I’d long known the factoid that Dutch people generally do the least work of anyone in the world:
But I just today read Jessica Olien’s explanation that this basically amounts to very few women working full-time rather than to Dutch full-time workers taking it easy: “less than 10 percent of women here are employed full-time … [l]ess than 4 percent of women wish they had more working hours or increased responsibility in the workplace, and most refuse extended hours even when the opportunity for advancement arises.”
According to Nicole Bosch, Bas van der Klaauw, and Jan van Ours this is tied up with a number of familiar gender inequities. Women who increase their hours in the paid labor force don’t find that their share of household work responsibilities falls. Consequently, lack of full-time work is closely associated with childbirth. But while these factors are obviously important drivers of women’s labor force participation (or lack thereof), they’re also hardly unique to the Netherlands. Instead, Dutch women seem to have somewhat different subjective perceptions of their household financial needs:
Furthermore, it seems that financial need for long working hours is less severe for Dutch women than for women in other countries. In the Netherlands, less than 40% of women indicate that they do not work less because of financial constraints. In other European countries, where many more women work full-time, over 50% of women say they do not work less due to financial constraints. It should be noted that due to part-time work, about 25% of working Dutch women earn less than what would be considered the minimum income for being financially independent.
This makes me curious about Dutch family structure. Do they have a much lower proportion of single women? It’s worth noting that the Netherlands is among the richest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita a bit above America’s in exchange rate terms and a bit below in PPP terms. They also have a more equitable distribution of income and higher-quality public services, so the median Dutch household is in fact more financially secure than the median household in pretty much any country. So to return to Olien’s article, I think it would be a mistake to say that Dutch women are happy because so few of them are involved in full-time work. I would say instead that most Dutch women are happy because Dutch people enjoy an extremely high material standard of living (you should really see what passes for a slum in the Netherlands, it’s absurd) and that this reflects itself in part via women’s disinclination to toil for long hours in jobs they don’t find rewarding.