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indicator value unit
Population 16.8 mil.
Visitors per year 11.2 mil.
Renewable energy 4.3 %

How’s Life?

The Netherlands performs well in many measures of well-being relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. The Netherlands ranks top in work-life balance and above the average in jobs and earnings, housing, education and skills, subjective well-being, environmental quality, personal safety, and health status. They rank below average in civic engagement.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In the Netherlands, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 27 759 a year, less than the OECD average of USD 29 016 a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn four times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, 73% of people aged 15 to 64 in the Netherlands have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 78% of men are in paid work, compared with 68% of women. In the Netherlands, less than 0.5% of employees work very long hours, the lowest rate in the OECD where the average is 13%. About 1% of men work very long hours, compared with almost no women. 

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In the Netherlands, 76% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, in line with the OECD average. This is truer of men than women, as 77% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 75% of women. In terms of the quality of the education system, the average student scored 519 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is higher than the OECD average of 497, making the Netherlands one of the strongest OECD countries in students' skills. On average in the Netherlands, girls outperformed boys by 4 points, less than the average OECD gap of 8 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in the Netherlands is 81 years, one year higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 80 for men. The level of atmospheric PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 16.8 micrograms per cubic meter, higher than the OECD average of 14.05 micrograms per cubic meter. The Netherlands perform better in terms of water quality, as 94% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, higher than the OECD average of 81%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in the Netherlands, where 88% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, in line with the OECD average. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 75% during recent elections; this figure is higher than the OECD average of 68%. Social and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 84% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 65%. This difference is larger than the OECD average difference of 13 percentage points, and points to shortcomings in the political mobilisation of the worst-off.

In general, the Dutch are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Dutch people gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.

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OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: Netherlands 2016

This 2016 OECD Economic Survey of the Netherlands examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. The special chapters cover: Enhancing private investment and Boosting skills for all.

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Netherlands in Detail