2010 November 18 Thursday
Dutch Women Reject The Full Time Work Rat Race

Not like America.

I've been in the Netherlands for nearly three months now, and I've come to one overwhelming conclusion: Dutch women are not like me. I worry about my career incessantly. I take daily stock of its trajectory and make vicious mental critiques of my endeavors. And I know—based on weekly phone conversations with friends in the United States—that my masochistic drive for success is widely shared among my female friends. Meanwhile, the Dutch women around me take a lackadaisical approach to their careers. They work half days, meet their friends for coffee at 2 p.m., and pity their male colleagues who are stuck in the office all day.

Okay, what caused the Dutch women to take a different path? Less ideological brainwashing by ardent feminists? Or something else?

Less than 10% of Dutch women are employed full-time. That's an incredibly low figure for an advanced industrial nation such as the Netherlands.

Though the Netherlands is consistently ranked in the top five countries for women, less than 10 percent of women here are employed full-time. And they like it this way.

Is the drive for higher status goods lower in the Netherlands? Are McMansions unpopular there? Are Dutch women more free from conditioning to work more?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 November 18 08:09 PM  Culture Compared

Stephen said at November 18, 2010 9:02 PM:

Fascinating. Do Dutch women marry quite young (it would need to be a huge percentage though)? Otherwise I'm tempted to conclude that the 10% stat is wrong.

Walenty Lisek said at November 18, 2010 11:23 PM:

What are the Dutch birth rates? Could they be spending less time working because they made the babies?

Wolf-Dog said at November 19, 2010 1:12 AM:

In Holland, the fertility rate is only 1.77 per woman, which is very low:

Also, we can be sure that Dutch women are not in a hurry to get married at a young age, unless, of course, they are of the other religion that is becoming prominent there.

Furthermore, as of April 2010, the rate of unemployment in Holland is 4.1 %, which is one of the lowest in the European Union:
This low unemployment rate might be because of the fact that women are not working as much as in many other places in Europe or the US, assuming that the 10 % statistics about women's full employment is true.

Thomas said at November 19, 2010 2:30 AM:

Quite interesting if true, the Netherlands being pretty SWPL and all that.
Where did you get that 10% stat from?

A quick search got me this:


Data is from 1992, so it's rather dated, but according to this site the employment rate of women in 1992 as a percentage of total working age population was 50.8%, 63.8% of that was part-time.
Hence approx. 18% of working age women worked full-time. Compare this to 54% for Finland.

So yeah, your stat seems to be conceivable, but do you have any link to your source?

bbartlog said at November 19, 2010 5:08 AM:

Part-time work makes a lot of sense in a European context, no? You don't have to pay for healthcare; you likely don't need a car either for practical or status reasons (at least I would expect that in most of the Netherlands you can do fine without one); and I expect that for cultural reasons they're mostly not trying to buy huge houses. Ergo, take the part time job and enjoy your free time in the cafes sipping lattes. Now I imagine if you're a man, you would still be assessed as a mate in part on your job and its status, so the calculus there could be different.

Maciano said at November 19, 2010 6:00 AM:

There’s a book written about this topic by Marike Stellinga “Mythe van het glazen plafond [Myth of the glass ceiling]”. She was irritated by Dutch feminists who kept agitating for Scandinavian-style quotas and regulations to force women into the workforce. She argued that while most Dutch women work, many just don’t work full-time. Not because men prevent them from doing so, but because women don’t want to. It’s a trade-off between % career and % social life. If given a fair chance to arrange their own lives freely, it turns out that women display different preferences in career paths and life choices than men; less competitive and ambitious, more easy-going and caring. It has nothing to do with traditionalism, because Dutch women are quite emancipated – according to any reasonable standard.

The difference between Dutch and foreign women is the degree to which part-time jobs offer a decent living. There are plenty of challenging, well-paying part-time jobs on the labour market for women in the Netherlands – the amount of 20-28-32 hours a week jobs is huge in the Netherlands. Dutch employees have the right to shorten their work week if they want to, which is unique in Europe. Other European women would do exactly the same, i.e. working less if given the chance, but can’t do it, because part-time jobs in their countries do not pay as well and part-time workers often lose their pension benefits if they started working less. The 10% full-time working Dutch women is incorrect, it’s at least 15%.

