Over 9 million in work for the first time

Between October and December 2019, the number of people in paid employment grew by an average of 17 thousand per month, reaching a total that exceeded 9 million for the first time. Unemployment fell by 7 thousand per month on average to a total of 302 thousand in December. These were people who did not have paid work and who indicated they had recently looked and were immediately available for work. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures. At the end of December, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded 223 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits.

Around 4.0 million people did not have paid work in December 2019 for a variety of reasons. In addition to the unemployed mentioned earlier, this included 3.7 million people who had not looked or/nor were immediately available recently. They are not counted towards the labour force. Their number dropped by an average of 1 thousand per month over the previous three months.

Unemployment indicator

In order to enable a comparison of cyclical movements in the labour market between different countries, the unemployment indicator of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is often taken as a measure. According to this indicator, the ‘unemployed’ include all 15 to 74-year-olds who do not have paid work but who have been looking for paid work recently and who are immediately available.

In December, unemployment stood at 302 thousand. This brought the total number of unemployed at the end of the year to approximately the same level as at the beginning of Q2 2019, despite a slight increase over Q2 and Q3. The unemployment rate was back to the same level as well; in December it stood at 3.2 percent against 3.3 percent in April and May. In the intervening months, unemployment did increase to 3.5 percent.

The lower unemployment rate in December as compared to April/May – despite the virtually unchanged number of unemployed – can be explained the growing size of the labour force.

Unemployment and unemployment benefits (x 1,000)
   Unemployment indicator (ILO)
(15 to 74 yrs, seasonally adjusted)
WW benefits (15 yrs to pension entitlement age)
2011January430284
February 425280
March413270
April411261
May414256
June409252
July425254
August 427256
September442252
October458253
November474258
December473270
2012January486292
February 482299
March487296
April502292
May501291
June502291
July518298
August 517304
September530304
October539310
November554322
December572340
2013January589369
February 601377
March619380
April625380
May632378
June648382
July666395
August 670399
September675400
October680408
November677419
December687438
2014January691460
February 699460
March692454
April684443
May672436
June656431
July648437
August 637430
September630420
October632419
November635425
December643441
2015January645458
February 633455
March626443
April625427
May617416
June611410
July603420
August 604420
September609417
October616421
November596427
December588446
2016January574465
February 581469
March574470
April572461
May560448
June550438
July541432
August 521427
September510424
October502420
November499410
December482412
2017January480419
February 473416
March463415
April456401
May456386
June446372
July436364
August 426362
September422351
October404343
November397337
December395330
2018January380335
February 367330
March357327
April355314
May352301
June354288
July348279
August 353278
September343274
October337269
November326267
December329263
2019January329279
February 312274
March307268
April300257
May302251
June313243
July313234
August 321237
September323233
October323233
November324228
December302223

UWV: Continued decline in unemployment benefits

At the end of December 2019, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) recorded 223 thousand current unemployment (WW) benefits. The number dropped by 1.9 percent on the previous month (228 thousand). By the end of 2018, the number of unemployment benefits still stood at 263 thousand. This represents a year-on-year decline of 15 percent. The number of WW benefits fell across all occupational groups. The largest decrease was seen in agricultural occupations (-21 percent), care and welfare occupations (-19.1 percent) and pedagogical occupations (-18.2 percent).

UWV: Sharp decline in number of benefits among over-50s

Relative to one year previously, the number of WW benefits among people aged 50 and over declined by over 20 percent. In December 2019, close to 46 percent of all WW benefits issued by UWV were received by people in this age group. This share was 49 percent one year previously. The main contributing factors were improved labour market conditions (with more jobseekers able to land a job) and the stepwise reduction in the duration of WW benefits to a maximum of 24 months.

Employment rose, unemployment declined

Since Q1 2014, the number of employed has risen almost continuously. This coincided with a long period of decline in unemployment, but this was interrupted by a slight increase in unemployment in Q2 and Q3. The main contributing factor were people seeking work who had previously not been active on the labour market. Those who were not immediately able to find work were thus included in the unemployment figures. This trend changed at the end of 2019: More people who entered the labour market were able to start immediately and fewer people became unemployed.

Unused labour potential

Every month, CBS publishes figures on the total employed and non-employed population. The latter group comprises the unemployed workforce and those not included in the workforce (all according to the ILO definition).

However, the unemployed labour force does not cover total unused labour potential; other groups are included as well, aside from the unemployed according to the ILO indicator. These are people who have either looked for work recently or are immediately available for work. They are counted towards the unused labour potential, but fall outside the scope of the ILO definition of employment. People who work part-time but want to work more hours and are immediately available, are also included in the unused labour potential.

CBS reports on these groups quarterly in terms of their size and composition. The overall picture represented here (see figure below) is based on the latest quarterly figures (Q3 2019). The total unused labour potential in Q3 2019 comprised nearly 1.0 million people, i.e. 120 thousand fewer than one year previously. The development of the total unused labour potential is closely related to the development of unemployment.

Beroepsbevolking van 15 tot 75 jaar Niet-beroepsbevolking Niet gezocht en niet beschikbaar Wil en/of kan niet werken Wil wel werken Gezocht en niet beschikbaar Beschikbaar en niet gezocht Vanwege weinig resultaat Vanwege andere reden Beroepsbevolking Werkloos (ILO-definitie) Werkzaam Deeltijd Wil meer uren werken, beschikbaar Voltijd


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 are not directly comparable with the CBS labour force indicators.

Related items