Well-being high in 2019, but more pressure on environment

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The Dutch economy was robust in 2019. Other aspects of society also did well: satisfaction with life – which was already high – rose further, as did the percentage of people with a degree in higher education. Well-being is coming under pressure in some areas, though. More time is lost as a result of traffic congestion and people have less contact with family, friends and neighbours. Moreover, not everybody has benefited to the same extent from the increase in well-being. These and other aspects of well-being are described in Statistics Netherlands (CBS) Monitor of Well-being & the Sustainable Development Goals 2020.

At the request of the Dutch Cabinet, CBS publishes the Monitor of Well-being & the Sustainable Development Goals annually on Accountability Day. The monitor describes how well-being in the Netherlands translates into quality of life ‘here and now’ and how the Dutch pursuit of well-being places pressure on future generations (well-being ‘later’) and on people in other countries (well-being ‘elsewhere’) .

This edition of the monitor covers 2019. It therefore does not address the huge impact of Covid-19 on many aspects of the Dutch economy and society. Since the second half of March this year, the global corona outbreak and the subsequent measures taken to contain it have resulted in an unprecedented plunge in economic activity. They have also changed the picture described by the social indicators used in the monitor. The significance of things like access to health care, social safety nets, trust in institutions and access to nature for purposes of well-being has been made very clear. The crisis illustrates once again how important it is to describe developments in society from the point of view of well-being.

Well-being ‘here and now’ high and rising

One of the main questions in public debate is how much the growth of gross domestic product benefits well-being. The results in this third edition of the monitor confirm that many aspects of well-being have improved in the period 2012-2019. Material well-being, income and consumption all show a clear increase. It should be noted, however, that while the volume of GDP has increased by more than 60 percent since 1995, real disposable income and the volume of household consumption have been slower to grow, with a rise of 40 percent. Non-material aspects of well-being have also improved in many areas: satisfaction with life, for example, has increased further in the Netherlands in recent years.
Some areas of well-being are under pressure, however. Traffic congestion is increasing, people are less satisfied with their amount of leisure time, and in line with this fewer of them are doing voluntary work and they have less of contact with family, friends and neighbours. This may be the downside of the already high labour participation rate, which has shown a further substantial increase in the last few years.

