Relatively few international knowledge workers in the Netherlands

Relatively few international knowledge workers in the Netherlands

According to figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Netherlands has relatively few international knowledge workers compared to other EU countries. Between 2016 and 2018, there were around 383.000 international knowledge workers in the Netherlands, accounting for 4,2 percent of the working population. This percentage is pretty modest when you compare it to that of other European countries.

Few international knowledge workers

Compared to the 13 other EU countries in the report, international knowledge workers make up a relatively low percentage of the total workforce in the Netherlands. In fact, the Netherlands comes second to last when it comes to this proportion, with only Finland performing worse with 2 percent of the working population between 2016 and 2018. For extra clarity, an international knowledge worker is defined as someone who is highly educated (university level) but lives and works in a country other than the one they were born in.

Whilst international knowledge workers only make up a small share of the Netherlands’ workforce, their numbers have grown considerably in the last years. In the period 2003-2005, there were, on average, 221.000 working in the Netherlands. Between 2016 and 2018, this figure had grown by 73 percent! Still, 4,2 percent is not a huge amount, especially when you compare this to Luxembourg, which tops the list for this period with 26 percent of the working population being international knowledge workers.

The Netherlands seems to have fallen behind other countries such as the UK, Ireland, Norway, Austria and Sweden, whose international knowledge workers made up 3 percent of the working population back in 2003-2005, but who have now risen above the Netherlands in the chart for the 2016-2018 period. Ireland has even made the jump from 3 percent to 12, putting it in third place on the chart, just behind Switzerland with 13 percent.

Knowledge workers in top-tier jobs

According to CBS, in 2016-2018, two-thirds of international knowledge workers worked in top-tier jobs like managerial or engineering positions. In this regard, the Netherlands is one of the frontrunners, in third place, just behind Luxembourg and Switzerland.

Where the Netherlands does come in on top is the proportion of international knowledge workers in self-employment. For 2016-2018, the Netherlands heads the list with 20 percent, followed by the UK, France, and Belgium, all with a share of 13 percent. The Netherlands was also the only country, apart from the UK, where this proportion increased compared with 2003-2005.

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

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