The Dutch Jobs Miracle

PARIS: Unemployment in the Netherlands dipped below 3% recently, a figure for the most part unheard of in Europe since the oil shocks of the 1970s. Indeed, not so long ago unemployment in the Netherlands stood above 10%. Have the Dutch invented a Fourth Way to improved economic performance and are there lessons for the rest of Europe in the Dutch experience?

For some observers across Europe, the economic performance of the Netherlands is so surprising that they believe it a product of smoke and mirrors, or of some statistical trick. But as with those who doubted the reality behind American economic growth five years ago, this view is also emphatically wrong. Not only is unemployment way down in the Netherlands, but the rate of participation by the entire population in the labour market is growing sharply as well. True, the proportion of workers who remain classified by the state as sick or invalid – currently 12% – remains much too high, to be frank. But this proportion is less today than it was in the 1980s; so a higher unemployment rate is not being disguised by medical certificates.

Other disbelieving observers say that what we are seeing in the Netherlands is the effect of a shortening of the work week. The average work week in the Netherlands (counting both those who work full-time and those who work part-time) is 27 hours, compared to 29 hours in France. Advocates of a shorter work week as the road to full employment, indeed, often cite the Dutch example to declare victory for their arguments. Those against a shortened work week, however, dismiss the increase in the number of jobs that results from shorter working hours as a false solution – a crude swap of working hours for an increase in the number of workers.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

    Angela Merkel’s Endgame?

    The collapse of coalition negotiations has left German Chancellor Angela Merkel facing a stark choice between forming a minority government or calling for a new election. But would a minority government necessarily be as bad as Germans have traditionally thought?

  2. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.

  3. A GrabBike rider uses his mobile phone Bay Ismoyo/Getty Images

    The Platform Economy

    While developed countries in Europe, North America, and Asia are rapidly aging, emerging economies are predominantly youthful. Nigerian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese young people will shape global work trends at an increasingly rapid pace, bringing to bear their experience in dynamic informal markets on a tech-enabled gig economy.

  4. Trump Mario Tama/Getty Images

    Profiles in Discouragement

    One day, the United States will turn the page on Donald Trump. But, as Americans prepare to observe their Thanksgiving holiday, they should reflect that their country's culture and global standing will never recover fully from the wounds that his presidency is inflicting on them.

  5. Mugabe kisses Grace JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images

    How Women Shape Coups

    In Zimbabwe, as in all coups, much behind-the-scenes plotting continues to take place in the aftermath of the military's overthrow of President Robert Mugabe. But who the eventual winners and losers are may depend, among other things, on the gender of the plotters.

  6. Oil barrels Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty Images

    The Abnormality of Oil

    At the 2017 Abu Dhabi Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, the consensus among industry executives was that oil prices will still be around $60 per barrel in November 2018. But there is evidence to suggest that the uptick in global growth and developments in Saudi Arabia will push the price as high as $80 in the meantime.

  7. Israeli soldier Menahem Kahana/Getty Images

    The Saudi Prince’s Dangerous War Games

    Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is working hard to consolidate power and establish his country as the Middle East’s only hegemon. But his efforts – which include an attempt to trigger a war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon – increasingly look like the work of an immature gambler.