In 1999, the Dutch labor force numbered 7.13 million. Of this total, 4.02 million were men and 3.11 million were women. Full-time workers numbered 4.12 million, while part-time employees numbered 3.01 million. The large number of part-time workers reflects the growth of the service sector as many jobs in this segment of the economy are part-time. This is especially true of retail workers. Of the total number of employees, 805,000 had seasonal or temporary jobs. The nation had an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent in 1999. However, this figure does not truly represent those out of work in the kingdom, since an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 former or potential workers have simply dropped out of the labor force and decided to rely on the Netherlands' generous social benefits rather than try to find employment.
Dutch workers have the constitutional right to join unions. This includes all workers, even members of the military, police, and civil service. Although only about 28 percent of the workforce are active members of unions, collective bargaining agreements cover 75 percent of workers. Currently, union membership among professional workers is expanding. Organized strikes are rare in the country, and labor relations are generally regarded as harmonious. Discrimination against union members is illegal. Several major unions are presently undertaking widespread efforts to reduce the national work week to 36 hours.
Unions and private employers negotiate work contracts, known as social partnerships, which establish wage levels and benefits for workers and production targets for the companies. These contracts are renegotiated in the fall of every year and cover all workers, even those who do not belong to the union. Worker relations and union issues are
|Household Consumption in PPP Terms|
|Country||All food||Clothing and footwear||Fuel and power a||Health care b||Education b||Transport & Communications||Other|
|Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.|
|a Excludes energy used for transport.|
|b Includes government and private expenditures.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
overseen by the national Social and Economic Council which also advises the government on labor matters. As in many other nations, there are disparities between male and female workers in terms of hiring, salary, and promotions. Although gender discrimination is forbidden by law, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts in similar occupations. In 1999, women on average made only about 75 percent of what men earned in equal jobs.
Child labor is forbidden by law, but each year there are minor violations, especially around the Christmas holidays when children are often employed for holiday-related work. The minimum age for a person to begin work is 16 years old. But at 16, people may work only 8 hours per week. Anyone under the age of 18 may not work at night or work overtime. They are also prevented from working in hazardous occupations. Full-time employment for those 18 years old or younger is dependent upon their completion of 10 years of mandatory education. All employees must be given a 30-minute break after they complete 4.5 hours of work.
The nation's minimum wage can be changed every 6 months to adjust for inflation. However, only about 3 percent of workers earn the minimum wage, since most workers are covered by union-employer contracts. The minimum wage is US$1,172 per month. Those employees who earn minimum wage receive social security benefits and medical insurance which is paid for by the employer. These costs work out to approximately US$3,750 per worker. Employees under the age of 23 receive a percentage of the national minimum wage. This percentage ranges from 34.5 percent of the adult minimum wage for workers who are 16 years old to 85 percent of the wage for workers who are 22 years old. Labor costs in the kingdom have risen slower than inflation. In 1999 average wages rose by 2.5 percent which was only slightly higher than the inflation rate of 2.1 percent. In addition, advances in productivity offset wage increases as Dutch workers produced more goods per hour than they had the year before. This helped businesses maintain their profits and prevented an acceleration of inflation.
Under the law, the national work week is 40 hours. However, social partnership contracts have reduced the average work week for most employees to 37.5 hours per week. In addition, an increasing number of employees work non-traditional schedules. Telecommuting (working from home, using a computer or other equipment) is growing in popularity. Worker safety and working conditions are overseen by the Labor Commission. Under Dutch law, employees may refuse to work in hazardous occupations if they feel their safety is in jeopardy.