Dutch people want to care for their children, not the elderly

People in the Netherlands see it as their responsibility to stay home to care for their children, and most don’t want more than three days of childcare. Two-thirds, however, feel that it is the government’s job to care for the elderly.

Only five percent of Dutch people would like four or five days of childcare, and 37 percent want no subsidised childcare at all.

Goals of the Rutte administration

This is in stark contrast with one of the main goals of the Rutte cabinet that wants seniors to increasingly stay at home and be cared for by family and friends.

The Dutch government also wants to make childcare much more affordable in order to encourage a return to the job market.

Survey of Dutch attitudes

The Social and Cultural Planning Bureau (SCP) and the University of Utrecht recently conducted a survey among the Dutch population to gain more insight about attitudes towards the care for the young and the elderly.

Their findings were published the first week of January, 2016 in the Tijdschrift voor Arbeidsvraagstukken (Magazine for Labour issues).

Caring for the young and old

The Dutch attitude towards the elderly was explained by the researchers as follows. Senior citizens, more often than not, no longer reside with their adult children, which means it takes more effort for the family to be with them and meet their needs.

It is also a characteristic of the culture in the Netherlands, according to the researchers. The Dutch government spends more tax money on care than many other European nations.

It is also far more pleasant to care for healthy children than unwell older people. Elderly care can often become painful and confronting for the family when health decline sets in, according to the authors.


One of the conclusions is that the attitude of Dutch people forms a possible obstacle to the goals of the Rutte administration.

While it is not a politically motivated study, the researchers do address the basic assumptions of the government: that childcare is inherently good for parents as it allows them to work more and that it benefits the child’s development.

Residential facilities for seniors, on the other hand, are seen as inherently negative, something the authors of the publication claim is not supported by research.

Impact on tax base

The authors suspect the government has other motives for its position. It is more beneficial for the job market, and therefore tax revenue, if parents make use of childcare.

Care for one’s elders typically occurs towards the end of one’s career or after pension, so there is less impact on a person’s productivity in terms of being a tax payer.


Men and women taking care of old or sick family members or friends, mantelzorgers, do exhibit more absenteeism, so in this regard there are gains to be made for the job market. Men in particular say their health suffers by being a mantelzorger.

The percentage of working Dutch who also care for someone increased from 13 to 19 percent, between 2004 and 2014. Working mothers increased during the same period from 71 to 78 percent.

Heavier burden for Dutch men?

Despite working mothers having a "second shift" at home with the household, men in the same age group spend 3,5 hours per week more than women on paid and unpaid duties. The reason for this is that more women than men work part-time.

The Netherlands differs from other countries in this regard, as a larger portion of Dutch women do not work full-time and therefore have more time for other things.

Thomas Lundberg


Thomas Lundberg

Born as a Swede in the Netherlands, this life-long expat has spent his time in Belgium, the United States and Amsterdam. He began his professional career as a regional news...

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