Relatively high prosperity, but at a cost

© Hollandse Hoogte
Quality of life in the Netherlands has improved since 2000 and is high in comparison with many other European countries. On the other hand, natural capital in the Netherlands is under pressure due to the relatively high population density. CO2 emissions are also relatively high. These and other facts are included in the Dutch Sustainability Monitor 2017 which was presented by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) to the Dutch House of Representatives on 17 May 2017, Accountability Day.
The Sustainability Monitor provides an overview of sustainable development based on three aspects: quality of life (‘here and now’), resources (‘later’) and the Netherlands in the world (‘elsewhere’). These three aspects are derived from the Brundtland definition of sustainable development:
"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs [...] or affecting the quality of life in other (developing) countries on balance.[...]”

Altogether, the Monitor includes 56 indicators reflecting trends since 2000, as well as the Netherlands’ recent ranking within the European Union.

Dutch people largely satisfied with life on average

As the Monitor indicates, to a large degree Dutch people are satisfied with their lives. Time after time, asked for marks out of 10, they reported an average of just under 8. The Dutch are faring increasingly well in terms of material prosperity: per capita consumption has been rising over the longer term. Many other indicators connected with life quality, including health and trust in other people, are also showing either a positive or a neutral trend. Compared to the 27 other EU members, the Netherlands has an overall top or middle ranking in terms of indicators on quality of life ‘here and now’. However, in some aspects the trend is negative. For instance, long-term unemployment has trended upwards since 2000 and relatively more people are concerned about the future development of their income.

Still relatively little renewable energy

Natural capital in the Netherlands is under pressure. The share of renewable energy is low compared with other European countries, and CO2 emissions are relatively high. Furthermore, the Netherlands imports relatively large amounts of raw materials from the world’s poorest countries. In the long term, present export levels in these countries are not sustainable.
In contrast, economic capital is showing a largely positive long-term trend. This includes stocks of physical as well as knowledge capital, both of which are rising. Physical capital includes buildings and machinery; knowledge capital includes. research and development for example, but also computer software. A similar overall positive trend is seen in indicators for the development of social capital, i.e. trust in other people and in institutions. This is also true for human capital including labour participation, education levels and health.

Towards a Monitor of Well-being

The recently published Sustainability Monitor 2017 is the fourth and last edition of the series. The Dutch Cabinet has commissioned Statistics Netherlands to compile an annual Monitor of Well-being, the first edition of which will be published in May 2018. The three national policy assessment agencies – the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB), the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) – will be involved in the continued development of this Monitor and will take it into account in their periodic exploration of well-being in the Netherlands. In this regard, the Dutch Cabinet has followed the recommendation of the Temporary Committee on a Broad Definition of Welfare.