Labour and education

Facts & figures about labour & education in Holland

Labour since the Golden Age

Since the Golden Age in the 16th century, the Dutch have been famous for their international spirit of commerce. The Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company), for instance, was the world's first multinational corporation. The first worldwide staple market was located in Amsterdam. In those days the Netherlands was the number one distribution centre for all of Europe. Amsterdam was the leading central port of trans-shipment for Europe and for some products for the world. This economic activity attracted many educated, flexible and innovative workers. The Dutch labour market is still known for its highly trained employees, flexibility, industrial stability and sound social security.

Dutch education

Higher education in Holland is well known for its high quality and its international study environment. With more than 2,100 international study programmes and courses, it has the largest offer of English-taught programmes in Europe. For more info please visit

Highly trained employees: most of them speak fluent English

Dutch employees are among the most multi-lingually talented in the world. Some 80% of the Dutch claim to speak fluent English, the highest percentage in Europe. Most Dutch also speak French and German. This allows the Dutch to serve customers worldwide. It is also why more than 400 of the 500 largest companies in the world have branches in the Netherlands. International call centres are aware of the advantages of multilingual employees too and frequently opt for the Netherlands as their place of business. Many head offices of international companies are located in the Netherlands, which also has to do with the favourable tax climate.

High quality work environment

The Dutch government ensures that the level of employee training is commensurate with the demand on the job market for instance by facilitating training (via tax incentives) and stimulating in novation. Additionally, the Netherlands has signed the EU Social Charter, which guarantees a high-quality working environment for all employees, both Dutch and international.


The Dutch law on employment contracts offers employers a range of possibilities to flexibly engage employees. It enables employers to rapidly fill a temporary demand for labour. The possibilities of flexible engagement also make it possible to test the employees' suitability before they are given an open-ended employment contract.

Fixed-term employment contracts

Employers and employees are free to agree on fixed-term employment contracts, but two restrictions apply. If the same parties have agreed upon two or more fixed-term employment contracts and those contracts succeed each other at intervals of less than three months, the last fixed-term contract will be regarded as an open-ended employment contract if:

• The employment contracts have lasted longer than 36 months; or
• A series of more than three fixed-term employment contracts have been signed.

It must be emphasized in this context that parties are also free to agree upon employment contracts for a longer (fixed-term) period. For instance, a fixed-term employment contract that has been concluded for five years, will simply end by operation of law at the end of that five-year period.

Employment agencies

In addition to permanent contracts, temporary or short-term contract agency workers are increasingly being used. In that case temporary employment agencies make employees available to companies. There is no employment contract between the company and the temporary employee, but one exists between the staffing agency and the employee. Agency workers are also a good means of filling temporary vacancies, for instance when employees are absent due to sickness or leave. They can also be a good alternative for filling peak and seasonal demand for labour.

Industrial stability on the Dutch labour market

There are very few strikes in the Netherlands. In addition to countries such as Austria, Germany and Sweden, the Netherlands can state that the number of lost working days caused by strikes per thousand employees (over decades, on average) is below 10 a year. Industrial disputes are rare, and when they occur they are solved rapidly and pragmatically. The dispute is often solved by means of the Dutch consensus model (also known as the 'polder model'), in which employers, trade unions and the government negotiate to strike agreements on labour. Those agreements are not binding, but provide a precedent in creating policy. The good relations that exist between the government, trade unions and employers also keep wage increases within limits.

Balanced employment relationships

The Dutch 'polder model' consultation system guarantees balanced employment relationships not only at a national level. There is also broad support on the shop floor for a stable working environment. Many regulations in the field of employment conditions are discussed with the companies' Works Council. Employer and employee representatives work together at various levels in consultative bodies, such as Stichting van de Arbeid or STAR (Labor Foundation): a consultative body of employer and employee representatives whose aim is to promote good employment relationships and to advise the government. On the ‘Sociaal Economische Raad’ or SER (Dutch Social and Economic Council) employers, employees and independent consultants also work together to advise the government and parliament on the general outlines of social and economic policy.

The current trend is for trade unions to focus in collective wage talks on more flexible working hours, greater employability and training. It is also interesting to note that flexible types of remuneration, such as profit-sharing or performance-related remuneration, are increasingly forming part of collective wage talks.


Unemployment rate  6.9 % of the workforce (June 2016)

Minimum wage

€ 1,537.20 per month/month gross (2016)

Maximum daily wage for social security purposes

€ 203.85 gross per day (2016)

Minimum number of days's holiday

20 (In the case of full-time employment) 

Minimum holiday allowance

8 %

Maximum weekly number of working hours

60 hours/week *

Average wage increase

1.25% per year **

Number of lost working days caused by strikes

<10 per year per thousand employees

* This is the weekly maximum, but there are exceptions. For tailormade application, please consult a local expert.
** Average increase in the negotiated wages in the past three years