Many aspects of well-being improving – but not all

© Hollandse Hoogte / David Rozing
Longer-term trends in many areas of well-being in the Netherlands are upwards, and some aspects have shown recent further improvement. There have also been deteriorations, particularly in the areas of labour and housing. Some of these developments are probably linked to the strong economic growth in recent years. With respect to well-being in the future, the most recent results show deterioration on a number of aspects, once again in the area of nature and the environment. These are among the conclusions of Statistics Netherlands’ (CBS) second edition of the Monitor of Well-being, which this year also includes the Sustainable Development Goals.

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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.

MBW Eng Wiel 1EnvironmentSafetySocietyHousingLabour and leisure timeHealthMaterial welfareWell-beingGDP+1.8%pt+0.2%pt-0.1%+5.1%+3.0%pt+2.0%+0.3%pt+1.5%pt-1.8%pt+0.6%+1.6%+0.2%+0.8%+1.2%pt-0.5%pt+1.1%pt+0.9%pt-0.1%pt+6.7%+0.6%pt-2.2%pt-0.6%pt-0.4%pt+1.9%-0.2%pt-0.5%pt+4.0%pt-0.9%pt=0%-2.1%pt01.02.03.04.05.06.07.08.09.10.11.12.13.14.15.16.17.18.19.20.21.22.23.24.25.26.27.28.29.Broad-well-being trendsHere and nowEU rankingThe bars reflect the Netherlandsranking in the European Union on each indicator.Low rankingHigh rankingMiddle rankingKeyNo dataGDPper capitaWell-beingMaterialwelfareHousingSafetyHealthLabour and leisure timeEnvironmentSociety02.01.03.04.05.06.07.08.09.10.11.12.14.13.15.16.21.17.18.19.20.22.23.24.25.27.26.28.29.01. Satisfaction with life02. Personal well-being index03. Feeling of control over one's own life04. Median disposable income05. Individual consumption06. Healthy life expectancy of men07. Healthy life expectancy of women08. Overweight population09. Long-term unemployment10. Net labour participation11. Higher educated population12. Satisfaction with leisure13. Time lost due to traffic jams and delays14. Satisfaction with work (employees)15. Housing quality16. Satisfaction with accommodation17. Contact with family, friends or neighbours 18. Voice and accountability19. Trust in institutions20. Trust in other people21. Changes in norms and values 22. Volunteer work23. Often feeling unsafe in own neighbourhood24. Crime victims 25. Managed natural assets within NNN26. Quality of inland bathing waters 27. Living Planet Index28. Urban exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5)29. Environmental problemsImprovement in well-beingNo changeDeterioration in well-beingLong-term trend (8 years)Change (most recent year)Key

 
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).

MBW Eng Wiel 3+2.0%-0.5%-0.5%+0.3%+27.5%-6.4%+20.1%+1.8%pt-55.4%-3.3%-0.1%-5.5%+5.1%+0.3%+1.6%+0.9%pt+0.8%+0.2%-0.5%pt-0.8%pt-0.2%pt01.02.03.04.05.06.07.08.09.10.11.12.13.14.15.16.17.18.19.20.Social capitalHuman capitalNatural capitalEconomic capitalGDPBroad-well-being trendsLaterGDPper capitaEU rankingThe bars reflect the Netherlandsranking in the European Union on each indicator.Low rankingHigh rankingMiddle rankingKeyNo dataEconomiccapital02.01.03.04.Naturalcapital05.06.07.08.09.10.11.12.13.Humancapital14.15.16.17.Socialcapital18.19.20.01. Physical capital stock 02. R&D capital stock 03. Average debt per household04. Median wealth of households05. Fossil energy reserves06. Renewable electricity capacity07. Managed natural assets within NNN08. Phosphorus surplus09. Nitrogen surplus10. Living Planet Index11. Surface and groundwater abstraction12. Urban exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5)13. Cumulative CO2 emissions14. Hours worked15. Higher educated population16. Healthy life expectancy of women17. Healthy life expectancy of men18. Trust in other people19. Feelings of discrimination20. Trust in institutionsImprovement in well-beingNo changeDeterioration in well-beingLong-term trend (8 years)Change (most recent year)Key

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.

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