Trends in well-being: Here and now
Trendsinwell-beingHere and now+1.1%Gross domesticproductPosition in EU in 2019Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20193rd out of 19PositiveNeutralClick for more information+1.6%ptWell-beingSatisfaction withlifePosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20191st out of 16PositivePositiveClick for more information+1.2%ptWell-beingPersonal well-beingindexMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019PositiveNeutralClick for more information-0.8%ptWell-beingFeeling in controlof own lifePosition in EU in 2017Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2016-20184th out of 28NeutralNeutralClick for more information+1.0%Material well-beingMedian disposableincomePosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-20187th out of 28PositiveNeutralClick for more information+0.8%Material well-beingIndividualconsumptionPosition in EU in 2019Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20195th out of 17PositiveNeutralClick for more information+1.0%HealthHealthy life expectancyof menPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201916th out of 28NeutralNeutralClick for more information+0.8%HealthHealthy life expectancyof womenPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201922th out of 28NeutralNeutralClick for more information-0.1%ptHealthOverweightpopulationPosition in EU in 2016Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201910th out of 28NegativeNeutralClick for more information-0.4%ptLabour and leisure timeLong-termunemploymentPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20198th out of 28NeutralPositiveClick for more information+1.0%ptLabour and leisure timeNet labourparticipationPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20193rd out of 28PositivePositiveClick for more information+0.8%ptLabour and leisure timeHigher educatedpopulationPosition in EU in 2019Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201911th out of 28PositivePositiveClick for more information+0.3%ptLabour and leisure timeSatisfaction withleisure timePosition in EU in 2013Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20193rd out of 28NegativeNeutralClick for more information+4.5%Labour and leisure timeTime lost due totraffic congestion and delaysMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2018NegativeNeutralClick for more information+1.3%ptLabour and leisure timeSatisfaction withwork (employees)Position in EU in 2017Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20197th out of 28NeutralPositiveClick for more information+1.0%ptHousingHousingqualityPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201918th out of 28NeutralPositiveClick for more information+1.0%ptHousingSatisfaction withhousingPosition in EU in 2017Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20199th out of 28NeutralNeutralClick for more information-0.3%ptSocietyContact with family,friends or neighboursPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20191st out of 16NegativeNeutralClick for more information+1.7%SocietyVoice andaccountabilityPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-20184th out of 28NeutralNeutralClick for more information+0.4%ptSocietyTrust ininstitutionsPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20192nd out of 16PositiveNeutralClick for more information+0.1%ptSocietyTrust inother peoplePosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20192nd out of 16PositiveNeutralClick for more information+4.5%ptSocietyChanges in valuesand normsMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2018NeutralNeutralClick for more information-0.9%ptSocietyVoluntaryworkPosition in EU in 2015Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20191st out of 28NegativeNeutralClick for more information-0.0%ptSafetyOften feeling unsafein the neighbourhoodMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2019PositivePositiveClick for more information-0.8%ptSafetyVictims ofcrimePosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-201911th out of 16PositivePositiveClick for more information+0.3%ptEnvironmentManaged natural assetswithin NNNMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2018PositivePositiveClick for more information+1.2%ptEnvironmentQuality of inlandbathing watersPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201917th out of 26PositiveNeutralClick for more information-0.7%EnvironmentFauna in freshwaterand marshesMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2018NegativeNegativeClick for more information-1.2%EnvironmentFauna onlandMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2018NeutralNegativeClick for more information+1.6%ptEnvironmentNitrogen deposition andterrestrial nature areasMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2018NeutralNeutralClick for more information+5.1%EnvironmentUrban exposure toparticulate matter (PM2.5)Position in EU in 2017Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-20188th out of 25PositiveNeutralClick for more information-1.0%ptEnvironmentEnvironmentalproblemsPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201922th out of 28NeutralPositiveClick for more information
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Well-being ‘later’: increasing pressure on the environment

The economic capital necessary for long-term economic growth shows a mixed picture. The physical capital – the amount and quality of machinery, equipment and infrastructure – showed a declining trend in the period 2012-2019. This was offset by an clear increase in knowledge capital, however. The size of household debt, which is high compared to the rest of Europe, was also noticeable in this respect.
In terms of human capital, the Netherlands has seen important upward trends. Both the number of hours worked and the proportion of the population with a degree in higher education rose.
Social capital – often seen as the lubricant of society – is measured in terms of the quality of social networks. Social capital in the Netherlands is quite sizeable, and it is increasing. The Netherlands can be considered to be a high trust society in terms of trust in other people and in its most important institutions.
The Netherlands is at risk in the area of natural capital. Its nitrogen surplus is – in relative terms– one of the largest in Europe and its proportion of renewable energy one of the smallest. Nitrogen depositions exceeding the critical threshold to a greater or lesser extent affect just over seventy percent of natural land in the Netherlands. Added to this, all but one – which showed a neutral trend – biodiversity indicators are showing declining trends. The total area under nature management schemes is increasing.

