Netherlands Economics and Business

According to cheeroutdoor, the Netherlands is a small, densely populated country located in Northwestern Europe. It has a population of around 17 million people and its GDP per capita is one of the highest in the world, at US$ 49,000. The Dutch economy is highly developed and open, with a focus on international trade and services. The main industries are agriculture, manufacturing, energy production and services. Agriculture plays an important role in the Dutch economy and accounts for around 3% of GDP. It is also one of the top exporters of agricultural products in Europe due to its highly advanced agricultural technology. The main crops grown are cereals (wheat, barley), potatoes, sugar beet and vegetables (onions, carrots).

The manufacturing sector accounts for about 20% of total GDP with chemicals being the largest component followed by machinery production. Other industries include food processing, electronics production and automotive production. The service sector accounts for nearly three-quarters of total GDP with financial services being its largest component followed by business services such as consulting and IT services. Tourism is also an important contributor to economic growth; it contributed US$ 26 billion to the economy in 2018 alone making it one of the top earners for foreign exchange earnings. In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on renewable energy sources such as wind power which now account for over half of electricity generation capacity in the Netherlands.

Business and Economics

Abbreviated as NED by, the Netherlands is a small country with few natural resources but with an advantageous geographical location in the center of Western Europe at the mouth of the Rhine. The country’s economy is therefore largely characterized by trade: fuel and raw materials are imported and finished goods in agriculture and industry are exported. The metal industry and the petrochemical industry, but also the high-tech agriculture with import of feed and production of quality products, are examples of the country’s trade economy. After Belgium, the import and export value per capita is the highest in Europe. The proportion of employed in agriculture has decreased, while the share of industry first and then the service sector has increased. The country has traditionally a strong economy with low inflation and low unemployment and a positive trade balance.

Netherlands Economics and Business


Year Change in GDP (%) Government debt share of GDP (%) Budget deficit or budget surplus share of GDP (%) Inflation (%) Unemployment of total workforce (%)
2016 1.8 66.6 6.0
2015 1.9 67.6 -1.9 0.6 6.9
2014 1.0 68.2 -2.3 1.0 7.4
2013 -0.5 67.9 -2.4 2.5 7.3
2012 -1.1 66.4 -3.9 2.5 5.8
2011 1.7 61.6 -4.3 2.3 5.0
2010 1.4 59.0 -5.0 1.3 5.0
2009 -3.8 56.5 -5.4 1.2 4.4
2008 1.7 54.5 0.2 2.5 3.7
2007 3.7 42.4 0.2 1.6 4.2
2006 3.5 44.5 0.2 1.2 5.0
2005 2.2 48.9 -0.3 1.7 5.9
2004 2.0 49.6 -1.7 1.2 5.7
2003 0.3 49.3 -3.0 2.1 4.8
2002 0.1 48.2 -2.1 3.3 3.7
2001 2.1 48.7 -0.4 4.2 3.1
2000 4.2 51.4 1.9 2.3 3.7

Source: IMF, OECD and World Bank

During periods, including in the early 1990s and the end of the 1990s, the country has suffered from international economic downturns. After several measures, including deregulation of state operations, the economy has recovered.


About 57 percent of the country’s area is usable land. The Dutch agriculture is largely characterized by the great importance of trade. Agricultural products account for 15 percent of the total export value, which is achieved through specialization: only products that fit the country’s climate and technology are grown. Agriculture focuses on animals (butter, cheese and eggs) and greenhouse cultivation of fruits, vegetables, flowers and bulbs. In Flevoland sugar beets, potatoes and wheat are grown. Large quantities of cereals for both humans and animals are imported. The farms are relatively small; one third has a maximum of 5 ha of land, and only 4 percent have more than 50 ha. The emphasis on animals makes the Dutch cultural landscape a special character with grazing cows on small water-enclosed pastures as the most typical. More than half of the agricultural area is meadow and pasture land.

Within the EU, Dutch agriculture is unique; the production value per hectare is clearly the highest. Since the late 1990s, however, the average farm has increased somewhat in size, while many agricultural land has been taken out of production and transformed into nature reserves and recreation land. Only 11 percent of the country’s area is covered by forest.

  • Paulsourcing: Top 10 tips for doing business in Netherlands, covering country profile and market entry requirement.


In 2010, the Dutch fishing fleet’s total catch was 389,000 tonnes. In the same year, 67,000 tonnes of seafood were grown, mainly mussels. The fisheries sector contributes 0.1 percent to GDP.

