As an immigrant, there will always be about 10% of Dutch quirks I will never understand, and one of them is the preponderance of part-time work. It’s very difficult to explain to my friends and family in Canada or elsewhere why it looks like nobody really works here, especially highly educated Dutch women who, as they tell me jokingly at networking events, ‘have men who bring home the real bacon’.
“The Netherlands has the highest rate of part-time workers within the European Union, and it applies to both men and women.” The Dutch also have a very high standard of living which is not reflected in the amount of hours they actually work. I recently read that the Greeks worked the most hours, but earned very little for it. That nonsense about working hard to make money they spoon fed me in North America is one huge myth here in Europe.
“In 2008, nearly half of 15 to 64-year-old Dutch worked on a part-time basis and three quarters of Dutch women work on a part-time basis. In all other EU countries, at least half of working women had full-time jobs.”
My gut says when the Dutch do something spectacularly different than the rest of Europe it’s either brilliant or skewed. In this case, I think it is the latter, and so do many different groups in Dutch society pushing to change this image of women being rather passive members of society. To quote a female television journalist I met recently, “women can always choose to work less and that is not frowned upon, but have to fight if they want to work more”. Ironically, the Christian government is both ‘encouraging’ women to have more children and also trying to make them feel guilty for not becoming top managers. In other words, not only are women hearing two totally different messages, both of them are backwards and do nothing to alleviate the situation of women who want both – just like in the rest of Europe and the Western world.
The usual excuses for this state of affairs includes women automatically taking 100% care of children (tradition), not wanting to let other qualified people handle their children (guilt), not being able to combine motherhood and work (logistics), men not doing their fair share (not my male friends, but other ones), having no ambition (huge cover stories in magazines keep repeating this), foreign women having much more ambition (why do they manage and the Dutch don’t?) and all kinds of other stuff that comes up at parties.
It’s a big ol’ can of worms, it’s complicated, it’s difficult to understand, it’s even tougher to live with, but something is definitely wrong here.