Edition 2021

Foto omschrijving: Young girl trying out scents at a perfumery

Has our purchasing power gone up or down?

Purchasing power development is the year-on-year change in people’s income, adjusted for price changes. In 2020, the buying power of the Dutch population increased relative to 2019, but not for everyone. Sixty-seven percent saw an improvement, whereas 38 percent experienced a decline. A relative majority of young people and the elderly were better off.

Has our purchasing power gone up or down?15 to 24 yrs34%66%0 to 14 yrs32%68%25 to 44 yrs34%66%65+30%70%45 to 64 yrs35%65%Legendhave less spending power nowhave more spending power now

The median purchasing powernoot1 of Dutch residents went up by 2.2 percent in 2020. This was the seventh year in a row with an increase in purchasing power and the largest rise since 2016. One of the reasons for the positive development in purchasing power was the largest collective wage increase in more than ten years (2.9 percent). The wage increase was offset by 1.3 percent inflation, bringing the real wage development to 1.6 percent. In addition, various tax measures had a favourable effect on purchasing power. In particular, the increase in the general tax credit and the introduction of a two-tier income tax system let many households save more income. On the other hand, the purchasing power increase in 2020 was negatively affected by the coronavirus crisis, which was detrimental to some households due to loss of employment or income, for example. In order to mitigate the negative economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis in 2020, the government introduced temporary support measures.noot2

After 2000, purchasing power only declined in 2005 and in the years 2010–2013 as a result of the economic crisis. Those years also saw more people experience a decline rather than a rise in purchasing power.

Median purchasing power development, total population (year-on-year % change)
Jaar Median purchasing power development
2000 2.1
2001 6.3
2002 1.6
2003 0.3
2004 0.8
2005 -0.2
2006 3.1
2007 3.1
2008 1.5
2009 1.8
2010 -0.4
2011 -0.9
2012 -1.1
2013 -1.1
2014 1.9
2015 1.3
2016 3.0
2017 0.7
2018 0.6
2019 1.5
2020* 2.2
* Provisional figures

Largest increase for employees

Purchasing power rose among all population groups in 2020, with employees experiencing the highest median increase (4.3 percent). Seventy percent of all employees saw a rise in purchasing power. In addition to benefiting from the agreed collective wage increase, employees can also boost their purchasing power by seeking to work more hours or get a better-paid job, among other things. Conversely, (temporary) job losses or choosing to work fewer hours are among reasons for a fall in purchasing power among 30 percent of employees.

For pensioners, purchasing power rose by an average of 1.0 percent in 2020. In 2017 and 2018, this group had experienced a drop in their purchasing power. Unlike employees, retired people have little or no opportunity to improve their own purchasing power and are much more dependent on government measures that affect purchasing power. In 2020, pensioners benefited relatively much from the increase of the general tax credit.

Households on income support saw a median increase in purchasing power of 1.5 percent. However, one-quarter of this group saw their purchasing power fall. Couples with children and single-parent families saw larger median increases than singles and couples without children.

(Median) purchasing power development, 2020* (% change relative to 2019)
Kenmerken huishouden 2020*
Total population 2.2
Employee income 4.3
Pension benefit 1.0
Social assistance benefit 1.5
Person in
type of household
Couple without
Couple with
* Provisional figures

The questions


Median purchasing power

Purchasing power trends are defined as the median of individual changes in purchasing power: the change in purchasing power whereby exactly half of everyone is below the median and the other half above it.

Temporary support measures

Since March 2020, various support measures have been in place, including the Temporary bridging measure for self-employed professionals (Tozo). Self-employed entrepreneurs are able to apply for a benefit under this scheme in order to supplement their income up to the social minimum.

Other support measures for self-employed with a positive effect on purchasing power are TVL (Reimbursement of fixed costs) and TOGS (Reimbursement for entrepreneurs in affected sectors).

For employees in the affected sectors, the Temporary emergency bridging measure for sustained employment (NOW) is important. With this scheme, employers can continue to pay their employees with permanent and flexible contracts and keep them in employment.


This web publication was developed by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in cooperation with Textcetera The Hague.
If you have a question or comment about this publication, please contact us.

Disclaimer and copyright


On this website, CBS uses functional cookies on this website to allow proper functioning of the site. These cookies do not contain personal user data and have minimal or no consequences for your privacy. In addition, CBS uses analytical cookies to track visitor statistics, including the number of page views, which topics users are searching, and how visitors reach our website. The purpose is to gain insight into the functioning of the website in order to improve your user experience. We minimise traceability of visitors to our website as much as possible by anonymising the final octet (group of eight bits) of each IP address. These data are not shared with other parties. CBS does not use tracking cookies. Tracking cookies are cookies that track visitors during their browsing of other websites.

The functional and analytical cookies have minimal or no consequences for your privacy. In accordance with current regulations, these cookies may be placed without prior consent.

More information (in Dutch only): https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/telecommunicatie/vraag-en-antwoord/mag-een-website-ongevraagd-cookies-plaatsen

Explanation of symbols

Empty cell figure not applicable
. figure is unknown, insufficiently reliable or confidential
* provisional figure
** revised provisional figure
(between two numbers) inclusive
0 (0.0) less than half of unit concerned
2016–2017 2016 to 2017 inclusive
2016/2017 average for the years 2016 up to and including 2017
2016/’17 crop year, financial year, school year etc., beginning in 2016 and ending in 2017
2004/’05–2016/’17 crop year etc. 2004/’05 up to and including 2016/’17

Due to rounding, some totals may not correspond to the sum of the separate figures.

About CBS

CBS responds to developments in Dutch society by providing statistical information as facts that matter, and communicates on these facts with the outside world. In doing so, CBS offers insights into current developments in society and helps answer policy questions. Research at CBS is focused on broad trends in society and how these are interrelated.

CBS has offices in The Hague, Heerlen and Bonaire with altogether approximately 2,000 staff. A society-oriented working attitude is essential to CBS. CBS provides figures which are relevant to society. Every year, CBS publishes around 600 statistical studies. Virtually every day, CBS data and figures are communicated to the outside world via news releases, video messages and through social media. This results in some 50,000 articles per year in daily newspapers and on news sites.

For more information on CBS’s tasks, organisation and publications, go to cbs.nl/en-gb.


Should you have any questions or need more information, please contact us.


Concept & image editor

Irene van Kuik


Janneke Hendriks

Richard Jollie

Hendrik Zuidhoek


Ronald van der Bie

Annelie Hakkenes-Tuinman

Michel van Kooten

Sidney Vergouw

Paul de Winden

Karolien van Wijk

Gert Jan Wijma


Frans Dinnissen

Gaby de Vet

Taalcentrum VU

Final editor

Elma Wobma

We thank all CBS colleagues who have contributed to this edition of The Netherlands in numbers.