Finding a Job

Finding jobs in the Netherlands

Looking to boost your income without dipping into your savings? Here’s what you need to know about jobs, training options, and dismissals in the Netherlands.

jobs in the Netherlands
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Updated 16-5-2024

Finding a job in the Netherlands takes more than just translating your CV. You’ll need to know about the requirements for international employees (such as Dutch visa regulations and work permits), the current job market, and how and where to find the most up-to-date vacancies (vacatures).

Get ready to launch your career in the Netherlands once you’ve read the following:

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Work in the Netherlands

The job market in the Netherlands

Dutch unemployment figures are among the lowest in the European Union (EU), standing at 3.5% in March 2023 (compared to 6%). Youth unemployment stands at 8%, well below the EU average of 14%.

The Netherlands has a relatively stable economy, with plenty of foreign investment due to advantageous tax conditions. As such, the country is home to a wide range of international and multinational companies. Dutch internationals alone include ING Group, Royal Dutch Shell Group, Unilever, Philips, and Heineken. There are also plenty of recruitment agencies aimed at placing foreign workers in the Dutch workforce.

Areal view of high-rise office buildings in Amsterdam.
High-rise offices along the Amstel River in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Photo: Marc Rauw/Getty Images)

There are a number of thriving and growing job sectors in the Netherlands. These include:

  • Agriculture and food
  • Creative industries
  • Chemicals
  • Energy
  • IT
  • Health and life sciences
  • Logistics
  • Service and hospitality

Unemployment rate and job vacancies

There were 442,000 jobs available in the Netherlands at the end of 2022. This includes nearly 35,000 public sector jobs. Sectors with the highest number of vacancies include commercial services, wholesale and retail, business services, manufacturing and energy, and health and social work.

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 (the 30% tax ruling) for some international employees, including engineers, technical workers, IT specialists, finance bros, and experienced sales, marketing, and customer service employees.

Work and business culture in the Netherlands

The Dutch usually work 36–40 hours per week. Working hours are typically between 09:00 and 17:00, although out-of-hours and shift work is also common. Unless working in hospitality or at the managerial level, employees are not expected to work overtime (and it’s even frowned upon).

In general, business is very well-structured within organizations. Dutch society is relatively egalitarian and this translates into the workplace. In fact, companies often have a horizontal organizational structure and they usually follow step-by-step plans.

Labor laws and rights in the Netherlands

Dutch labor laws are quite extensive and offer protection to employees in terms of work hours, holidays, and rules around dismissal. Your contract should specify the full details of your employment including the length of the contract, employee rights, and work conditions.

A number of Dutch industries also have collective labor agreements (collectieve arbeidsovereenkomsten – CAO). Employees can benefit from these even if they do not belong to a union.

The average salary in the Netherlands

Maddeningly, the gender pay gap in the Netherlands stands at 14.2%, above the EU average of 13% (2020). That means that – on average – women earn 14,2% less than men. This is also reflected in the average job salary. According to the Central Bureau for Statistics (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek – cbs), men earned an average of €47,930 per year and women only earned €31,290 per year.

Small startup team in a business meeting.
Photo: Drazen_/Getty Images

Sectors with the highest annual salaries (2023) are:

  • Banking (€67,548)
  • Legal sector (€63,504)
  • Chemistry, oil, and energy (€61,482)

You can find more information about salaries for different sectors in the National Professional Guide (Nationale Beroepen Gids).

In terms of average overall salaries, the Netherlands has the fifth-highest average hourly wage costs in the EU. Gross costs work out at €40.50/hour compared to the EU average of €30.50/hour. The Dutch minimum wage is dependent on age and reviewed bi-annually. The current monthly minimum wage for those aged over 20 is €1,756.20.

Requirements to work in the Netherlands

Who needs a work visa in the Netherlands?

If you’re from the EU or the European Free Trade Association (EFTA – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), you are free to live and work in the Netherlands without the need for a work visa or residence permit. However, you will need to register with the Dutch authorities.

