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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 rank above the average in work-life balance, jobs and earnings, housing, income and wealth, education and skills, subjective well-being, health status, and social connections. They rank below average in environmental quality.

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 27 888 a year, more than the OECD average of USD 25 908 a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn more than four times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, 74% of people aged 15 to 64 in the Netherlands have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 79% of men are in paid work, compared with 70% 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, 73% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, lower than the OECD average of 75%. This is truer of men than women, as 75% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 72% 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 79 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 30 micrograms per cubic meter in large urban areas, considerably higher than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. The Netherlands perform better in terms of water quality, as 92% 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 90% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 88%. 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 6.6.

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 2014

This 2014 edition of OECD's Economic Survey of the Netherlands examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. It also includes special chapters covering boosting the development of efficient SMEs and making the banking sector more resilient and reducing household debt.

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Netherlands in Detail