Broad wellbeing lags despite economic growth

Economic growth is not as yet reflected in a balanced increase in broad wellbeing for Dutch households. Although gross domestic product (GDP) per capita returned to the level seen before the crisis last year, the same does not apply to broad wellbeing. There are also large regional variations in broad wellbeing within the Netherlands, as shown by the 2017 Broad Wellbeing Indicator (BWI) published by Rabobank and Utrecht University . This new comprehensive measure shows the regional variations in the Netherlands for the first time.

Rabobank is an engaged bank and therefore broader themes such as these are also important. Factors such as health and the environment are important to our customers and members aside from economic growth. Instead of GDP per capita, the BWI measures not only the economic situation but also other factors influencing the wellbeing of Dutch people, such as unemployment, job security, education, health, the environment, housing, security and happiness. The new feature this year is that the BWI reveals the regional variations in the Netherlands for the first time. And these variations are significant. For instance, general prosperity is lower in urban areas than in rural areas.

Still no recovery since the crisis

Until now, the wellbeing of people has usually been measured by GDP per capita. But GDP per capita is only one side of the story, because wellbeing is not only expressed in the financial position of Dutch people. We often see our national economy growing in terms of GDP, while this is not reflected in the wellbeing of households. This is also the message of the BWI 2017: broad wellbeing and economic growth in the Netherlands are clearly developing differently. It is especially notable that while GDP per capita had already returned to its pre-crisis level in 2016, the same is not yet true for the BWI. In other words, general prosperity has not yet recovered since the crisis.

Broad Wellbeing Indicator (BWI)

Development of the BWI 2017

The BWI measures 11 dimensions that index general prosperity in the Netherlands. These various dimensions have shown a very different development over the past 13 years. The dimensions jobs and housing have fallen sharply as a result of higher unemployment, greater flexible employment and lower housing satisfaction. On the other hand, health, safety and the environment have sharply improved. Life expectancy is higher, violent crime has fallen and particulate emissions have been sharply reduced.

Regional insight

As a result of the decentralisation of government responsibilities to the municipalities in 2015, major decisions are increasingly being taken at regional level. The 2017-2021 coalition agreement is a further move in this direction with its geographical spreading of investment. This year, the Broad Wellbeing Indicator shows the differences between the regions of the Netherlands for the first time, and thus offers an excellent starting point for policymakers when tackling regional issues.

Large differences between rural and urban areas

We note that there are significant regional variations in broad wellbeing in the Netherlands. 'What is notable is that the three major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague have the lowest levels of broad wellbeing in the Netherlands. This is mainly due to their lower scores on safety and housing’ says Rabobank economist Martijn Badir. The more rural regions are generally better off. The regions with the highest levels of general prosperity are North and South-West Drenthe and Het Gooi.

  • The Wellbeing Indicator measures all aspects of prosperity