Facts and figures

10 economic facts about Holland

1. Fifth most prosperous country

According to the UNDP, the Netherlands ranks 5th place worldwide with regard to prosperity. In determining ‘prosperity’, the UNDP takes into account a country’s GDP as well as other aspects of human well-being, such as life expectancy, public health, literacy levels and educational standards. Of the 188 countries listed in the UNDP index, the Netherlands ranks 5th.

2. Sixth largest EU economy

In terms of surface area and population size, the Netherlands is not a particularly large country and ranks 134th and 65th worldwide. In stark contrast, the country’s economic performance ranks much higher. The size of the economy, or the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is about € 679 billion in 2015. The Netherlands has the seventeenth-largest economy in the world and the sixth-largest in the European Union.

3. Major export & import

As the fifth-largest exporter of goods in the world, the Netherlands occupies a prominent position when it comes to world trade. In 2015, the Netherlands exported goods worth a total of almost US$ 668 billion , which is about 3.5% of the world’s total exports. The Netherlands is also a significant exporter of commercial services - exports of commercial services amounted to US$ 189 billion (€ 138 billion) in 2014, which placed the country sixth in the world rankings. Interesting to know: The Netherlands is the world’s 2nd largest exporter of agri-food products, after the USA.

 As well as being a major exporter, the Netherlands also imports large quantities of goods: US$ 507 billion in 2015. With a about 3.1% share of the global total, the country is the eight-largest importer of goods in the world. The Netherlands is also a significant importer of commercial services - imports of commercial services amounted to US$ 157 billion (€ 118 billion) in 2014, which placed the Netherlands seventh in the world rankings.

4. Favourable business climate

According to a number of international league tables published by renowned institutes such as IMD and the World Economic Forum, the Netherlands is among the world leaders when it comes to a favourable business climate. There are numerous factors that form the basis for the favourable position that the Netherlands enjoys, including:
- its open and international outlook
- its strategic location in Europe,
- its well-educated, multilingual and flexible workforce,
- and the high level of labour productivity.
The competitive fiscal climate, top-level physical and technological infrastructure and quality of life are key contributors to the country’s success. The Netherlands is thus an attractive location for companies seeking a European base and for those wishing to invest.

5. Gateway to Europe

The Netherlands has become a key hub for distribution in Europe because of its favourable location in relation to the European hinterland and the country’s world-class air and sea ports such as the Port of Rotterdam (Europort) and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The Netherlands is home to more distribution centres than anywhere else in Europe and has the largest inland shipping fleet in Europe.

6. Leading ICT innovator

The Netherlands is a leading ICT innovator and a digital gateway to Europe. It has strong ICT infrastructure and an open innovation model that leads to high-level research. Moreover, the Dutch are keenly focused on cyber security and have developed various centres of expertise such as The Hague Security Delta. The Netherlands plays a key role in global Internet traffic. About a third of Europe’s Internet traffic with the US goes via the Amsterdam Internet Exchange. The quality of ICT infrastructure and security in The Netherlands makes it an attractive location for foreign investors: 25% are ICT related.

7. Highly innovative

Dutch products are ‘typically’ highly innovative. The Netherlands provides solutions to keep rising water levels in check, create islands in the sea and make waterways navigable. Apart from solutions for use in the natural environment, the Dutch also have the knowledge and the skills to develop products such as navigation systems with worldwide appeal (TomTom). This capacity to innovate is evidenced by the large number of patents that are applied for every year, and by the presence of several world-renowned knowledge and research institutes in the Netherlands.

8. Entrepreneurial spirit

The Dutch have always been well known for their entrepreneurial spirit, which is reflected in the country’s large number of entrepreneurs: 11.9% of the Dutch working population is self-employed. The Dutch government promotes start-ups because they create economic vitality and innovation and because they challenge existing firms, giving them the incentive to adapt and continue to innovate.

9. Leading multinationals, innovators and start-ups

The Dutch economy has a broad and solid base. Leading multinationals with worldwide operations such as AkzoNobel, ASML, DAF Trucks, Heineken, NXP Semiconductors, Philips, Shell and Unilever have their roots in the Netherlands. Besides the large corporates, there are many other high profile internationally-successful Dutch enterprises, including Tom-Tom and G-Star.

10. Well educated working population

The internationally-oriented working population of the Netherlands is well educated, with many people able to speak more than one foreign language (European Commission, 2012). According to the EF English Proficiency Index, the Netherlands ranks third out of 54 countries. In addition to English, and in comparison with neighbouring countries, a good proportion of the population also speak German and French. Furthermore, compared to many other EU member states, life-long learning is commonplace in the Netherlands: adults regularly engage in further education in order to continually improve their skills and knowledge levels.