Although the gap between rich and poor has widened in the European Union over the past decades, the bloc is a world leader in fighting inequality, experts say.

The internationally accepted Gini coefficient formula that measures income disparities gives the 28-nation EU, as a whole, one of the best rankings in the world for equality, alongside that of Canada.

Both are rated at a rounded-off 31 out of 100 in the ranking (2017), in which higher indexes indicate greater levels of inequality.

But the scores of various countries within the EU differ markedly, with some of those of the former communist states in Eastern Europe bringing down the average.

Bulgaria has the highest ­level of inequality with a Gini index of 40, according to the EU’s statistics office Eurostat.

It is followed by the former Soviet states of Lithuania and Latvia, and then Spain, Portugal and Greece. Britain and Romania – another former Soviet satellite – are next, both measuring 33. 

Germany, France and Poland do slightly better, averaging around 29.

Topping the list as the most egalitarian are Slovakia (23), Slovenia and the Czech Republic, both around 24.

They are followed by Nordic countries Sweden, Denmark and Finland, along with Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria, all scoring between 26 and 28.