Low percentage of highly skilled migrants working in the Dutch labour force

A recent report by the Central Bureau of Statistics, commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, looked at how much is the Netherlands able to get and keep foreign talent in the form of highly skilled migrants, NOS reports.

The Netherlands has always been a cosmopolitan country, and highly skilled migrants have played an important role in its society, culture and history since the Dutch Golden Age. How is the country faring nowadays in this matter?

What do the statistics say?

The report shows that over 4% of the Dutch labour force is formed of highly skilled migrants, with an average number of 383,000 people, who are either highly skilled or are general international job seekers.

There’s been an overall increase if one looks at the trends over the past 15 years, with an increase from 2,7 to 4,2% of the highly skilled migrants working in the labour force.

In comparison to nearby countries, the United Kingdom has a share of their respective labour force made out of 9% highly skilled migrants, while Belgium has a share of 7%. The top of the list Luxembourg, where a whopping 25% of the labour force is formed out of highly skilled migrants.  The lowest-ranked on the list is Finland, with only 2%. The Netherlands comes only as second lowest, after Finland.

What do the highly-skilled migrants in the Netherlands do?

A majority of the highly skilled migrants work in the service sectors, in jobs ranging from managerial positions to technicians. Two-thirds of them work at a high-level professionally. As with the general trend within the Dutch labour force, many of them work independently, with the highest percentage of independent highly skilled migrants in the report, at 20%. A lot of the independent workers can usually be found in commercial services.

Places of origin of highly skilled migrants

The report shows that quite a lot of the migrants come from outside Europe. South America is one of the highest places of origin of the migrants, usually Suriname and the Antilles, which is understandable given the colonial past of the Netherlands with these countries.

Overall, the country wishes to implement new policies to attract even more foreign talent, in order to have an impact on research and innovation in the Netherlands.

Should the Netherlands do more to attract foreign talent? Let us know in the comments.

Feature Image: Free-Photos/Pixabay



Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad was born and raised in Brasov, Romania and came to the Hague to study. When he isn't spending time missing mountains or complaining about the lack of urban exploration locations in the Netherlands, you can find him writing at Dutch Review.


  1. In my opinion, the Netherlands is a great place to live, work and study. The reality of the matter is that, some highly skilled migrants might not find the right jobs easily due to language barriers, insufficient job market orientations and a subtle competition between the native Dutch Citizens and foreign skilled migrants. Therefore, these skilled migrants move to places where they can communicate freely in English language and where they are not restricted to climb the ladders of success in their career. This is just my thoughts on this matter.

  2. Yes the Netherlands need to do a lot more to attract highly skilled migrants especially in the area of spoken language in the work place. Where it is not absolutely necessary applicants should not be rejected on ground of “insufficient dutch”. Employ them and let them learn more Dutch on the job. Stop the discrimination!!!

  3. I was a CMO and a mentor from India, a post graduate in management. I just shifted to Netherlands as my wife was transferred here. I haven’t even been able to get a job interview here as job postings are mostly in Dutch and there is clearly a preference for local talent which while good means that international immigrants come here only through transfers within their organisation.

  4. If the Dutch government (and business) wants more skill migrants – open the support networks for true innovators from all nations.

    As I recall: ‘Once upon a time’ the government ran a service (‘Innovations NL’) to which independent Inventors could submit their designs for market evaluation. The stated goal of this venture was to increase/maintain gainful employment for Dutch citizens in the development/manufacture and export of products resultant from those designs.

    With the more recent adoption of ‘carbon-footprint’ policies it would seem there is an ever growing need for innovations which could replace/improve existing technologies which cause/contribute to ‘climate change’ and the increasingly poorer health resulting from these older polluting technologies.

    Some years earlier I submitted a proposal for ‘partnering’ through the EU ‘Cordis’ website, a proposal which resulted in several positive responses from SMEs, corporate giants and universities (including Delft). It ALSO elicited a letter of support from the EU Commission Vice-President for Energy and Transport (Loyola de Palacio).

    Unfortunately I had no legal schooling or consul to protect my interests in my own innovation so the project never proceeded beyond the design stage. I’d lost ownership of a few of my other innovations to a corporate giant in the IT field – and was ‘terminated’ shortly thereafter with my supervisors (PhD scientists) credited with MY innovations in:
    semiconductor fabrication,
    high resolution printer design,
    and full-duplex fiber-optic data transceiver design.

    I’ll gladly contribute my innovations (existing and future) in exchange for sponsored migration to the Netherlands/EC and the collaborative support needed to bring them to fruition but there must first be a Dutch programme which encourages inward migration of skilled workers.


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