The Netherlands


Policy Performance


Economic Policies

With growth finally returning, the Netherlands receives a high overall ranking (rank 9) for its economic policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to 2014.

Following a long period of recession, economic activity, exports, consumption, investment and employment are all up, while interest and inflation rates are low. Unemployment rates are moderate to low. Labor-market weaknesses include low employment rates among migrants and a growing dual labor market separating secure from precarious jobs.

The progressive income-tax system balances equity and competitiveness well. A plan for further simplification has been delayed. Budget deficits have declined, but public debt is nearing worrisome levels. After years of austerity, a 2015 budget surplus was spent on a middle-class tax cut and salary increases for civil servants.

The country’s role in shaping international financial policy has diminished in recent years. The R&D sector is strong.

Social Policies

With a generally effective policy approach, the Netherlands scores well (rank 7) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Education attainment levels are just above the OECD average. Grants for university study have been abolished, raising access concerns. The risk of poverty has risen since the crisis, but is low in international comparison. The hybrid health care system is very costly by international standards, but does not have comparably good outcomes. Red tape causes significant complaints.

The government provides child benefits and maternal leave, but only two days of paternal leave. Most women in the workforce work part-time, in part due to tax-system disincentives.

While the pension system is generally strong, a comprehensive reform is underway. With a large immigrant population, the country has a well-developed integration policy, though unemployment rates among non-Western migrants are high.

Environmental Policies

Showing declining public interest in environmental policy, the Netherlands falls into the middle ranks internationally (rank 20) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure remains unchanged since 2014.

The country’s population has shown a decreasing sensitivity to environmental issues. CO2 emissions reduction has been deprioritized in favor of climate adaptation, and an energy-transition plan has suffered from delays sufficient enough to render its original goals unfeasible. Overall investments in energy efficiency and renewable-energy production have been very modest.

Natural-gas reserves are diminishing quickly, with earthquakes and soil subsidence damaging homes where the reserves are located.

Biodiversity and conservation programs have been cut back in part due to interest-group pressure. The government actively supports EU efforts in the development and advancement of global environmental regimes.



Quality of Democracy

With free and transparent electoral procedures, the Netherlands falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 18) with respect to democratic quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

A recently passed campaign-finance law has significantly improved formerly abuse-prone conditions. Non-binding advisory referendums on laws and treaties are newly allowed. The media is independent, but ownership concentration is increasing. A new media law has reorganized and changed the mandate of public-media broadcasters.

Civil rights are generally protected, but privacy concerns have emerged, and the treatment of irregular migrants has been criticized. Non-discrimination provisions are robust. Politicians’ growing tendency to prioritize political decision-making over judicial oversight indicates declining respect for the rule of law.

Though corruption is not perceived as a significant problem, scandals have periodically emerged. A new bill protecting whistleblowers has been proposed.



Executive Capacity

With a comparatively weak Prime Minister’s Office, the Netherlands receives a middling overall score (rank 28) in the area of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

The Prime Minister’s Office coordinates policy, but has limited capacity to evaluate proposals. Several independent strategic-planning units wield varying influence. Coalition politics leads government parties to support each other’s priorities without rigorous analysis.

The civil service has been cut, losing substantive expertise. RIAs are broadly and effectively applied. The government’s neocorporatist mode of interest-group consultation has come under increasing pressure as traditional economic groups have become less representative.

Policy-implementation concerns have emerged, particularly regarding policing, youth care and care for the elderly. Monitoring of line ministries and agencies is ad hoc rather than systematic. Local governments are being given more responsibilities even as their federal budget allocations are being cut.

Executive Accountability

With generally good oversight mechanisms, the Netherlands falls into the middle ranks (rank 19) with respect to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.2 points since 2014.

Parliamentarians have only modest resources, though executive-oversight powers are adequate. Parliamentary investigations have become more common. The Court of Audit is independent, but has lacked influence. The National Ombudsman office was temporarily undermined by appointment of a former interest-group leader to the post, followed by delays before the position was again filled.

Citizens are often not well informed about government policies, despite above-average media consumption and a public-media sector that produces high-quality policy programming. Digital radio and TV broadcasts have significantly expanded consumer choice.

Political-party decision-making is centralized. While labor unions and business associations are formally integrated into government policymaking, professionalized lobbying has also taken hold. Other interest groups are also routinely consulted.
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