People in the Netherlands express a high degree of satisfaction with their family life. Dutch children were rated by UNICEF as the most content in the world. Moreover, at 1.8 children per women in 2011, the fertility rate is above the EU average of 1.6 in 2009. Spending on family benefits is low compared to the EU average (almost 1.3% versus 2.3% in 2009) while flexible working and generous leave arrangements, together with good provision of childcare facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life. However, three-quarters of women (and nearly one-quarter of men) work part time. The previous Dutch government worked hard to increase the working hours of women and a dedicated government taskforce was set up to that end.
In 2010, 50% of the children until under three were in childcare services, 70% of children aged between three and five made use of pre-school services in 2009. These proportions are well above the EU average (for example on average, 28% of children under three received formal childcare in 2010) and in line with the EU Barcelona targets.
In addition, generous and flexible leave arrangements are available to parents. Maternity leave can be taken for up to 16 weeks at full salary, albeit with a ceiling of €177 per day. The mother or father can also take up to 26 weeks parental leave to care for a child under eight years of age.
Compensation during parental leave depends on sector-level collective agreements and is not provided for in all sectors. From 1 January 2009 it is no longer necessary to take part in the life course savings scheme to qualify for the parental leave tax credit (50% of the minimum wage).
Almost 94% of fathers and 75.9% of mothers of children under six worked in 2011. According to EU statistics, in 2010 the overall female employment rate in the Netherlands stood at 69.9% in 2011, the third highest in the EU, after Denmark and Sweden.
The government has introduced a number of schemes to encourage women who want to work more, while helping them to strike a better balance between professional and family responsibilities. These include:
• A commitment to more extensive and flexible childcare. The Childcare Act (2005) made childcare more accessible especially for low-income parents.
• An increase in parental leave from 13 to 26 weeks in January 2009 (26 weeks for mothers and 26 weeks for fathers, non-transferable).
• The introduction of an ‘income-dependent combination tax credit’ (IACK ) in 2009, aimed at the partner earning the least, often a woman working part time, to encourage her to work more hours.
In 2009 spending on family policies in the country represented nearly 1.3% of GDP, compared to an EU average of 2.3%. More than half of this spending is for benefits in kind, such as childcare, a much higher proportion than in most other Member States. Child benefit amounts to €63.40 per month for each child under the age of six, rising to €90.57 for children aged 12 to 17.
A number of schemes were recently introduced by the previous Dutch government to help parents improve their parenting skills and reduce the impact of divorce. The policy measures focus on prevention. For example, in early 2009, an act came into force that obliges divorcing parents to draw up a ‘parenting plan’. The plan specifies arrangements concerning care, development and education of their children.
The Netherlands topped UNICEF's 2007 report on child well-being in the world’s most advanced economies. The report measures material well-being, but also health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviour and risks, and young people’s own subjective sense of well-being.
The Netherlands heads the table of overall child well-being, ranking in the top ten for all six dimensions of child well-being covered by this report. The report further showed that European countries dominate the top half of the overall league table, with Northern European countries claiming the top four places. Although all countries have weaknesses that need to be addressed and no country features in the top third of the rankings for all six dimensions of child well-being, the Netherlands and Sweden come close to doing so.
The information in the country profile was last updated in November 2012.
Many women in the Netherlands, especially those with young children, opt to work part time. According to 2011 EU statistics, as many as 76.7% of employed women (and 25.4% of men) work part time, the highest proportion in the EU. In an EU opinion survey , 34.9% of Dutch parents said the most practicable and realistic way of combining work and childcare is for one parent to work full time and the other part time.
The previous government tried to increase women’s working hours. Stimulating female labour supply is considered to be a potential source to increase economic growth and deal with the costs of an ageing society. In 2008, the ‘Taskforce Part-Time Plus’ was set up to investigate how the participation rate of women in the labour market can be increased, especially for women who work in part-time jobs for less than 24 hours per week.
The taskforce initiated studies into how women can be motivated to work longer hours and joined with a variety of organisations to conduct 28 pilot projects in the government, healthcare, education, professional services, and retail sectors.
In these pilot projects, employers, HR advisers, and part-time employees came forward with practical possibilities for (larger) part-time jobs. The experiences were translated into transferable and utilisable instruments and manuals on the possibilities of increasing employees’ part-time jobs. This resulted in a handbook for expanded part-time jobs that employers can use as a guide for strategic personnel planning, the introduction of flexible working and entering into dialogue with employees.