,715
  • Average household net wealth: $548,392

While the United Kingdom is enjoying a huge boom in wealth — 4.6% — the country faces a huge disparity between wealth and income.

The UK’s wealth gap has only increased during the pandemic, with the richest 10% gaining around £50,000. This is not only due to rising housing prices and lack of spending opportunities, but benefits being skewed in favor of the richest by a ratio of 500 to 1.

A lot of this inequality is geographically based, and the government has pledged to tackle this issue.

3. Switzerland

Gruyères, Switzerland
@lexxcreative / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $37,466
  • Average household net wealth: ~$501,040

Because of the country’s small size and highly specialized labor force, Switzerland is one of the world’s most stable economies.

The country is ranked second for both employment rate and personal earnings among OECD countries, and is ranked third for job security. Switzerland focuses on vocational education and training for its post-secondary students, with more than 65% of students enrolled in such programs over the OECD average of 44%.

The Swiss government has also developed policies in key areas such as digitalization and aging, to help improve its economic strength for the future.

2. United States

Young family sitting on front porch, United States
@kayp / Twenty20

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $45,284
  • Average household net wealth: $632,100

While the United States is one of the richest countries in the world, it also has one of the worst social inequality rankings of any OECD country.

From 1989 to 2016, the wealth gap between the country’s richest and poorest families doubled, and the highest-earning 20% of families made more than half of all U.S. income in 2018. This growth is mostly due to a lot of American companies outsourcing their labor overseas and replacing workers with technology. From 1980 to 2020, the U.S. lost 36% of its factory jobs.

There have been recent steps to tackle this problem. In 2021, President Biden introduced a $1.9 trillion economic aid package to help poor and middle-class Americans with lost income.

1. Luxembourg

Luxembourg City: square Guillaume II, seen from the City Hall
Cayambe / Wikimedia Commons

  • Average household net-adjusted disposable income: $39,264
  • Average household net wealth: $769,053

At No. 1 on this list, Luxembourg has the highest net wealth of any OECD country.

While it has seen some inequalities rise, Luxembourg maintains a low income inequality rating. It’s one of the only countries to experience a modest rise and it’s well below the OECD average. Its poverty rates are also among the lowest of OECD countries.

Plenty of factors play into Luxembourg’s success economically, such as equal wage growth, the smallest gender pay gap among OECD countries and generous social benefits. The one area of struggle for the country is rising unemployment.

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About the Author

Chris Middleton

Chris Middleton

Staff Writer

Chris Middleton is a Staff Writer at MoneyWise. He’s written for publications including CBC News, Exclaim!, Parton and Pearl. He’s a graduate of Humber College’s Professional Writing and Communications program and currently working on getting his MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Gloucestershire.

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