Women's labour force participation

Many women in the Netherlands are not in work or work part-time. As a result, about 1 in 6 women do not have enough money to be economically independent. Their income is less than 70% of net minimum wage. The government wants to increase women’s economic and financial independence.

Increasing women’s economic and financial independence

The economic and financial gaps between men and women are getting smaller. But the government wants even more women to be economically independent and able to support themselves financially. One way to achieve this is to prevent gender pay discrimination. Gender pay discrimination means paying men more than women for the same work.

When women are not economically independent, they run financial risks. Women need to be aware of this. If they get a divorce or their partner becomes unemployed, the financial consequences can be serious. Financially independent women can make their own choices. They have a stronger position in society.

There is a big difference between the share of men and women who are financially independent. The government wants to reduce that gap. That should further improve women’s freedom of choice.

More women in the workforce

Women often do most of the housework and childcare. The government wants to make it easier for both women and men to combine work and care. For example, by encouraging companies to make agreements with their employees about flexible working times. And by expanding the options for taking time off or providing a financial contribution towards the costs of childcare.

The labour participation of women in the Netherlands is high in comparison to other European countries. But many women work part-time and not always by choice. Some women choose to work part-time in order to combine work and care responsibilities. But there are some disadvantages to working part-time. Working fewer hours means less income. It also limits opportunities for professional development and financial independence. Financial inequality between men and women is perpetuated by part-time work. This difference is also strongly reinforced by stereotypical role patterns.

Increasing opportunities for women with poor job prospects

Some women are unemployed because it is difficult for them to find a job. For example, people who have difficulty reading and writing have a hard time getting work. There are many women who have low literacy skills. The government is working to help specific groups of women improve their chances of finding a job, such as:

  • women with little education;
  • women with a work disability;
  • single mothers;
  • women with a migration background.

To help these women improve their job prospects, the government is working with important partners like the municipalities and the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV).

The government is encouraging women who do not have paid jobs and/or receive social security benefit to discover their talents. The project Education for Women with Ambition (EVA) offers empowerment training, language training and/or job market orientation programmes.

More women at the top

The number of women in senior positions is still too low, especially at top management level. In the government’s view, the promotion of women to senior positions in organisations is happening too slowly. Using all the talent within our society will boost economic growth.

Targets for women in senior positions

The government would like men and women to be equally represented in senior positions. With that goal in mind, a quota was introduced on 1 January 2022 for companies listed on the Dutch stock exchange. In time, the supervisory boards of these companies must be composed of at least one-third women and one-third men. Each new appointment to the board must help meet this target.

In addition, the 5,000 largest companies in the Netherlands are required to:

  • set appropriate and ambitious targets;
  • draw up an action plan for achieving these targets;
  • report their results each year to the Social and Economic Council and include this information in their directors’ report.