Netherlands: latest working life developments Q2 2018

New policies to improve work–life balance and a rise in permanent contracts are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in the Netherlands in the second quarter of 2018.

New policies to improve work–life balance

Many Dutch employees report that they struggle to maintain a good balance between their work and private life. More than a third of employees find combining work and home life difficult and only 8% label their lives as having a good balance. People who work more than 28 hours a week and have primary school age children have an especially hard time achieving the balance.1 Added to this is the ongoing pressure to develop oneself and one’s career (lifelong learning). 2 Improving the balance between work and home life, therefore, is high on the agenda of both the Dutch government and social partners. Several policy areas have been identified to help promote a better work–life balance, including the extension of parental leave, improving childcare, and increasing the opportunities to work from home.

Several of these policy areas are currently under discussion. In the coalition government’s agreement for the period 2017–2021, the Dutch cabinet opted for a substantial extension of (non-transferable) maternity leave for partners. Aimed at enabling partner and child to foster a better bond, this provision also improves women’s position in the labour market as there is less discrepancy between the length of leave taken by both parents.

After substantial cuts during the crisis, more government funding has become available for childcare. The coalition agreement provides for €250 million per year extra for the childcare allowance ( kinderopvangtoeslag). In addition, families are supported by an increase of €250 million and €500 million for child benefits ( kinderbijslag) and child-related allowance (kindgebonden ), respectively. Furthermore, the government is working on a new funding system for childcare, whereby funds are transferred directly from central government to childcare institutions, rather than via parents.3

While in theory, homeworking can contribute to the improvement of work–life balance, in practice, this is not always the case. In the Netherlands, employees have the right to work from home (or from another workplace). In 2017, about 35% of the Dutch working population – both employees and self-employed people – worked from home. Of these, 14% usually work from home and 21% do so occasionally, which puts Netherlands in the lead for homeworking in Europe. Completing extra work and the concentration and efficiency of work done at home are the most important reasons given for homeworking. Combining work and care is cited less often as a reason to work at home.

Permanent contracts on the rise

Looking at the labour market broadly, a noteworthy development in the Netherlands has been the decline in the number of flexible worker contracts compared to the proportion of permanent positions. Statistics Netherlands reported in May that during the first quarter of 2018 the number of employees with a fixed contract had risen by 2.4% compared to the same period in 2017. Flexible employment contracts, in turn, rose by 2%. Statistics Netherlands indicates that this trend demonstrates the growing pressure in the labour market: with the fall in unemployment, employers are starting to struggle to find people to fill vacancies. 4

Commentary/Outlook

Work–life balance is valued highly in the Netherlands. This explains to some extent the relatively large proportion of part-time work in the Netherlands. The importance of work–life balance is reflected in current government discussions to further improve childcare provisions, increase childcare allowances, and promote flexible working or working from home. The Dutch economy is growing, and the labour market is performing well, with unemployment declining to the degree that labour shortages are now becoming an issue for some employers.


1 Werken20 (2018), Dutch lack work-life balance, 2 May.

2 Sociaal-Economische Raad (SER) (2016), Een werkende combinatie, The Hague.

3 VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie (2017), Vertrouwen in de toekomst. Regeerakkoord 2017 – 2021, 10 October.

4 Statistics Netherlands (CBS)(2018), CBS: aantal vaste banen groeit harder dan flexbanen Arbeidsmarkt, 14 May.

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