Fine differences

In most countries, fines are put in place as one of the instruments to limit the spread of the coronavirus. As the figure below shows, the penalties for violating social distancing rules differ widely between countries.

How do these amounts really affect one’s wallet? Bavarians and Greeks might both pay 150 €, their purchasing power is not equal. To make a more meaningful comparison, the fines have been adjusted based on Gross Domestic Product per capita for each country or region.

Now an entirely different picture emerges. Discrepancies remain, however. Penalties in Italy and Spain, both hit hard and early in the pandemic crisis, make a fine in Stuttgart look like a bargain.

Law enforcement differs greatly between countries as well. Through May 11th, police in England and Wales had handed out more than 14.000 fines. One day later, France announced a total of 1,1 million fines since the start of the corona measures. In a twist of irony, Mr Christophe Castaner, French Minister of Interior, praised his fellow countrymen for their sense of responsibility and good citizenship. 1,1 million: after all this was not even 6% on the total of 20,7 million controls carried out.

The figure below highlights these differences. All in all, the average Spaniard is bad off. Compared with a Dutchman, he is twenty times more likely to receive a fine, a fine which on top of that will be twice as salty.

In one area, European countries show remarkable uniformity though. Whatever the amount or the likelihood of a corona fine, complaints can be heard everywhere.

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Regulations and fines are in Germany organized at the regional level, not at the federal level.
BW=Baden-Württemberg; NRW= North Rhine-Westphalia

For a given country X, the normalized fine equals:

Original Fine X * (GDP/capita Netherlands) / (GDP/capita X)


On Gross Domestic (Regional) Product

Germany – Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria: Statistische Ämter des Bundes und der Länder

Other countries: IMF World Economic Outlook Database

On population size

Germany – Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria: Statistisches Bundesamt

England, Wales: Office for National Statistics

Other countries: World Bank, via ECDC

On fine amounts

Albania: 10.000 ALL (80 €); Pedestrians violating lockdown restrictions; Exit News, 14/04/20

Belgium: 250 €; Private people violating lockdown rules; Médiation de Dettes, 07/05/20

France: 135 €; Private people violating lockdown rules; Franceinfo, 03/04/20

Germany, Bavaria: 150 €; Meeting in public space with unauthorized people; Bussgeldkatalog

Germany, Baden Württemberg: 100 €; Meeting in public space with unauthorized people; Bussgeldkatalog

Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia: 200 €; Public meeting with > 2 persons; Bussgeldkatalog

Greece: 150 €; Not wearing mask while using taxi or public transport; UNHCR, Greece

Italy: 400 €; Unauthorized movement outside the home; Il Sole 24 Ore, 26/03/20

Luxemburg: 500 €; Private people violating lockdown rules; RTL, 17.03.20

Netherlands: 390 €; Private people violating lockdown rules; Volkskrant, 28.05.20

Spain: 601 €; Unauthorized movement outside the home; The, 17/04/20

On number of fines

Albania – 17/04/20: 7343; Exit News, 11/05/20

Belgium – 07/05/20: 84.000; La Libre Belgique, 07/05/20

England – 11/05/20: 13.445; BBC News, 15/05/20

France – 12/05/20; 1.100.000; Les Echos, 12/05/20

Greece – 26/04/20; 53.009; The National Herald, 26/04/20

Netherlands – 10/05/20: 18.200;, 22/05/20

Spain – 20/05/20: 1.013.747; Diario AS, 20/05/20

Wales – 11/05/20: 799; BBC News, 15/05/20

Further reading (in Dutch):

Boetebeu, Reporters Online, 15/06/20

Hoe erg is het eigenlijk met die coronaboetes in Nederland?, Elsevier Weekblad, 11/06/20


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