Dutch fishing is conducted in the North Sea and in the Eastern Atlantic. Industrial trawlers from Scheveningen, among others, pick up the largest catch. In European waters, catch mackerel, mackerel, herring and hake, are caught off the African coastal mackerel and species in the genus Sardinella. Medium sized fishing boats from bands other Urk fish in the North Sea, mainly for the economically important species heavy and plaice.

Raw material resources and energy supply

The Dutch mineral industry is dominated by the production of sand and gravel, cement, pig iron, steel and salt.

The energy assets are almost exclusively natural gas, which covers about one third of the total energy demand (2009), but also oil is extracted to a limited extent at the German border. Another third of the need is covered by imported oil and the majority of the remainder is covered by peat. One of Western Europe’s largest natural gas deposits is found in Slochteren east of Groningen (discovered in 1959) and natural gas is also extracted in the North Sea. In total, the Netherlands produces 3 percent of the world’s natural gas.


Since the Netherlands largely lacks its own raw materials, industry relies on extensive trade with the outside world. The country’s geographical location at Europe’s important shipping routes has contributed greatly to the development of the industry. The dominant branch (close to 25 percent of the total production value of the industry) is the food industry – the only one that is not entirely dependent on imported raw materials. Then follows the chemical/petrochemical and mechanical industries. The manufacture of electrical appliances, primarily the Philip Group in Eindhoven, as well as the metal and transport industry are other important branches. The country’s only steel plant is located at IJmuiden west of Amsterdam, and the oil refineries are mainly located in Rotterdam harbor.

Foreign trade

Netherlands GDP (Nominal, $USD) 2003-2017

The Netherlands can be said to be completely dependent on the import of raw materials and the export of finished products. During the post-war period and until the early 1980s, imports exceeded exports every year, but now the situation is the opposite. About 75 percent of all exports and 60 percent of imports are with other EU countries, primarily Germany and Belgium/Luxembourg. Other important trading partners are France, the United Kingdom and China. The most important export goods are machinery, transport equipment, chemical products and food. Imports mainly comprise machinery and transport equipment, as well as chemicals.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Find major trading partners of Netherlands, including major exports and major imports with latest trade value and market share as well as growth rate.

Tourism and gastronomy

The Netherlands is visited annually by over 11 million tourists. The country is known mainly for its old cities and its extensive canal system. In the capital Amsterdam there are the four famous canals Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht with preserved older houses and houseboats. In Amsterdam there are also several museums, such as the Rijksmuseum, Rembrandthuis, the van Gogh Museum and Anne Frankhuis. A miniature of Amsterdam can be said to be the city of Delft, while the university city of Utrecht houses popular restaurants along the canals. Outside The Hague is the seaside resort of Scheveningen and Madurodam, a popular miniature town.

Note: the capital city of Netherlands is Amsterdam with a population of 776,000 (however, the government and parliament have seats in The Hague with 490,000 residents) (estimate 2012). Other major cities include Rotterdam with a population of 576,000, Utrecht with a population of 311,000, Eindhoven with a population of 225,000, Tilburg with a population of 210,000 (estimate 2012).

Another popular tourist destination in the spring is Keukenhof and the other flower plantations. To the north are the West Frisian Islands with well-visited seaside resorts. The Dutch fight against the sea is best viewed from two ramparts by road: Afsluitdijk over the former Zuiderzee and the embankment between Enkhuizen and Lelystad in the IJsselmeer.

A mixture of robust simplicity, French sophistication and international (mainly Indonesian) elements characterize the Dutch table. Pots with cabbage, root vegetables and pork or sausage (for example, stew or stew van boerenkool with worst), pea soup and sauerkraut contrast with elegant arrangements of dandruff asparagus and thinly sliced smoked ham; herring (herring dipped in raw onion) against pineapple oysters or fried seaweed. The herring is something of a national dish: salted, fresh, smoked, fried, in salads (haringsta) or pickled. Pancakes are served with syrup, jam and apple mash or as a drip in the pan (‘three in the pan’, with dried fruit and sugar). Desserts and pastries are often powerful; exceptions areHaagse bluff (red currant juice, sugar and whipped egg white) or whey (cream with different flavors). Speculas are baked for Christmas with spiced wheat dough. Indonesian food, mainly rijsttafel, is common in the larger cities.

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