The Dutch complain much, do they have reason to do so?

October 11, 2008 — 5 Comments

It would be bad if these were profit numbers

Dutch people complain a lot, a statement easily found on many blogs. A recent research showed that Dutch citizens are very busy when it comes to personal freedom, opportunities and consumption power. With the current crisis’s (credit, financial, energy, commodity, aging society) the long term continuity of these valued privileges are under serious threat. But are the Dutch seeing this situation? Do they feel the urgency of action? Are there enough Dutch people who are strong enough to really take action instead of just complaining? I trust that there is enough spirit amongst this reasonable folk, they just have to find their drive …

The Dutch are a decent folk
As said before, the Dutch are reasonable folk and can implement a decent household for ‘BV Nederland’. A brief glance at the economic numbers of July shows immediately that the Netherlands is one of the best students in the class, especially amongst the ‘old-west’ class mates:

  • Economic growth +2,8% (Germany +1,7%; France +1,1%; UK +1,4%; Eurozone +1,6%)
  • Unemployment 3,9% (Germany 7,6%; France 7,2%; UK 4,0%; Eurozone 7,3%)
  • Inflation 3,0% (Germany 3,1%; France 4,0%; UK 4,4%; Eurozone 7,3%)

I think their way of consensus has really helped them to keep a decent economy. But things are changing rapidly, will the Dutch be fast enough to see the urgency and necessity of decisions? They just have to reach this point, because the decision making will be very decent …

So why are they outsiders and distrusting?
The research agency Motivaction researched that about 40% of the Dutch consider themselves as ‘outsiders’, not caring about collective society issues but merely their personal well being and consumption power. Other research showed that 20% of the Dutch are unsatisfied with how things are, 27% don’t have a lot of trust how things are going and the same time easily hate different groups in society. These number seem serious and we might easily conclude that The Netherlands will not change fast enough to cope with the global crisis’s.

This would be a pity and a waiste, because the Dutch society takes care of it’s people quite well. The difference between rich and poor is relatively small, poverty is minimal. So why do the Dutch complain so much? Just look at children of rich parents, many are egocentric, spoiled. They will probably complain when they can’t have a car on their 18th and are told that they can’t have the 3rd vacation in a year. It’s a paradox to say it’s because the decent care system is doing so well, but I think is the reason.

Dutch should not complain too much, the results are strong
The Dutch government and people do not need to complain too much, because the people are strong and can fix huge problems. Just look at the results the Dutch have accomplished, while they were complaining:

Rigid employment laws:

  • Complaints: For years employers often complained about the employment laws were too rigid. This would make the labor market rigid as entrepreneurs would be afraid to attract employees, as employees cannot easily be fired once they get a permanent contract.
  • Facts: While the social partners in The Netherlands discuss, debate, complain and argue for many years about this subject, Holland has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe. Even with the crisises around the world, the unemployment rate in Holland still dropped from June (4,1%) to July (3,9%) and August (3,8%)

Weakening pension system:

  • Complaints: The Dutch have been occupying themselves about how to keep the pension system sustainable for future generations. While the aging society causes a decrease in the labor force, a standard government workweek is 36 hours. And people are still thinking about getting their pension at 60-65 while the value of the pension portfolio has dropped double digits in the past months;
  • Facts: The Dutch pensionfunds have 600 Billion Euro’s in cash, while they only give out 20 Billion each year. And compared with other countries, the Dutch pension ± 110% of their GDP and others are far behind. UK ± 80%, EU ± 30%, Germany ± 20% and France ± 7%.

Weakning competitive position:

  • Complaints: High salaries and decent employee benefits, high income tax regimes, increasing amount of traffic jams, weakening position of Schiphol and Rotterdam, aging population … All different why the Dutch fear their competitive position in the world is weakening.
  • Facts: In 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 The Netherlands was ranked 11th respectively 10th by The Global Competitiveness Report. For 2008-2009 they have risen to the 8th position. The main strenghts of the Dutch are within their ‘Technological readiness‘ and ‘Goods market efficiency

Complaints, consensus, improve, drive …
Despite all the complaints, the Dutch share a strong mindset to care for their collective well-being. And with their openness, directness and willingness to improve this small country is well managed to keep their key position in the world. Consensus and collective care are the key for collective improvement, something many developing countries, like the B(64th)-R(51th)-I(50)-C(30) or Ukraine(72) and Vietnam(70),  can still learn from.

If only the Dutch would find more drive, I’m quite sure they can reach the Top 5 in the GCR. But personally I think the increasing diversity within the parliament and government will lead to too much consensus. This might worsen in the coming 5-10 years and might cause a drop to a position 11 – 15, before the urgency is high enough to get them back to the Top 10. But despite the fact that I’m biased, I think the Dutch mentality will still allow them to have a Top 10 ranking. Even in 20-30 years from now when one of the BRIC countries will have puhsed the US from the number 1 position.


5 responses to The Dutch complain much, do they have reason to do so?


    Isn’t complaining just one of the ways to get focus on a problem? And that focus apparantly leads to good resutls. So a bit of complaining now an again to focus on things to improve…. wh not?


    Is this a complaint about complaining? 😉

    In a healthy company the management should keep the employees focused on the positive. But don’t be afraid of complaints, they will keep you as a manager sharp. Don’t forget that a complaint can have a serious cause!


    Complaining works to get attention and any government, management should be wise to listen to it and not just hear it.

    But once the attention is given, are the Dutch strong enough to unity and set aside their individual issues? Usually rules and internal quarrel can blur the main objective. Any group of people and their leaders will get better results if they can look and act beyond the obvious.

    And when the problems and cause are analyzed, are enough people to stand up and do things beyond their responsibilities and comfort? With big enterprises, such people usually fail in political games. But in small companies such people are needed to make the company stronger.


    From one point of view it’s good that I can read much more interesting things in your and other people blogs than in local press here. On other hand this proves once again that Ukraine is far behind the normal 🙂
    The main thing in your post is not the information itself but “why you are analyzing this topic and shares your concerns about complaining”. Everything in this world is relative and I suppose you had a chance (or not a chance but deserved ability) to be in much more places and environments than average dutch-guy so you can compare and think. Maybe I’m not right but it seems to me you should be irritated sometimes when hearing some stupid complaints like “I can’t have one more car” or “why I need to wait for my pension till 60” 🙂
    The thing is that “acting beyond the obvious” can mean quite different things. Publishing a good post in your blog is acting, without a doubt. But then again… who are people reading your blog and maintaining their own blogs? Are they from that ever-complaining crowd? I doubt it. Does it mean that you should stop bogging and switch to directly influencing that crowd? Again I doubt that since life proves you can’t manage the crowd, they will not hear you. Does that again mean that those smaller auditory who read there your blog can’t change the situation? Who knows…
    When a person complaints the complain should go to some recipient. If that is only this person’s friends or family then it is very bad situation. I think dutch can complain because there are units in the government and other parts of the infrastructure who can hear those complains. I’m not sure of that. In Ukraine, for example, I’m sure that no complain will be heard by anyone so it is absolutely useless for people here to complain. Though… they are complaining a lot and have much more reasons to complain than dutch I believe.
    Strong person should never complain. If there is a think one doesn’t like then it should be exposed to the person who is in charge and negotiated. Whatever the environment is the complaining reduces optimistic factor, thus it is bad.

    Thanks for the interesting topic 🙂


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