Dutch women can have their cake and eat it. Women who want to pursue careers, can do just that; women who want to have a family and a part-time job can do that as well; women who want to focus solely on raising a family can do that too. The Dutch system probably doesn’t help fertility as much as the Scandinavian system does (with all the benefits they offer women). I think the Dutch approach is healthier than the Scandinavian one, because it doesn’t violate the rights of able men with quotas and regulations. Ideologues may not like to see free choice and equal opportunity leading to unequal outcomes, but that’s how it is.

More details on part-time work, for men and women, in the Netherlands here:

dearieme said at November 19, 2010 7:09 AM:

And, of course, Dutch women are much more attractive than American women.

Randall Parker said at November 19, 2010 8:48 PM:


Thanks for your detailed commentary. Quite insightful.


I want to visit the Netherlands and verify this assertion. Then I want to travel on to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland for comparison. Where are the most beautiful women in Europe?

In said at November 20, 2010 7:30 AM:

"They work half days, meet their friends for coffee at 2 p.m"

Hell it would be great if we all did this, male and female. Most full time office workers I know (and I know a lot) seem to feel oppressed by long workdays and the zillion and one obligatory modern chores that are required. I can see it in their faces how much they'd rather have more fun and free time.

Work is good for people, but overrated in America. People serve the economy more and more rather than the economy serving the people. I like ideas of the agrarians thinkers like a living wage and work as an effective tool for orderings one's life (i.e it serves the individual). Now we have an imbalance of too many jobs that don't pay enough to make a living and too many jobs where individuals are exploited as a tool for some corporation. Welcome to the post-modern cultural bankruptcy.

In sum: I think a slightly more work (for its own sake) averse attitude in the west would be good for everyone. Overtime I think it would shift the economy in a healthier direction.

In said at November 20, 2010 7:37 AM:

Interesting tidbit - hunter gatherers spend 3-5 hours a day working: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/hunter-gatherer-leisure-time/

Zorkmid said at November 20, 2010 9:47 AM:

I think one thing holding down Dutch fertility is the difficulty of finding family housing. Most Dutch can't afford to move from small apartments optimized for 1-3 people to larger places, so they avoid having children they "can't afford" (at the level of comfort native Dutch people require to maintain their social status). (Welfare-dependent Dutch muslims are the exceptions who prove the rule-- since they mostly don't work, don't care about status vs. natives, and scream "discrimination" whenever they don't get what they want, they are given priority for government housing-- and each muslim wife gets a separate apartment (the husband just shuttles from one wife's apartment to the next).)

Most of the Dutch live in (cramped) government-owned or -managed housing. Young people join waiting lists for housing as soon as they reach the minimum age (16 IIRC). It is a ritual-- your friends escort you to the housing office early on your birthday so you can try to put your name on the list at the first possible moment. Waiting lists in the more desirable parts of the country are typically 10 years deep.

There is privately-owned housing, both individual properties and apartments. Due to the extreme restriction of development and other anti-market laws, all housing is very costly and several classes of parasites live off excess transaction costs. (For example, private to-lets are not advertised widely, but each only with one of multiple agencies in an area, forcing would-be renters to pay fees to all agencies in order to discover prospective rentals.) Every participant in each prospective transaction demands a bribe. The "agents" and touts who parasitize the overall process maintain their positions by funneling portions of their bribes to local officials.

The Dutch, of course, are trapped in the social-housing/rent-control feedback loop-- grossly-inefficient government provision plus development restrictions, rent controls, and subsidy schemes discouraging private provision leave the few market-price places very costly. Then people imagine that the outrageous prices in the tiny existing market are the prices that would prevail for all housing in a deregulated market, so they demand more anti-market measures instead of fewer! Since much housing is socialized, political rather than economic considerations control too many decisions.

Here is some recent (2010), rather upbeat and optimistic advice for foreigners looking for housing in the NL, which despite its happy tone hints strongly at how dreadful the situation really is:


sg said at November 20, 2010 5:35 PM:

Why does Holland have any immigrants if it is so crowded?

Engineer-Poet said at November 22, 2010 6:38 PM:

If the number of people on waiting lists is a public figure, people should be able to figure out just how much waits would shorten if e.g. all "refugees" were sent home.

Spreading information like this around would be a great way to boost PVV support.

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