Trends in well-being: Later
Trendsinwell-beingLater+1.1%Gross domesticproductPosition in EU in 2019Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20193rd out of 19PositiveNeutralClick for more information-0.7%Economic capitalPhysical capitalstockPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-20187th out of 11NegativeNeutralClick for more information-1.8%Economic capitalKnowledge capitalstockPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-20181st out of 12PositiveNeutralClick for more information+0.4%Economic capitalAverage householddebtPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-201823th out of 25NeutralNeutralClick for more information+35.7%Economic capitalMedian wealthof householdsMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2018NeutralNeutralClick for more information-10.8%Natural capitalFossil energyreservesPosition in EU in 2017Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20197th out of 13NegativeNegativeClick for more information+26.7%Natural capitalRenewable electricitycapacityPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201922th out of 26PositiveNeutralClick for more information+0.3%ptNatural capitalManaged natural assetswithin NNNMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2018PositivePositiveClick for more information-32.3%Natural capitalPhosphorussurplusPosition in EU in 2017Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201910th out of 16NeutralNeutralClick for more information-10.1%Natural capitalNitrogensurplusPosition in EU in 2017Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201917th out of 17NeutralNeutralClick for more information-1.2%Natural capitalFauna onlandMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2018NeutralNegativeClick for more information-0.7%Natural capitalFauna in freshwaterand marshesMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-2018NegativeNegativeClick for more information+1.6%Natural capitalSurface and groundwater abstractionPosition in EU in 2017Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-201811th out of 14PositiveNeutralClick for more information+5.1%Natural capitalUrban exposure toparticulate matter (PM2.5)Position in EU in 2017Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-20188th out of 25PositiveNeutralClick for more information+0.3%Natural capitalCumulative CO₂emissionsPosition in EU in 2014Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201913th out of 17NegativeNeutralClick for more information+1.3%Human capitalHoursworkedPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201919th out of 28PositiveNeutralClick for more information+0.8%ptHuman capitalHigher educatedpopulationPosition in EU in 2019Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201911th out of 28PositivePositiveClick for more information+0.8%Human capitalHealthy life expectancyof womenPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201922th out of 28NeutralNeutralClick for more information+1.0%Human capitalHealthy life expectancyof menPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201916th out of 28NeutralNeutralClick for more information+0.1%ptSocial capitalTrust inother peoplePosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20192nd out of 16PositiveNeutralClick for more information+0.6%ptSocial capitalFeelings ofdiscriminationPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2016-201812th out of 16NeutralNeutralClick for more information+0.4%ptSocial capitalTrust ininstitutionsPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20192nd out of 16PositiveNeutralClick for more information
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Well-being ‘elsewhere’: higher imports, including biomass and metal imports

Well-being elsewhere concerns the effects of the Dutch pursuit of well-being on the rest of the world. These include not only the positive effects that trade may have on employment and income in other countries, but also to what extent the Netherlands is using up scarce natural resources abroad.
While imports from Asia and Oceania show increasing rends, those from Africa have fallen. In principle, an increase in trade is seen as positive for well-being abroad: more trade may result in more employment opportunities and income. The relatively high proportion of GDP – compared to other countries in Europe – the Dutch spent on development cooperation is also a noticeable aspect in this regard.
Obviously, some forms of trade have a negative impact on well-being abroad. Imported volumes of biomass and metals, for example have shown increasing trends, as have imports of metals from the poorest countries. This is seen as negative for well-being from the perspective of sustainable levels of resources for future generations. Lastly, there has been a striking increase in the greenhouse gas footprint in 2019 from 2018.

Trends in well-being: Elsewhere
Trendsinwell-beingElsewhere+1.1%Gross domesticproductPosition in EU in 2019Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20193rd out of 19PositiveNeutralClick for more information+3.5%Trade and aidTotal importsof goodsMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019NeutralNeutralClick for more information+1.0%Trade and aidImports of goodsfrom EuropeMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019NeutralNeutralClick for more information+9.8%Trade and aidImports of goodsfrom AfricaMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019NegativeNeutralClick for more information+10.7%Trade and aidImports of goodsfrom AmericaMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019NeutralNeutralClick for more information+6.7%Trade and aidImports of goodsfrom AsiaMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019PositiveNeutralClick for more information+1.7%Trade and aidImports of goodsfrom OceaniaMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019PositiveNeutralClick for more information+1.8%Trade and aidTotal importsfrom LDCsPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-20192nd out of 28NeutralNeutralClick for more information+0.0%ptTrade and aidDevelopmentaidPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-20186th out of 25NeutralNeutralClick for more information+0.1%ptTrade and aidRemittances Position in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2017-20184th out of 28PositiveNeutralClick for more information-1.6%Environment and resourcesFossil fuelimportsPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201928th out of 28NeutralNeutralClick for more information-13.6%Environment and resourcesFossil fuel importsfrom LDCsMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019PositiveNeutralClick for more information+7.1%Environment and resourcesImports ofmetalsPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201925th out of 28NegativeNeutralClick for more information+151.3%Environment and resourcesImports of metalsfrom LDCsMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019NegativeNeutralClick for more information+4.2%Environment and resourcesImports ofnon-metallic mineralsPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201926th out of 28NeutralNeutralClick for more information-4.5%Environment and resourcesImports of non-metallicminerals from LDCsMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019NeutralNeutralClick for more information+2.7%Environment and resourcesBiomassimportsPosition in EU in 2018Medium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-201928th out of 28NegativeNeutralClick for more information-2.7%Environment and resourcesBiomass importsfrom LDCsMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019NeutralNeutralClick for more information+3.5%Environment and resourcesGreenhouse gasfootprintMedium-term trend (2012-2019)Most recent y-o-y change 2018-2019NeutralNegativeClick for more information
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En route to a sustainable society

