The economy of the Netherlands still bears the hallmarks of its post-crisis experience. While the initial fall in economic output in 2009 was sharp and driven by a collapse in foreign trade and fixed investment, a short-lived recovery set in from 2010 onwards that was punctuated by a renewed decline in GDP in 2012 and 2013. Private consumption declined alongside fixed investment, aggravated by the pronounced downturn in the housing market from 2010 onwards and by rising uncertainty regarding pension benefits and contribution levels in the country's large second pillar pension system. The scars of the recent crisis still remain visible in households spending and fixed investment levels, which in the fourth quarter of 2015 remained 3 % and 5.5 % below their respective pre-crisis peaks.
The Netherlands is experiencing macroeconomic imbalances. The large and persistent current account surplus has cross-border relevance. The surplus mainly reflects structural features of the economy and policy settings regarding non-financial corporations. The household sector is characterised by a very large debt stock and deleveraging needs. The current account surplus has narrowed slightly since 2013 due to improved cyclical conditions but household deleveraging contributes to maintaining the current account surplus at its high level. Measures have been taken to support the household deleveraging process, but the phasing-in is slow. A package of tax measures is expected to strengthen consumption and thus contribute to a declining surplus in 2016.
Read a complete analysis of the Netherlands' economy in the country report 2016 [2 MB]
2015 recommendations in brief
The Commission has made three country-specific recommendations to the Netherlands to help it improve its economic performance. These are in the areas of: investment in innovation; housing; pensions.