Over 100 thousand fewer unemployed in 2017

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In 2017, the number of 15 to 74-year-olds in paid employment rose by 176 thousand on average year-on-year. The number of people in work increased and unemployment declined. Altogether in 2017, there were 101 thousand fewer unemployed on average than in 2016. In December 2017, unemployment stood at 395 thousand, according to figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS). The Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded a further decline in the number of unemployment (WW) benefits to a total of 330 thousand in December.

2017 was the third consecutive year in which the number of employed was up compared to the previous year. The average growth rate was also higher than in 2015 and 2016. Aside from this year-on-year increase in employment over three consecutive years, the number of unemployed has dropped for the same number of years. The average rate at which unemployment declined was also higher in 2017 than in the two preceding years.

Labour force (year-on-year changes)
 Unemployed labour force (ILO)Employed labour force (ILO)

Nearly 8.7 million people in paid work in December 2017

In December 2017, the total number of people in paid employment came close to 8.7 million. Over the previous three months, the number had increased by an average 9 thousand per month. In December, slightly under 4.3 million people were not employed for various reasons. This included 395 thousand people who indicated they had recently looked and had been immediately available for work. According to the ILO definition, these are the unemployed. Their number fell by an average 9 thousand per month over the previous three months.
Another group who were not in employment (nearly 3.9 million) had not looked recently and/or were not immediately available for work. Their number rose by an average 7 thousand per month.


Unemployment rate (ILO) remains 4.4 percent

In order to enable comparison of cyclical developments in the labour market between countries, the unemployment indicator of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is often taken as a measure. According to this indicator, the ‘unemployed’ includes all 15 to 74-year-olds who do not have paid work but who are actively looking and immediately available for paid work. Unemployment has been declining since the beginning of 2014. In December there were still 395 thousand unemployed, equivalent to 4.4 percent of the labour force. This unemployment rate was the same in November. In December 2008 - when the economic crisis started - this stood at 3.7 percent.


UWV: Number of WW benefits dropped by 20 percent over 2017

In December 2017, the number of current unemployment (WW) benefits declined further to 330 thousand. Relative to one year previously - in December 2016 - the number of WW benefits fell by 82 thousand or 20 percent. The decline is seen among both men and women and in all age groups.
Relative to December 2016, the number of benefits dropped by 16 thousand in the sector healthcare and by 13 thousand in the sector temporary employment. The relative decrease was sharpest in the construction sector (-45 percent). The number of WW benefits declined across all different occupational groups as well.

UWV: Sharp fall in number of new benefits as well

In 2017, UWV registered 390 thousand new benefit recipients. This is more than 20 percent lower than in 2016. The year-on-year decline in the number of new benefit recipients is seen across the board, both men and women and all age groups and occupations.

Unused labour potential

Every month, CBS publishes figures on the size of the employed and unemployed labour force as well as the group not included in the labour force (ILO definition). However, the unemployed labour force does not include all unused labour potential. People willing to work who have not been looking and/or have not been immediately available for various reasons, do not fall within the scope of the ILO definition of unemployment. This definition also does not include people who work part-time, nor those looking for extra hours of work.

These groups are reported on every quarter in terms of their size and composition. An overall picture as presented below is therefore based on the latest quarterly figures (Q3 2017). Q4 figures will e released on 14 February 2018. Developments in the total unused labour potential are closely linked to developments in unemployment according to the ILO definition.



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. Figures released by UWV do not correspond one-to-one with the labour force indicators.