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indicator value unit
Population 17.1 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, social connections, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, and health status. It ranks below the average in income and wealth. These rankings are based on available selected data.

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 29 333 a year, lower than the OECD average of USD 33 604  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, 76% of people aged 15 to 64 in the Netherlands have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 68%. Some 80% of men are in paid work, compared with 71% of women. In the Netherlands, 0.4% of employees work very long hours, the lowest rate in the OECD, where the average is 11%. 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 theNetherlands, 78% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, slightly lower than the OECD average of 78%. This is truer of men than women, as 79% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 78% of women. In terms of the quality of the education system, the average student scored 508 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 486, making the Netherlands one of the strongest OECD countries in students' skills. On average in the Netherlands, girls outperformed boys by 6 points, more than the average OECD gap of 2 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in the Netherlands is 82 years, two years 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 14.0 micrograms per cubic meter, slightly higher than the OECD average of 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter. The Netherlands perform better in terms of water quality, as 93% 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 91% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, slightly higher than the OECD average of 89%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 82% during recent elections, 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 92% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 71%. 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 7.4 grade on average, 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