Many aspects of well-being improving – but not all
(English subtitles available)
At the request of the Dutch Cabinet, CBS publishes the monitor on Accountability Day. On the same day the Cabinet gives its official reaction to the main conclusions of the report. The monitor will subsequently be discussed by the House of Representatives during the annual Accountability Debate. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have also been integrated in this second edition of the monitor, so that the name has changed to Monitor of Well-being & Sustainable Development Goals. These global goals serve to improve well-being worldwide and have been endorsed by all 193 member states of the United Nations, including the Netherlands.
Most aspects of present well-being are improving
Developments in well-being ‘here and now’, i.e. the well-being of the present population of the Netherlands, are measured on the basis of 29 indicators, divided into eight themes. In general the picture is positive. Nine well-being trends in the last eight years point to an improvement, and 14 are stable. Moreover, compared with other EU-countries, well-being ‘here and now’ is high. A number of SDG indicators confirm this positive picture: healthy life expectancy of men (SDG 3.4.1), crime victim rates (SDG 11.7.2) and urban exposure to particulate matter (SDG 11.6.2). Trends for six indicators indicated deteriorating levels of well-being. Four of these were for indicators related to labour and housing. In addition, the percentage of the population that is overweight has increased (SDG 2.2.2).
The most recent developments present a more mixed picture than the eight-year trends. More of them point to a deteriorating well-being. These are probably connected with the strong economic growth in recent years: more time was lost due to traffic congestion, levels of particulate matter in cities were higher, and fewer people were satisfied with their housing situation.
Although the overall picture is mainly positive, well-being is not distributed equally across all population groups. On average, people with higher education levels, for example, have higher levels of well-being than those with lower levels of education.
Recent decline in natural capital
The monitor also looks at the conditions for future well-being in the Netherlands, based on development in stocks of various types of ‘capital’. Out of a total twenty well-being trends for ‘later’, ten show improvement and eight are stable. This positive picture is confirmed by the SDG indicators that relate to future well-being. These all show a stable trend or are moving in the direction of the goal, namely: male and female healthy life expectancy (SDG 3.4.1), urban exposure to particulate matter (SDG 11.6.2), feelings of discrimination (SDG 10.3.1) and biodiversity, in terms of the Living Planet Index (SDG 15.5.1).
Two trends point to a deterioration of future well-being in the Netherlands, both of them related to ‘natural capital’: fossil energy reserves and cumulative CO2 emissions. The remaining types of ‘natural capital’ show a rising or stable trend. In spite of these upward or stable trends, the position of the Netherlands in terms of ‘natural capital’ is relatively low in a European perspective. This is especially the case for climate action (SDG 13) and life on land (SDG 15).
Four aspects of Dutch ‘natural capital’ recently declined further. Fossil energy reserves and biodiversity decreased, while exposure to particulate matter and cumulative CO2 emissions rose. The recent increase in levels of particulate matter is divergent from the downward trend. In addition to these aspects of ‘natural capital’, there has also been a recent decline in three aspects of ‘economic capital’: physical capital, knowledge capital and average household debt (with the latter increasing). Two aspects of ‘social capital’ also declined: trust in other people and trust in institutions, although these recent decreases were small.
More raw materials imported, but fewer from LDCs
Alongside present and future well-being, the monitor describes the impact of Dutch well-being on the rest of the world (‘elsewhere’), especially in the least developed countries (LDCs). This is examined on the basis of ‘trade and aid’, trade and income flows between the Netherlands and other countries. The three indicators that describe this theme, and which are part SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals), show a stable trend. Compared with other EU states, the Netherlands has a large number of trade and aid relations with other countries.
In addition to trade and aid, the report also looks at the impact of Dutch society on the environment and on reserves of natural resources in other countries. Three of the nine relevant well-being trends show a deterioration: the Netherlands is importing increasing amounts of fossil fuels and biomass from other countries – and more and more biomass from LDCs in particular. As a relatively large trading nation, the Netherlands imports large amounts of raw materials compared with other EU countries. Many of these are re-exported after no or minor further processing.
Of the most recent developments, six can be considered positive for well-being elsewhere, the other six negative. The growth of imports from LDCs seems to be slowing down; but imports from the rest of the world are increasing. The Dutch greenhouse-gas footprint increased further in 2018.
- Publication - Monitor of Well-being & SDGs 2019
- News release - Dutch environmental footprint increases slightly
- News release - Strong link between education level and well-being