All is not well in the Netherlands. That was obvious in the June referendum vote, and it is also obvious in the recent economic data. The Dutch economy has been struggling to gain traction of late with poor growth and an actual contraction of 0.5% in the first quarter of 2005. Unemployment too has risen alarmingly for an economy which is often regarded as fairly open and ‘liberal’, from 2% or so at the end of the 90s to around 7% today.
Poverty is also on the rise:
“The most recent preliminary figures from the government’s Bureau for Social and Cultural Planning indicate that at least 11 percent of the Dutch population, or between 700,000 and 800,000 households, lived in poverty in 2004, after the figure had declined steadily in the late 1990s to a low of 10.1 percent in 2000.”
Perhaps not the alarming and dramatic increase the AP writer wants to suggest, but hardly encouraging. Actually I’m not sure I buy the entire slant our journalist/author wants to place on the story either:
“It’s all a sign of economic troubles in a country that is shifting from a traditionally strong social welfare system toward a more free-market approach, with rising health insurance premiums and housing costs. Premiums for health insurance have risen by more than 50 percent on average in the past three years, and are expected to rise by around 10 percent in 2006.
Those trends, combined with government cuts in social spending, have led experts to predict that poverty will worsen in coming years“.
The suggestion here would seem to be that the increase in poverty is a result of the reforms. But don’t demographic factors play a part? If all-over the OECD poverty and old age have a strong correlation, and we now have more old people as a percentage of our society, shouldn’t we, unfortunately, expect poverty to rise? Mightn’t it be that without the reforms things would be worse, not better? And didn’t I read something in the Economist about a soft-landing to the housing boom in the Netherlands, might this not be connected (or be becoming harder)? Any Dutch readers got anything to add?