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Netherlands - Overview

Contents extracted from the comprehensive atlas of international trade by Export Entreprises


Capital:: Amsterdam
Area:: 42 km2
Total Population:: 16.755
Annual growth rate:: 0.00%
Density:: 497.00/km2
Urban population:: 84%
Population of Amsterdam (1.536), Rotterdam (1.187), The Hague (1.011), Einhoven (440)
Official language: Official languages: Dutch and Frisian.
Other languages spoken: Commercial languages: English, German and Spanish. In the Netherlands, the official language is Dutch. However, it is important to note the growing use of English, German and Spanish in business.
Business language: The majority of the population speaks English, which is the most used language in trade.
Ethnic Origins:: Dutch 81%, Western 8%, Non-Western 9% (Turks 2,2%, Moroccans 2%, Surinamese 2%, Antilles & Aruba 0,8%), other non-Western 2%.
Beliefs: Roman Catholic 31%, Dutch Reformed 13%, Calvinist 7%, Muslim 5.5%, other 2.5%, none 41% (2002).
Telephone codes:
To make a call from: 0
To make a call to: +31
Internet suffix:: .nl
Type of State::
A constitutional monarchy based on parliamentary democracy.
Type of economy::
High-income economy, OECD member
An economy which is heavily based on foreign trade; third largest world exporter of agricultural and market gardening products.

Economic overview

The Netherlands is the fifth largest economic power in Europe and the fifth largest exporter of goods. The country has been hit hard by the global crisis and later the eurozone crisis because of its dependence on foreign trade.

The Dutch economic growth has been negative for the past two years, due to weak domestic demand (-1% in 2013), which should strat recovering in 2014 (0.5%) thanks to investment and public spending.

The Dutch economy, long considered a model of success in the eurozone, has been badly impacted by the series of recessions. State debt continued to increase in 2013 and now represents around 75% of the GDP, investment is falling, domestic consumtion remains sluggish and the housing market is undergoing a severe crisis. Public finances have plunged into the red, beyond the allowance of the European Stability and Growth Pact. The government's priority is fiscal consolidation, with the aim of rebalancing public finances. In 2014, the deficit should be reduced to 3.2% of the GDP (compared to 3.9% in 2013) thanks to massive budget cuts of around 6 billion euro, especially in welfare programmes. Reducing inquealities is also among the government's priorities.

The Netherlands has a very high per capita revenue, with a relatively equal distribution of revenues. The GDP/per capita ration is above the EU average. The unemployment rate, which for a long time was practically non-existent, has been rising strongly since 2008, and should reach 8% of the active population in 2014, which represents a 30-year record level.

Main industries

The agricultural sector represents 2% of the country's GNP. The yields are high and the use of the agricultural surface area is very intensive. Nearly 60% of the production is exported, either directly or through the food industry, what makes of the Netherlands the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world (after the U.S.). Cereals, potatoes and horticultural products are the main crops.
Industrial activity, practically, generates nearly a quarter of the GNP through food-processing, the petro-chemical industry, metallurgy and also the transport equipment industry. The Netherlands is also amongst the major producers and distributors of oil and natural gas.
Services account for almost 75% of the national income and they are mainly centered on transportation, distribution, logistics, banking and insurances, water engineering and new technologies. The Netherlands is Europe's number one in the field of ocean freight.

Foreign trade overview

The Dutch prosperity has always been based on its international trade. With high-tech industries and services, foreign trade is one of the main pillars of the Dutch economy, representing over 155% of GDP (average 2010-2012). The level of the country's trade openness (the share of imports plus exports of goods and services in the GDP) is usually over 100%, making it one of the most open and most outwards-oriented economies in the world. Rotterdam is the largest European port, thanks to its strategic geographic location, which makes the Netherlands a European trading hub.

The Dutch trade balance is structurally a surplus and this trend should continue. In 2013, the trade surplus increased due to imports falling more quickly than exports. The country's main trade partners are the European Union, the United States and China.


The UNCTAD 2013 World Investment Report classifies the Netherlands as one of the largest potential investors for 2013-2015. A strong international orientation and a liberal policy towards foreign investment are the characteristics of the Netherlands' policies in this field.  Many Dutch companies are multinational by nature and a large number of these are listed on the foreign stock markets.  There are no regulatory restrictions on foreign direct investment. After slowing down in 2012, FDI again recovered in 2013, a trend which should become stronger in 2014 thanks to the improvement of the global economic situation.
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