The Netherlands sees 18-percent drop in skilled worker migration

The Netherlands sees 18-percent drop in skilled worker migration

New data from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) shows that the number of skilled migrants moving to the Netherlands fell by nearly 20 percent in 2023. With the exception of 2020, this is the first time that the figure has fallen since 2009. 

Fewer highly skilled migrants came to work in the Netherlands in 2023

In 2023, 21.500 highly-skilled migrants (known as “knowledge migrants” or Kennismigranten in CBS figures), moved to the Netherlands for work. That is nearly 5.000 fewer than in 2022, when 26.250 knowledge migrants came to the Netherlands, and therefore represents a drop of 18 percent. 

Barring 2020, when travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on worldwide migration, the number of highly skilled migrants coming to the Netherlands has risen every year since 2009. 2023’s figures therefore bring an end to nearly 15 years of uninterrupted growth. 

Among the highly-skilled workers coming to the Netherlands in 2023, the majority were from India, with 4.520 new arrivals hailing from the south Asian nation, 21 percent of the total. A large number also came from China, Turkey and South Africa - although the Volkskrant reports that the number of expats from all of these nations declined significantly in 2023. 

The number of international students coming to study in the Netherlands did increase last year, with total numbers rising from 20.800 in 2022 to 23.000 in 2023, an increase of 11 percent. With the new coalition government intending to increase tuition fees for international students, however, it seems likely that this number will also decrease in the not-too-distant future. 

Reasons for the decline in migration to the Netherlands not clear

While the CBS did not speculate on the reason for the decrease, the Dutch media has noted that there might be a correlation between the immigration figures and the general election held in the Netherlands last year, in which much of the rhetoric was dominated by anti-immigration sentiment. 

The new Dutch government has pledged to cut down on the number of residence permits issued in the Netherlands by tightening entry criteria for highly skilled migrants. It also has plans to limit the 30 percent ruling, a tax advantage that has helped to increase the attractiveness of the Netherlands as a destination for foreign workers. 

Thumb image credit: Konstantin Tronin /

Abi Carter


Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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