Working in the Netherlands
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
UK graduates stand a good chance of finding a job in the Netherlands, especially with one of the many large, international companies in the country and if they speak Dutch and/or other languages.
The vast majority of first job offers to graduates are temporary one-year contracts. Graduates are expected to have a degree in a related discipline. Employment agencies (uitzendbureaus) are significant players in the job market, and companies frequently use them in the pre-selection of new employees.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: food processing, chemicals, petroleum refining and electrical machinery.
- Shortage occupations: in the IT sector, especially systems analysts and programmers.
- Major companies: ING Group, Royal Dutch Shell, ABN-AMRO Group, Unilever, Aegon, Philips, Heineken, Amstel, Rabobank, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, KPN.
- Average working hours: by law, people cannot work more than nine hours a day and 45 hours a week. The average working week is between 36-40 hours. In business sectors it is becoming common for people to choose a four-day week by working four nine-hour days.
- Holidays: a minimum of 20 days' holiday with most companies offering between 20-30 days per year. Public holidays include Christian festivals and holy days and King’s Day (27 April).
- Tax rates: information about the current tax rates in the Netherlands can be found on Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst) and New to Holland. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
Sending a CV and a letter of application is the most common method of application. It can also be a good idea to phone beforehand with a list of questions. With application letters, it is appreciated if they are written in Dutch, typed out, and are no longer than one A4 page.
A CV based on the UK/Irish model is suitable for applying for jobs in the Netherlands. See application and CV advice for more details on how to construct a good CV.
A great deal of significance is assigned to work placements and other extracurricular activities that display commitment, initiative and experience, so these things can be important in a CV.
The interview process is generally lengthier in the Netherlands, with two or three interviews involved. Referees are usually contacted at the first interview stage, and assessment centres and psychological tests are often part of the selection process. Interviews focus on personality and motivation.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer.
- Career Builder Netherlands – in Dutch only
- Stepstone Netherlands – in English and Dutch
- Vacature Bank Netherlands – in Dutch only
EURES – European Job Mobility Portal is maintained by the European Commission and provides information about job vacancies and a CV-posting service.
Search the Dutch Yellow Pages (Gouden Gids) for recruitment agencies – search for ‘uitzendbureau’. Comprehensive listings are also available from the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (CIETT).
- Algemeen Dagblad – Saturday edition
- De Telegraaf – Saturday edition
- De Volkskrant – Saturday edition
- Intermediair – targeted at students and graduates
- NRC Handelsblad – Saturday edition
- The Netherlands British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) is a useful resource for anyone hoping to start a business in the Netherlands.
- Job fairs, or banenmarkten, are getting more popular but not on the same scale as in the UK. They are only occasionally used for recruitment and are organised by recruitment agencies or universities. A well-known one aimed at graduates is the annual fair, ‘Intermediair Carrieredag’, held in Amsterdam at the end of February/beginning of March.
- The UWV (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen or Employee Insurance Schemes Implementing Body) includes the Dutch public employment service and is responsible for providing advice and information to jobseekers. If you’re an EU citizen, you are entitled to make use of these services free of charge, although services are increasingly going online at Werk Netherlands.
- ACCESS is a not-for-profit organisation that supports the international community in the Netherlands. The organisation provides advice and information for people wanting to settle and work in the Netherlands.
- Try speculative application or networking. It is customary to telephone the company in advance of a speculative application. If an employer has no vacancies, they will usually keep speculative applications on file. Create a profile on LinkedIn and network online.
Getting work experience
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both under and postgraduate students can study abroad for 3 to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between 2 weeks and 12 months.
Work placements and internships
Work experience is highly regarded in the Netherlands. Well-developed structures are in place, particularly in the areas of IT, business and engineering. To find a placement, speculative applications are normal, but it is necessary to have a working knowledge of the language.
The student/recent graduate-run international organisation AIESEC offers placements for business and economic students.
IAESTE (The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) organises course-related work experience for engineering, science and technology students.
If you want to teach in a Dutch school you may be required to speak Dutch, depending on the relevant school authorities. Learn Dutch provides distance learning courses at various levels. Information on working as a teacher in the Netherlands can be found on Educaide.Teaching information and jobs are also available at Teach Abroad Netherlands.
There are a lot of opportunities for casual work in the Netherlands, especially temporary seasonal work in agriculture, horticulture and the hotel sector. Jobs are widely advertised in the media and with recruitment agencies.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
Gap year opportunities include working at campsites or in the tourism industry. Look at websites like iGapyear for inspiration.
Voluntary opportunities in the Netherlands can also be found on Volunteer Abroad.
Do you need a visa?
Most EU nationals do not need a visa or work permit but citizens of non-EU countries may be required to have these documents.
If you are working in the Netherlands, you will need a Citizen Service Number (burgerservicenummer or BSN, also known as a Sofi (social and fiscal) number) which indicates you have been registered in the tax and social security system. You can obtain a BSN when you register with the municipality where you live.
If you're planning to stay for longer than four months, you'll need to register with the personal records database (BRP) at your local municipality.
EU citizens do not have to find a job before moving to the Netherlands. However, with the relatively expensive cost of living, particularly in rented accommodation, it may be beneficial to have a job lined up prior to moving.
If you’re from a non-EU country, applications may be made via the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (Imigratie-en Naturalisatiedienst, or IND. There is a ‘Residence Wizard’ on the website where you can learn rules of residency in the Netherlands and how to apply. Also check with your Embassy about whether you need a visa or work permit to work in the Netherlands.
All non-EU nationals applying for a Netherlands visa while in the UK should do so in person through the Royal Netherlands Embassy in London or the Netherlands consulate in your area.
New to Holland is a useful source for visa, employment and tax information, and more.
Living in the Netherlands
- Cost of living: most people spend a very substantial part of their income on fixed living expenses. The standard of living is higher than the UK and the social welfare system is generous.
- Internet domain: .nl
- Currency: Euro.
- Health: private health suppliers manage the Dutch healthcare system. If you’re paying income tax in the Netherlands, you are required to purchase a basic health insurance with a Dutch insurance company. The length of your stay is important in determining if you need this insurance or not. If you're only visiting or staying for less than four months, you do not need to purchase insurance. If you are a long-term resident or earn a salary, you do. Healthcare treatment is usually free for UK nationals. You should make sure you obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Dutch insurance card if you are living in the Netherlands. It is important to be treated by a state healthcare provider, as private healthcare is not covered.
- Type of government: constitutional monarchy.
- Laws and customs: you're required to show valid ID on request. The Netherlands has a reputation for being tolerant on the use of so-called ‘soft drugs’. In reality, drugs are prohibited, and this tolerance exists only for designated premises. Possession of prohibited substances or the purchase of them outside these designated areas can carry a prison sentence. Tobacco smoking has been banned in restaurants, cafes, pubs, clubs and hotels. Smoking zones are permitted, although food and drink can’t be served in them. Dutch culture is very open to gay relationships, and the law recognises these relationships. In 2001, the Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.
- Emergency numbers: 112 – general emergency.
- People: 81% Dutch, 5% from EU countries and 14% other (including Turkish, Surinamese, Indonesian, Moroccan and Caribbean).
- Major religion: Christianity.