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The Netherlands stand for social inclusion and participation. No one should be left on the side lines. Children deserve special attention.

The Netherlands welcomes the Recommendation ‘Investing in children – breaking the cycle of disadvantage’. In the Coalition Agreement of 2012 the government agreed to intensify its policies on poverty whereby special attention will be given to children. The Netherlands scores quite well from an international and European perspective. Dutch children were rated by UNICEF as the most content in the world. Investing in children nevertheless remains a priority of the Dutch government. Together with local authorities and relevant private and non-governmental organisations, the government continues to invest in children.

Access to adequate resources

Labour participation of parents is crucial with regard to the social inclusion of children. 

The government is implementing various measures to secure the active participation of more people in society. The measures are aimed at promoting access to the labour market, guaranteeing an adequate minimum income and ensuring access to a high level of assistance for groups at risk. 

One of the ways through which the government aims to support the participation of parents in the labour market is through reforming child-care benefit schemes. The Netherlands has a broad scheme of child care benefits enabling parents to afford adequate care for their children. This support is for all sorts of costs related to having a child. The Netherlands also provides fiscal support such as a ‘combination credit’ which supports working parents with young children. 

The current system of schemes is wide-ranged yet also complex and consists of multiple and sometimes contradictory schemes which could result in a poverty-trap, especially for single parents. This poverty trap for single parents is mainly due to the fact that allowances for the costs of children are far higher for single parents on social assistance than for working single parents, and the combination of working and caring for children is insufficiently rewarded. The aim of the reform is to simplify the system and provide income support for those who need it most. The effect of the reform is to increase labour participation of parents which consequently will have a positive effect on the social inclusion of children.  

The National Reform Program 2013 provides an overview of available benefit schemes and policies aimed at labour-participation.

Access to affordable quality services

Early childhood education in the Netherlands is available for two different age groups - for toddlers from 2and a half years to 3 years and for children in the first two years of primary school - and particularly focuses on overcoming or preventing language deficiencies. Local authorities determine which children are eligible for early childhood education.

The Netherlands scores well on formal childcare. For children up to 3 years the NL has the second highest rate of children in formal childcare in the EU (52% in 2011). For children between 3 and the minimum compulsory school age, the Netherlands scores 6% above the EU average (89% vs. 83% respectively in 2011).

The measures taken in the Netherlands to reduce the school drop-out rate are primarily aimed at preventing young people from leaving school without any basic qualifications. The National Reform Program 2013 provides more information. 

Children’s right to participate

The Coalition Agreement states the importance of investing in the participation of children in play, recreation and cultural activities. 

One of the measures taken to increase participation in this regard was maximise the income-norm for the CityPass. This CityPass can be issued by local authorities to individuals with a low income and provides discount for cultural, recreational and sport activities for persons who would otherwise – as a result of their financial situation – not participate. Hitherto the income-threshold was maximized for eligibility. This has been released thereby granting local authorities the discretion to determine eligibility with the aim to increase participation. 

Also, some of the additional funds budgeted in the Coalition Agreement for poverty reduction will go to Sports Boost (Sportimpuls) and the Youth Sporting Fund

(Jeugdsportfonds), two programmes that provide subsidies to encourage participation in sport, particularly among children from low-income households.

According to research, poverty in the Netherlands is not transmitted through generations. 93% of children who grow up in poverty are no longer poor as an adult. This does not mean that poverty among children does not require attention. According to recent research by the Children’s Ombudsman policies to reduce poverty among children can be improved. Based largely on input from children but also parents, professionals and policy-makers, the Children’s Ombudsman proposed several valuable recommendations. 

The central government has made an additional € 20 million available for 2013 to combat poverty, social exclusion and debt. The central government, together with local authorities who are responsible for poverty policies and social inclusion and with other relevant stakeholders will intensify efforts to invest in children.

Further outlook

The Investing in Children recommendation is highly welcomed by the Netherlands and is consistent with current and coming policies. Despite budget cuts, the Dutch government has reserved an additional €20 million to combat poverty and debt in 2013, the majority of which will be allocated to local authorities in line with their decentralized task. Essential aspects of the increased investment will be aimed at:

• The participation of children;

• Sharing of good practices between local authorities;

• Cooperation between public, private and non-governmental organizations;

• Prevention and early identification of debt and financial exclusion.

Relevant stakeholders such as the Children’s Ombudsman will be engaged in the manner in which policies can be intensified.

The information in the country profile was last updated in February 2014.

Leergeld  is a non-governmental organization, which aims to prevent the social exclusion of children from families with minimal financial resources. Leergeld provides opportunities for children aged from 4 to 18 years to participate in indoor and extracurricular activities. Through consultation with the applicant family, the local authority and other relevant parties, Leergeld addresses and assesses the situation and assists in applying for income support or other services where possible. If there are no amenities which can be called upon to respond to the child in question or when these facilities are not sufficient, additional help can be offered in the form of gifts in kind or reimbursement of costs to clubs and schools. The government will contribute financially to Leergeld.