Pension gap between Dutch men and women is the second-largest in the EU

Retired women in the Netherlands receive pensions more than 40% lower than men, finds Netspare a Tillburg think tank. Cyprian women are the only ones that make less than the Dutch in comparison to men.

One of our writers breaks down this finding, and what it says about Dutch society and the female workforce.

It is a well-known fact to women living in The Netherlands that the gender pay gap discussion is far from over. Always a heated topic (check out the comments on our articles on Facebook), the lingering debate reflects Dutch reality.

Here, women get paid on average 14,6% less than men, which puts the Netherlands below the EU pay gap average and in 10th place among the 27 EU countries. Now a new report has made it clear how this issue affects women’s pension income too.

A justifiable pay gap?

Those who don’t see the status quo as problematic will say that these numbers reflect women’s “preference” for part-time work in the Netherlands, and that, in any case, this is changing.

But is it? Netspar’s report shows that although women nowadays work more and make more money than older generations, the pension convergence curve is flattening. At this rate, the pension gap won’t be closed in the next 20 years (yes ladies, your pension too is on the line!).

Fixing the Dutch pension blues

So how to fix it? The publication of this report is a step in the right direction. Gender-disaggregated data is essential for the creation of policies that consider the differences between women’s and men’s work experiences. And a change in policy is as sorely needed as a change in mentality.

Child care responsibilities

In The Netherlands, one in three Dutchies still thinks that women are more suitable to care for children, something that hasn’t changed in the last 20 years. Although this is a view more widely held by Dutch men than women, the consequences of de-prioritising work to care for the future burdens women disproportionately.

Childcare responsibilities are more often handed to women, making the return to work difficult. Image: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

About 40% more apparently… With social views that are still (surprisingly) traditional, Netspar’s recommendation to increase pension accumulation during parental leave seems like a no-brainer. Hallo, Rutte?

Another takeaway from the report is the worst kept secret in the Dutch samenleving: there should be more leave options for fathers and parents. As some of our nordic neighbours show us, better parental leave assures care responsibilities hurt mums less in their opportunities at work. If Dutch society is as progressive as advertised, shouldn’t this be common practice by now?

Better pensions for women-dominated industries

One of the issues identified by the report was the difference in the pension of workers from sectors dominated by men and women. Lo and behold, the pension plans of male-dominated industries are more generous.

A possible factor in this discrepancy is the fact that women’s higher life expectancy influences pension plans negotiations. But as women are financially penalised for taking up more care work, compensation needs to trickle in somehow. Better pension plans for industries with a female majority seems like a logical place to start.

Knowledge is power

Since a different pension system for men and women in The Netherlands is unlikely, the report suggests improving women’s knowledge about their pensions. Especially, about how making the choice to work less now will impact their pension income.

While government policy doesn’t catch up, knowing where you stand means women can protect themselves better. Call up HR and do your homework, ladies!

No need for feminism in the Netherlands?

Feminists in the Netherlands have long understood the risks of believing in the myth of a perfectly progressive society. In this magical place, fighting for equality for all women is no longer needed.

However, as the report demonstrates, equal rights don’t mean equal outcomes. And as statistic after statistic shows, although Dutch society has come a long way, legalising prostitution doesn’t make us progressive on all women’s issues. There’s much work to be done, and it starts with the recognition that we, our society, and our laws are imperfect.

Are you surprised by the Dutch pension pay gap? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image: PatriyK_Kosmider/Depositphotos

Maria Rita Reis
Maria Rita Reis
Maria Rita is an ex-International Relations teacher on a lifelong affair with the news. She enjoys reading about light topics such as minorities, terrorism, and war. An immigrant, a polyglot and a very curious human, she's always rooting for the underdog. Keeping up with international politics and understanding the power of language are two of her biggest passions. Not surprisingly, a lot of her time is spent drinking obscene amounts of coffee and laughing at silly linguistics memes.


  1. Are we surprised. In some respects women in the Netherlands are miles Behind.

    1950 before a vote and still men can talk about the wives personal business and put them in mental asylum. .

  2. Women are paid less, next to that kindergarten is very expensive. A lot of parents come with calculations that one day kindergarten can cost as much as 1 day working, so they decide to work less, and who gets to do that, well parent with lower salary of course – mother.

  3. I expected NL would be more equitable than the USA in this regard but the situation appears much the same. It may be idealistic to expect any different, at least until men and women start becoming mothers and in equal numbers. Perhaps that’s unrealistic even in this day and age of sexual equality. Or not?

  4. Hm, maybe women get less because… they retire earlier than men?
    Why nobody is raising this question when talking about equality?


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