If you’re from anywhere else, your employer will typically need a work permit (tewerkstellingsvergunning or TWV) for you, and you must also hold a residence permit.

Most employees will qualify for a single work and residence permit. That said, some categories of people, such as international students and seasonal workers, still need separate work and residence permits. Others, such as highly skilled workers and holders of the EU Blue Card, only need a residence permit. They’ll have the work permit included in their visa.

Language requirements to work in the Netherlands

You don’t have to speak Dutch to work or live in the Netherlands. In fact, the Dutch rank 1st out of 111 countries in English-language skills. Many companies even have it as their main business language.

That said, being able to speak Dutch does increase your chances of getting a job. You will probably end up working for a large international company like Uber or Adidas if you don’t. Similarly, if you work for a smaller company, you will generally need to understand Dutch to participate in small talk during lunch hours.

Colleagues laughing and talking during a fancy lunch.
Photo: LeoPatrizi/Getty Images

Aside from English, working knowledge of French, German, Spanish, or a Scandinavian language are always in demand.

Qualifications to work in the Netherlands

Your chance of finding work in the Netherlands is greater if you hold at least a Bachelor’s degree. To find out whether your qualification is recognized or your profession is regulated in the Netherlands, visit Nuffic (the organization for international cooperation in education).

When you get a job interview, you’ll likely need to show original testimonials or references from former employers. You can always upload them to LinkedIn if your former employers are based outside of the Netherlands.

Tax and social security numbers in the Netherlands

Before you can start your job, you will need a Citizen Service Number (burgerservicenummer – BSN). This is a personal tax and social security number that is necessary for almost anything official in the Netherlands – including opening a bank account. You should apply for this at your local city hall shortly after you arrive in the country.

Job listings in the Netherlands

Expatica’s job board

On the Expatica job board, you can find a constantly changing selection of English-speaking and multi-language vacancies. Job opportunities include sales, IT, and other industries in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and other major cities in the Netherlands.

EURES

If you’re from the EU/EFTA region, you can find jobs in the Netherlands on the EURES (European Employment Services) website. EURES is a job portal network maintained by the European Commission and is designed to facilitate free movement within the EU.

UWV

The Employee Insurance Agency (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen – UWV) is a government organization responsible for unemployment benefits. They also have a website for job vacancies and have a network of partner sites and employment agencies.

You can also visit one of their branches to get advice and information. Be aware, however, that this will bring a lot of administrative paperwork and headache.

Other job websites

Like everywhere else in the world, many companies will list their job vacancies online.

Woman working with laptop while drinking coffee at cafe.
Photo: Oscar Wong/Getty Images

Job websites for Dutch and English-speaking vacancies in the Netherlands include:

Recruitment agencies

Dutch companies often rely on recruitment agencies (uitzendbureaus) to find their next employee. These agencies not only support people in finding employment but also screen potential recruits on behalf of employers.

In some cases, you are contracted by the agencies rather than your place of work. In that case, the employment agency (detacheringsbureau) will pay your wages. You should what is what before signing any dotted line.

Job websites of agencies for speakers of English and other languages:

Websites of specialist job agencies:

Company job websites and speculative applications

If there are no vacancies listed for the companies you’d like to work for, you should consider writing them an unsolicited application (open sollicitatie). While more popular among older generations, there are some organizations that still appreciate the gutsy approach.

Older woman is smiling during a job interview.
Photo: Lucy Lambriex/Getty Images

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) also posts a list of recognized employers/sponsors who have permission to bring highly-skilled workers to the Netherlands with preferential immigration conditions, including not needing a work permit. You can contact the individual companies on the list to find what jobs in the Netherlands might be available.

Jobs in Dutch newspapers

Some Dutch print newspapers also list job vacancies, although these are generally senior positions within international companies. For example:

Networking in the Netherlands

Finding work through personal contacts, word-of-mouth, and social media is very common in the Netherlands. While nepotism (vriendjespolitiek) is a dirty word, it always works in your favor to know a current employee.

