The Dutch are generally a pretty content bunch. The Netherlands consistently ranks as one of the best places in the world to live. Dutch kids are among the happiest in the world, according to Unicef. Some attribute their high quality of life and general good nature to a rather laid-back approach to work: more than half of the Dutch working population works part time, a far greater share than in any other rich-world country. On average only a fifth of the working-age population in EU member states holds a part-time job (8.7% of men and 32.2% of women); in the Netherlands 26.8% of men and 76.6% of women work less than 36 hours a week (see chart). Why?
Part of the reason is that Dutch women were relative latecomers to the labour market. Compared with other countries, few men had to leave to fight in the world wars of the 20th century, with the result that women did not labour in factories as they did in America and Britain. Thanks to the country’s wealth, a dual income was often not a necessity for a comfortable life. And Dutch politics was dominated by Christian values until the 1980s: the focus was mainly on providing state aid (implicit subsidies in the fiscal system) so that women could stay at home with children.