Nearly one million people in the Netherlands were not available for the labour market in 2005. Although they were in a position to work, they chose not to for one reason or another. The highest percentage of non-workers can be found in rural areas, the lowest percentage in the big cities.
In 2005 more than 4 million persons aged 15 to 65 years did not work or worked for less than 12 hours a week. More than 1 million of these non-active people wanted to work for 12 hours or more a week, the others did not. A large proportion of these 3 million people are not available for work because they are in education, have retired or are incapacitated. The remainder may be able to work, but do not want to.
The number of voluntary non-workers has dropped sharply in recent years, from 1.35 million in 2000 (12.6 percent of 15–64 year-olds) to 970 thousand in 2005 (8.9 percent).
Voluntary non-workers by age, 2000/2005
Non-workers mainly women
A larger percentage of women than of men are not active on the labour market. In addition more older people than younger people are non-workers, and people with a lower education are also more likely not to work than people with a higher education. Furthermore relatively more people with a non-western foreign background do not work, with the exception of Surinamese and Antilleans. The latter two groups are less often voluntarily non-active than native Dutch people and people with a western foreign background.
Voluntary non-workers by foreign background 2000/2005
Small regional differences
More voluntary non-workers live in rural areas than in the big cities. In the period 2000–2005 8.5 percent of 15–64 year-olds in the big cities did not want to work. The percentage was highest in Rotterdam (10.6) and lowest in Utrecht (6.4). Outside the big cities it was 11.0 percent.
The percentage of non-workers increases as the degree of urbanisation decreases. The largest differences are between the extremely urbanised areas (8.4 percent voluntary non-workers) and the rural areas (12.8 percent).
Voluntary non-workers by degree of urbanisation, 2000/2005
Hans Schmeets and Harry Bierings