The cost of dying across the world
No matter where you live in the world, there is one fate which is inevitable for all of us. Many have wasted years trying to cheat it, but as Benjamin Franklin reputedly said, there are only two things in life that are certain: death and taxes.
Unfortunately for us, or perhaps our family and friends, there are certain inevitable costs when it comes to dying: the costs of burial or cremation, and of course, the funeral.
In some cases if you are unfortunate enough to be abroad when your time comes, there may be the additional expenditure on getting your body back to home turf.
Given the average cost of a funeral in the UK is now £4,417* - an increase of 130% since 2004 - we were interested in looking at these costs around the world and comparing them to the average salary in each country, to find out where is the cheapest and most expensive place to die.
How we worked it out
To work out the average cost of dying across the world, our research team gathered the available data and worked out the average cost of end of life rituals by analysing the costs of a typical end of life ceremony for 35 different countries (where information was available), such as the cost of burials and cremations.
To ensure that we worked out a fair representation across countries, we then looked at this cost in comparison to average salaries, giving us a fair understanding of the cost of dying vs the cost of living in the respective countries.
Where did residents have to pay the most for their death?
When looking at the raw data and after converting the costs into Pound Sterling (£) it was Japan where residents spent the most money on the average funeral - a staggering 3 million Yen (approximately £22,320!). Completing the top three was Germany (£6,246) and the USA (£5,858)**.
At the other end of the spectrum, it was India where the average funeral cost was at its lowest at just £96 (9,000 Rupees). Russia (£236) and Colombia (£431) also appeared towards the lower cost end of the list.
However, it’s important to note that the relevant cost to each individual must be compared to the cost of living of that nation; how much money they might earn for example. We will cover this shortly.
Average cost of dying worldwide chart
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Czech Rep.
Average percentage cost of salary chart
- South Africa
- New Zealand
- Czech Rep.
How do these figures compare to the cost of living?
The average cost of dying across the world is around 10% of the average individual salary, but there are certain countries which seem to far exceed this - emphasising why taking precautions such as life insurance and funeral planning are so crucial.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, as it is often noted for its expensive economy, Japan comes out as the most expensive place on the planet to die. The cost of burial and cremation in the country is more than two thirds (68.3%) of the average salary.
Interestingly, it hasn’t always been expensive to die in this part of the world. Traditionally in Japan, Buddhists up until the 19th century would partake in self-mummification which required the monk to remove all fat from the body around 3000 days ahead of their death.
Essentially the monks would starve themselves to death, before heading into a stone room whereby they would stop consuming anything at all and dehydrate their bodies into preserved mummies.
Slightly below Japan’s vast expense today is China, which costs on average just below half of the annual salary to pass away. However, it seems there are cheaper ways to die in China.
In the autonomous region of China, Tibet, many Tibetan monks today still choose a traditional buddhist method of burial, whereby corpses are seen as nothing more than an empty vessel and will leave the bodies out in the mountains to be eaten by passing wildlife.
Germany is the most expensive European country to die, but it sits far below the costs of the more expensive Asian countries, China and Japan, at only 16% cost of the overall average salary. Not everywhere in Asia is expensive to die however, with the cost of dying in India just a mere 2% of an average salary.
There are many ways to honour the dead in Indian hindu culture, a more unusual and now outdated one of which is Sati. This practice saw a widowed woman lay with her dead husband to be burned alive alongside him. The practice is now illegal, but similar rituals have been seen across multiple cultures and civilizations for generations.
Where does the UK sit amongst the rest?
The UK sits as the sixth most expensive place in the world to die, at 13% of the average salary. While geographically different, there are two countries similar to the UK sitting at 13%; South Africa and the Netherlands.
In South African culture, it is normal for all pictures, mirrors and reflective surfaces to be turned around during the grieving period, and it is custom for immediate family not to speak during the funeral.
Death practices in The Netherlands are more similar to the UK, although it is traditional to have their ritual on the sixth day after their death, regardless of whether burial or cremation is chosen.
We have compiled all of the data below, so you can see the full list of countries, the average salary and the percentage of the cost of dying below:
|Country||Average Funeral Cost(Local currency)||Average Cost (£)|
|South Africa||26,875 South African Rand||£1,250|
|United Kingdom||4,417 Great British Pound||£4,417|
|New Zealand||7,506.50 NZ Dollars||£3,915|
|United States of America||7,289 US Dollars||£5,858|
|Argentina||51,750 Argentine Pesos||£595|
|Australia||5,578 AUS Dollars||£3,110|
|Canada||5,000 Canadian Dollars||£2,970|
|Sweden||27,000 Swedish Krona||£2,331|
|Norway||28,500 Norweigen Krone||£2,407|
|Hungary||315,000 Hungarian Forint||£817|
|Czech Republic||21,687.50 Czech Kurona||£739|
|Brazil||2,343.98 Brazilian Real||£358|
|Denmark||8,000 Danish Krone||£973|
|Poland||2,400 Poland Zloty||£491|
|Country||Average Salary (£)||% Cost of Salary|
|United States of America||£48,446||12.1%|
It’s clear there are a wide range of factors that influence the cost of funerals across the world such as the cultural expectations of what the average funeral looks like in that country, the overall costs of living in different regions and the benefits and contributions of different states towards funeral costs.
However, the principles are universal regardless of where you are in the world, preparation really is key and thinking about your funeral plans now can ensure your family and friends are as financially prepared as possible when the time comes.
Over 50’s Life Insurance is an affordable way to protect your loved ones from any unexpected costs when it comes to your funeral and can cost as little as 85p a week.
*£4,417 represents the mean average of the cost of a burial and the cost of a cremation in the UK.
**These conversions are based on the live international foreign currency exchange rates as of 2 July 2020.