Well-being here and now: material well-being

Material well-being enables people to meet their material needs and fulfil their lives. This is fundamental to well-being.
  • Disposable household income and individual consumption in the Netherlands are among the highest in the EU27. Median disposable income is trending upwards.
  • In 2022, purchasing power decreased for the first time in nearly ten years as a result of a sharp rise in the cost of living. More people are very concerned about their own financial future.
  • Relative poverty is increasing. In 2022, 14.5 percent of the Dutch population lived below the European poverty threshold.

Well-being 'here and now'

Material well-being

€ 31,600
per household (equivalised, 2022 prices) in 2022
The long-term trend is increasing (increase well-being)
out of 27
in EU
in 2022
Median disposable income
€ 27,092
per capita (2015 prices) in 2023
out of 23
in EU
in 2023
Individual consumption
Well-being 'here and now'
Theme Indicator Value Trend Position in EU Position in EU ranking
Material well-being Median disposable income € 31,600 per household (equivalised, 2022 prices) in 2022 increasing (increase well-being) 3rd out of 27 in 2022 High ranking
Material well-being Individual consumption € 27,092 per capita (2015 prices) in 2023 5th out of 23 in 2023 High ranking

Colour codes and notes to the dashboards in the Monitor of Well-being

More and more people are working. Net labour participation increased to 73.1 percent in 2023, the highest rate ever. Nowhere else in the EU is the share of 15 to 74-year-olds with paid work as large. The Netherlands is also at the forefront in Europe in terms of median disposable income and volume of consumer spending. Average spending per capita was around 27 thousand euros in 2023 (in constant prices, base year 2015). This is nearly the same as in the previous year, and the medium-term trend for volume of consumption is stable. Median disposable income shows an increasing trend.

In addition to material well-being indicators in well-being ‘here and now’, the SDG 1 No Poverty dashboard shows that many people are financially vulnerable. The sharp increase in the cost of living has dampened the mood in terms of income and livelihood security: in 2023, 28.7 percent of the population were very concerned about their own financial future (up from 22.5 percent in 2021). On 1 January 2023, authorities knew of 726 thousand households with registered problem debts (8.8 percent of the total). Relative poverty is increasing. Although being relatively poor does not necessarily imply a low standard of living, the rising trend does indicate declining well-being. One aspect of livelihood security is job security. The percentage of employees worried about keeping their jobs is slowly decreasing. In 2023, 10.8 percent of employees expressed concerns about this, see SDG 8.2 Decent work and economic growth: labour and leisure time.

In 2022, purchasing power decreased for the first time in almost ten years. Government compensatory measures for increased energy costs, particularly for low-income households, limited the decrease to 1.2 percent. Without this energy allowance, the average fall in purchasing power would have been 2.9 percent. No figures are yet available for 2023. For many households, wages from labour are the primary source of income. Negotiated terms of collective labour agreements are therefore important for whether they have more to spend. These terms did not develop favourably in 2023, although wage increases were the highest in over forty years. Collective labour agreements typically cover several years into the future and do not always provide adequate compensation for price increases. Like median disposable income, median household wealth and average disposable income also show an upward trend.

Fewer and fewer children live in low-income households. As most income and wealth indicators are based on tax returns, hardly any figures are yet available for 2023.

In addition to SDG 1, the dashboard for SDG 10.1 Reduced inequalities: social cohesion and inequality also shows that the Netherlands performs well on the inequality indicators compared with other EU countries. The continued downward trends in the Gini coefficient for wealth inequality, the share of households with both low income and low wealth (3.4 percent in 2022), and the poverty risk of self-employed persons (5.9 percent in 2022) are all favourable. In terms of vulnerable groups in Resilience of well-being, unemployment is decreasing, fewer and fewer people have a low level of education, and the percentage of people with severe long-standing health-related limitations is decreasing. Despite these improving trends, the absolute size of these vulnerable groups may still be considered to be large or even too large. Social inequality is influenced by more factors than the distribution of income and wealth alone. Aspects of social inequality and distribution are therefore also relevant in the theme Society of well-being ‘here and now’.

Economic growth contributes to increased material well-being. However, economic activities can also be harmful for the environment or people’s well-being, thereby negatively impacting well-being. The dashboards for SDG 8.1 Decent work and economic growth: economy and factors of production and SDG 9.2 Industry, innovation and infrastructure: sustainable business comprise capital and productivity indicators that provide more insight in this respect. Trends in these two dashboards mostly indicate increasing or stable well-being. Only for consumer confidence has the trend turned red.

Consumer sentiments are a first indication of future household spending trends. Consumer confidence dropped to -59 in the autumn of 2022, its lowest level since the start of measurements in 1986. This extreme pessimism decreased in the course of 2023, but households still kept a close eye on their spending. Household consumption had been a key driver of economic recovery in 2021 and 2022. In 2023, the increase in consumption was modest (1.0 percent volume growth). GDP barely grew. Adjusted for the strong population growth, consumption showed zero growth, and GDP contracted by 0.9 percent. Looking at the medium-term, the GDP trend is upward. With its relatively high GDP per capita, the Netherlands also ranks among the leading EU countries.
Vulnerable groups, such as the unemployed and low-income low-wealth households, are becoming relatively smaller.