Employment up again

Over the past three months, the number of people aged 15 to 74 in paid employment grew by an average of 15 thousand per month, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports. In October, over 8.6 million people in this age group had paid work. Nearly 4.3 million people did not have paid work for a variety of reasons. Among these people, 404 thousand indicated that they had looked for work recently and were also immediately available. This number declined by 11 thousand per month on average over the past three months.

The other people without work, nearly 3.9 million, had not been looking for work and/or were not available recently. Their number increased by an average of 3 thousand per month. The Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) reported a further decrease in unemployment (WW) benefits to a total of 343 thousand in October.

Labour force barometer, October 2017, average change over 3 months

Unemployment indicator (ILO definition) drops to 4.5 percent

To be able to compare cyclical developments in the labour market between countries, the unemployment indicator of the International Labour Organization (ILO) is often taken as a measure. According to ILO’s definition, the group of unemployed people includes all 15 to 74-year-olds who are without paid work but are actively looking and are immediately available. As indicated above, this number stood at 404 thousand in October, i.e. 4.5 percent of the labour force. In September, this was as much as 4.7 percent.

This figure does not include all people without work who would like to work. People who do want to work but who have not sought work recently for any particular reason, and/or have not been immediately available, do not count towards ILO’s unemployment definition. Likewise, part-timers who want to work more hours are not included. CBS describes these groups on a quarterly basis. Furthermore, the number of hours worked by people in paid employment is reported quarterly. The monthly figures on people in paid employment (the active labour force) include all people in work, regardless of the number of hours worked.

Unemployment indicator (ILO) and unemployment benefits
 Unemployment indicator (ILO) (15 - 74 yrs seasonally adjusted)Unemployment benefits (15 yrs up to retirement age)
2011 J430284
2011 F425280
2011 M413270
2011 A411261
2011 M414256
2011 J409252
2011 J425254
2011 A427256
2011 S442252
2011 O458253
2011 N474258
2011 D473270
2012 J486292
2012 F482299
2012 M487296
2012 A502292
2012 M501291
2012 J502291
2012 J518298
2012 A517304
2012 S530304
2012 O539310
2012 N554322
2012 D572340
2013 J589369
2013 F601377
2013 M619380
2013 A625380
2013 M632378
2013 J648382
2013 J666395
2013 A670399
2013 S675400
2013 O680408
2013 N677419
2013 D687438
2014 J691460
2014 F699460
2014 M692454
2014 A684443
2014 M672436
2014 J656431
2014 J648437
2014 A637430
2014 S630420
2014 O632419
2014 N635425
2014 D643441
2015 J645458
2015 F633455
2015 M626443
2015 A625427
2015 M617416
2015 J611410
2015 J603420
2015 A604420
2015 S609417
2015 O616421
2015 N596427
2015 D588446
2016 J574465
2016 F581469
2016 M574470
2016 A572461
2016 M560448
2016 J550438
2016 J541432
2016 A521427
2016 S510424
2016 O502420
2016 N499410
2016 D482412
2017 J480419
2017 F473416
2017 M463415
2017 A456401
2017 m456386
2017 J446372
2017 J436364
2017 A426362
2017 S422351

UWV: Number of WW benefits continues to drop

In October, the number of current unemployment (WW) benefits fell by nearly 8 thousand. The total number of WW benefits at the end of October stood at 343 thousand, the lowest level since December 2012. A decline was seen particularly among people working in construction and in education. In agriculture, however, there was an increase in WW benefits of 7.8 percent in October relative to September. Seasonal effects play a role in the month-on-month changes: in October, there was less employment in agriculture and more in education.

When comparing to one year ago, October 2016, the number of WW benefits fell by 18.2 percent. The decline is most significant in the construction sector (- 41.9 percent) and among temp agencies (- 28.5 percent).

Youth unemployment below pre-crisis level

With the unemployment rate standing at 4.5 percent, the difference with the pre-crisis level has been reduced to less than 1 percentage point. Exactly nine years ago, at the end of 2008, unemployment was at its lowest level, i.e. 3.6 percent of the labour force. Youth unemployment, on the other hand, reached a lower level than before the crisis for the first time: 7.9 percent in October. Just before the crisis, the lowest level was 8.4 percent.

Unemployment indicator (ILO) by age, seasonally adjusted
 15 to 24 yrs25 to 44 yrs45 to 74 yrs

Every month, CBS publishes figures on the total (employed and unemployed) labour force as well as the number of people not in the labour force (ILO definition). However, this does not include the total unused labour potential, i.e. other groups of people aside from the unemployed according to the ILO indicator. CBS publishes quarterly on the size and composition of these groups. Therefore, the overall picture provided below is based on the latest quarterly figures (Q3 2017). Development of the total unused labour potential closely follows developments in unemployment according to the ILO definition.

8.6 million people employed in Q3

Of the 12.9 million people aged 15 to 74, over 8.6 million people were in paid employment and 408 thousand were unemployed (ILO standard; not seasonally adjusted) in Q3. These included 153 thousand people who had been seeking work for at least twelve months. Almost two in three were aged 45 years or older. The groups of employed and unemployed combined represent the Dutch labour force.

The other part, over 3.8 million, is not included. The majority of the latter group were not willing or not able to work (3.2 million), e.g. due to education or training, care for others, sickness or old age. In addition, there were 210 thousand people who were willing to work in Q3, but who were not looking and not immediately available for work; for example, people who were in education or training. Furthermore, there were people either looking (162 thousand) or immediately available for work (263 thousand).

Grote schema barometer beroepsbevolking (blauwe, kwartaalcijfers)

Part-time workers

Unused labour potential does not only comprise people without work. Among the 4.2 million people working part-time, 445 thousand were seeking more working hours in Q3, for which they were also immediately available.


Every month, CBS publishes figures on the labour force in accordance with international guidelines. The corresponding indicators, i.e. the employed and unemployed labour force, are used around the world to describe cyclical developments on the labour market. Monthly figures are essential in this respect. In addition, UWV issues its own monthly figures on unemployment benefits; however, these do not correspond with the indicators on the labour force.

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