The State of Contract Work in the Netherlands

The Netherlands labour market is thriving. It’s only been lightly affected by the recession, and unemployment rates are actually reducing in the region.

Economic growth was up by 0.6 per cent by the end of 2022 and this, combined with foreign investment encouraged by advantageous tax conditions has helped to position the Netherlands as a competitive place to do business.

Unemployment figures are among the lowest in the EU, standing at 3.5 per cent in March 2023 – well below the EU average of six per cent. Just because such a high percentage of the population is in work, doesn’t mean there isn’t a wealth of jobs to go around, however. There are plenty of vacancies, in fact.

One reason is that the Netherlands is home to a large number of multinational companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, ranked by Forbes as the biggest company in Europe and fifth-biggest in the world. Other big Dutch companies include ING, Unilever and Philips. As a result, highly skilled workers are in great demand.

So much so that there’s a fast-track immigration process to get them in. There are also tax benefits for some international employees, including engineers, those with technical skills and IT specialists.

Flexibility and Contract Work on the Rise

The labour market is also becoming increasingly flexible. Fewer people in the Netherlands are working in permanent employment and more are choosing temporary or contract work. At the end of 2022, the Netherlands had 2.7 million workers in flexible employment compared to the 5.3 million employed on permanent contracts.

The Netherlands is known for its healthy freelance culture, second only to the UK in the contract market space, and temporary work is becoming increasingly popular for employers and employees alike.

From an employer’s point of view, contract workers are helping companies work more efficiently and progress faster. Temporary contracts also allow for the employment of highly skilled workers to fulfil a specific purpose or project, without the long-term commitment of a permanent hire. For employees, key motivators include a more flexible lifestyle, high earning potential and tax benefits.

This is particularly true of technical roles. In our experience, technical professionals are often comfortable with moving from company to company and project to project frequently, in order to expand their skillsets and test out their abilities in varied environments.

Embracing Data and Technology

But that’s not the only reason that we are seeing the Data & Tech contract market swell. The Netherlands has been on a steep digital transformation journey, with businesses becoming increasingly data-driven.

The Netherlands is predicted to be one of the fastest-growing European markets for Data & Analytics with a compound annual growth rate of almost seven per cent, ahead of the UK, Germany and France, and expected market value growth to nearly $4.35bn by 2027.

A KPMG survey into the maturity of data analytics in the Netherlands found that 65 per cent of organisations have developed a data strategy which outlines the role and importance of Data & Analytics within the organisation and sets the roadmap for what is ahead.

Businesses are also clearly taking steps to hire specific expertise, with 52 per cent defining themselves as ‘mature’ in this respect, but the survey suggests that many still have a way to go when it comes to adapting truly widespread data-driven culture.

Harnessing the Freelance Market

With all of this in mind, it’s only logical that a significant part of our Netherlands offering would be dedicated to setting up a contract-specific recruitment division to tap into this surging space.

Our contract team sees a major opportunity in the combined impact of the upward trends of flexible working and the increasing number of companies embracing Data-based decision-making. Both trends lend themselves to an explosion in demand for data professionals offering value on ad hoc basis, and reveals an opening where Harnham, being one of the only agencies focussed on the Data and Analytics contract market, will be at the forefront of delivering into.

It’s worth noting that the Dutch government has been keen to regulate this burgeoning contract trend and therefore we are expecting to see new guidelines for workers’ contracts, such as those released this year around how long temporary workers can leave and return to the same job. So, expect to hear from us on any developments in 2023.

Interested in hiring a data contractor for an upcoming project or expanding your team with a permanent data professional? Our expert team knows the market inside out, and how to reach the best talent out there, get in touch today.

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