Larger Dutch cities especially have expat networking groups, business clubs, and professional associations. For example:

Meetup can also put you in touch with like-minded people across the Netherlands. Its groups can be work- or interest-related and, if you don’t see a group that suits your interests or job, you can always create your own to see who joins.

International Job Fair for expats in the Netherlands

The annual Job Fair for Internationals allows you to meet prospective employers face-to-face, make contact with multilingual recruiters, and take part in workshops to improve your job-hunting efforts.

Tips for finding work in the Netherlands

No matter the job you are looking for, you should always build up a strong online profile (e.g., on LinkedIn). If you are more of the creative type, you can also create an online portfolio, website, blog, or even video channel. This is a great way of showcasing your abilities so that you don’t have to keep repeating yourself to potential employers.

Man wearing a beanie and headphones talking into a professional-looking microphone.
Photo: Anchiy/Getty Images

Many recruitment agencies in the Netherlands will ask you to register with them so they can actively help you find work. Tips for dealing with agents include:

  • Provide an up-to-date CV reflecting your education, skills, and work experience
  • Regularly visit the agency in person to build up a rapport with the recruitment staff
  • Treat any face-to-face meetings with staff like you would a job interview (including dressing appropriately)
  • Stay on top of the available job vacancies by checking the website on a daily basis

Be sure to research your new employer as well. For example, you can see reviews from current and past employees on the website Glassdoor. If you’re looking for information on a particular company, you can also Google the company name alongside the words “employee reviews” or “employee feedback.”

Self-employment and freelancing in the Netherlands

Approximately 15.8% of the Dutch population are self-employed, including many foreign residents. Anyone can start their own business in the Netherlands if they have a residence and work permit.

There are various different business structures in the Netherlands, including sole trader (eenmanszaak) or private limited company (besloten vennootschap – BV). You can also work as a freelancer (zelfstandige zonder personeel – ZZP). However you set yourself up, you will need to register at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (Kamer van Koophandel – KvK) and follow the correct procedures around issues such as taxation and accounting.

Traineeships, internships, and volunteering

University graduates can find traineeships and internships through many places such as:

If you are between 17 and 30 years old, you can apply for volunteer (vrijwilliger) programs with the European Voluntary Service (EVS). You can work abroad for up to 12 months in exchange for room, food, insurance, and a small allowance.

Two women working the coffee machine in the cafe while a customer is waiting on her order.
Photo: sturti/Getty Images

For more volunteer opportunities, you can check: 

Applying for a job in the Netherlands

Job application processes in the Netherlands are fairly similar to those in many other countries. You generally need to send in a CV or resume, fill in an application form, and write an application letter (also known as a cover letter).

If you are successful, you will be invited to an interview. This may also be accompanied by a skills test, depending on the role you have applied for. Your prospective employer may ask you for references from previous employers as well. This doesn’t always happen and is more common among large companies, but you should be prepared to have two or three good references to hand.

Support while looking for a job in the Netherlands

The UWV can provide information and support for those looking for a job. As said before, this agency is also responsible for unemployment benefits in the Netherlands. However, these are insurance-based and determined by the amount of time you have spent working in the country. Foreign residents can’t access social security benefits when they first move to the Netherlands. Even EU/EFTA residents have to wait three months before they can make a claim.

There is continuing vocational and educational training (CVET) for those unemployed and looking for work. Although this is mostly provided by private companies, some government funding is available to access a course. However, this is usually restricted to those on unemployment benefits.

Starting a job in the Netherlands

Once you’ve secured a job in the Netherlands, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Check if your employer has enrolled you in any work-based insurance programs. If not, it might be worth taking out additional coverage.
  • Looking into the pension arrangements (if there are any), and whether you might want to top up with private pension arrangements
  • Read up on the topic of income tax, and especially, whether you are eligible for the 30% ruling allowance
  • Ask your new HR department for the dress code and lunch arrangements

Useful resources

  • Werkzoekenden – UWV employment portal with job vacancies and support
  • EURES – EU job search portal

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