The monitor also examines how the Netherlands is moving towards becoming a sustainable society in the long term. To do this it looks at Dutch progress on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals formulated by the United Nations in 2015, on which 193 countries have built an agenda for sustainable development to be achieved by 2030.
Between 2012 en 2019, trends of the indicators used to quantify these goals have developed largely positively in the Netherlands. The country is on its way to realising the goals pertaining to gender equality (equal rights for men and women, equal positions in society) and decent work and economic growth (sustainable and productive use of capital, labour and raw materials).

Indicators of other goals are moving in a less positive direction: good health and well-being (the percentage of GDP spent on health care is decreasing, waiting lists for specialist care are increasing, more and more people are overweight), mobility and infrastructure (less spent on maintenance and development of infrastructure, decreasing investment in civil and hydraulic engineering projects), and housing (concerns about the feasibility of good quality, suitable, safe and affordable housing as residential construction is lagging, the large proportion of income people are having to spend on housing, and large mortgage debts).

Trends of indicators measured for each SDGplus
This figure shows the percentage share in the total number of indicators in the dashboard for each SDG.
SDG 1: No poverty
40.0%
30.0%
30.0%
SDG 2: Zero hunger
53.8%
38.5%
7.7%
SDG 3: Good health and well-being
13.3%
46.7%
40.0%
SDG 4: Quality education
42.9%
35.7%
21.4%
SDG 5: Gender equality
61.5%
30.8%
7.7%
SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation
66.7%
22.2%
11.1%
SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy
70.0%
10.0%
20.0%
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth
78.6%
7.1%
14.3%
46.7%
40.0%
13.3%
SDG 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
14.3%
50.0%
35.7%
41.7%
50.0%
8.3%
42.9%
50.0%
7.1%
SDG 10: Reduced inequalities
7.7%
69.2%
23.1%
28.6%
42.9%
28.6%
SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities
21.4%
42.9%
35.7%
55.6%
11.1%
33.3%
SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production
38.5%
53.8%
7.7%
SDG 13: Climate action
37.5%
50.0%
12.5%
SDG 14: Life below water
75.0%
25.0%
SDG 15: Life on land
8.3%
50.0%
41.7%
SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions
28.6%
64.3%
7.1%
44.4%
22.2%
33.3%
SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
50.0%
50.0%

Status update of the SDGs in the Netherlands

Alongside the Monitor of Well-being & the Sustainable Development Goals 2020, Statistics Netherlands has drafted a status update of the official SDG indicators in as far as they can be measured for the Netherlands. This report provides a statistical update of progress towards the 17 SDGs in the Netherlands. It borrows two aspects from the Monitor of Well-being. The first concerns statistical methods to determine the direction of change over time and the performance of the Netherlands relative to other EU countries. The second aspect concerns the dashboard used to visualise the results. In addition to the statistical results for each individual SDG, it includes a short assessment of the quality of the current set of SDG indicators as used by Statistics Netherlands.

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