More graduates and less alcohol consumption among young people in 2020

Boy with pink hair in a hallway with lockers at a secondary school.
© Hollandse Hoogte / Patricia Rehe
With a pandemic ongoing, the year 2020 reshaped the lives of young people in the Netherlands. In secondary education, relatively more students were promoted and almost all final examination students graduated. Fewer young people were at work; fewer girls between the ages of 12 and 18 used alcohol on occasion, and there was less excessive drinking among young men. The number of young people receiving youth care declined; on the other hand, the number of reported child abuse cases went up. Furthermore, compared to the previous year, in 2020 a smaller share of young people reported they were happy and satisfied with life. These are some of the results Statistics Netherlands (CBS) describes in the Annual Report of the National Youth Monitor 2021, published today.

At the beginning of 2021, there were nearly 4.9 million people under the age of 25 in the Netherlands. They were affected by changes in the corona year 2020 in all sorts of ways. For example: the number of youth care recipients fell for the first time since the Child and Youth Act was introduced in 2015. Altogether 429,000 young people received youth care in 2020, down from 444 thousand in 2019. Significantly fewer new youth care trajectories were started in the months of April and May relative to the same months in 2019. Furthermore, the number of reported child abuse cases increased: from nearly 56 thousand in 2019 to more than 62 thousand in 2020. Definitive figures on youth care and reported child abuse cases over the year 2020 became available on 29 October 2021.

Lower school recommendations; more promotions and graduations

In 2020, all pupils and students had to participate in remote learning. This made it more difficult to take tests, among other effects. In school year 2019/’20, year 8 pupils did not sit the primary school leavers attainment test; final recommendations for type of secondary education were lower on average than in previous years: 55.2 percent of these pupils were recommended the types VMBO-GT/HAVO and up (pre-vocational, general secondary or pre-university secondary) versus 58.5 percent in the previous school year.

In secondary education, the share of students in year 3 and up who were promoted was larger than in the previous year: 88.1 percent, versus 83.9 percent in 2019. At all levels of secondary education, completion rates increased up to nearly 100 percent as there were no national written examinations in 2020. School-leaving exam scores were therefore only based on the schools’ own exams. The high completion rates and the fact that fewer young graduates took a gap year resulted in a higher number of tertiary education enrolments.

Completion rates in secondary education
education typeBoys, 2018/'19 (%)Boys, 2019/'20* (%)Girls, 2018/'19 (%)Girls, 2019/'20* (%)
*provisional figures

Youth more likely to work in sectors affected by the pandemic

At 66 percent, the labour participation rate among young people aged 15 to 26 years was lower last year than in 2019 (68 percent). In addition, young employees were more likely to report that their job was on hold during the pandemic compared to the older workers. This applied to 7 percent of 15 to 26-year-old employees, versus 1 percent of 27 to 74-year-old employees and linked to the fact that young people are overrepresented in sectors that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including accommodation and food services, and culture, sports and recreation. The number of young people claiming a social assistance benefit rose by over 6 thousand relative to the previous year, while another 9 thousand young people claimed benefits under the Tozo act.

Impact of corona measures on employee jobs, 2020
category15 to 26 yrs (%)27 to 74 yrs (%)
No impact on work5146
Work situation has changed4152
Work suspended or restricted71
Not working, belonging to risk group 11
Source: CBS, TNO.

Less alcohol consumption among young people

In 2020, young people could not go out for drinks due to the COVID-19 measures. Previous CBS research shows that young adults in particular (18 to 24 years) started drinking less alcohol under these measures than before. The annual report in the National Youth Monitor states that particularly girls aged between 12 and 18 were less likely to indicate occasional drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption was lower among young adult men (18 to 24 years) in 2020 than one year previously.

Drinkers among 12 to 24-year-olds
ageseks2019 (%)2020 (%)
12-17 yrstotal34.627.8
12-17 yrsboys32.732.2
12-17 yrsgirls36.623.4
18-25 yrstotal83.784.8
18-25 yrsmen83.385.3
18-25 yrswomen84.184.3
Source: CBS, RIVM, Trimbos-instituut

Fewer young people say they’re happy

In 2020, 84 percent of young adults reported they were generally happy, while 81 percent were satisfied with their lives. In 2019, these shares stood at 88 and 86 percent, respectively. Most young people (97 percent) were in contact with others at least once weekly, either by seeing them, calling them or exchanging messages with them. This share was the same in 2019. However, in 2020 fewer young people were in touch with relatives outside of their own family on a daily basis (31 percent, against 38 percent in 2019).

Less emigration from the Caribbean Netherlands

In the Caribbean Netherlands, fewer young adults left for Curaçao, Aruba or St Maarten during the pandemic. There were also fewer emigrants from Bonaire and Saba who left for the European part of the Netherlands. In addition, fewer students from Saba University School of Medicine returned to the United States and Canada.