Edition 2023

Foto omschrijving: People visiting an outdoor market.

How many inhabitants in the Netherlands?

On 1 January 2023, 17.8 million people lived in the Netherlands. The population is expected to hit the 18 million mark next year. The first population census held by CBS, in 1899, counted 5.1 million people in the Netherlands.

Hoeveel inwoners telt Nederland? How many inhabitants in the Netherlands? 1899 1920 1950 1960 = 1 miljoen / million
1971 1991 2001 2024

Population censuses have been conducted in the Netherlands since 1795. They were organised at irregular intervals and mostly for specific administrative purposes; as a basis for levying taxes, for example. From 1829 onwards, a population census was held every ten years. The censuses were organised by the Ministry of the Interior.

Oldest statistics

CBS took over the responsibility for the population census in 1899. In the census for that year, CBS interviewers went from door to door with twelve questions for inhabitants. These questions fit on just one small sheet of paper, blue for men and pink for women. The completed sheets were all processed manually. The censuses are CBS’ oldest statistics. The information they provide is the basis for many population statistics: age composition, marital status, family size, occupation, and nationality, for example.

Machines to help count

In 1920, the first mechanical calculator was introduced to count census documents. It was a table-top machine and had 60 keys, each key with its own counter. Every time a key was pressed, its counter went up by 1. In 1930 CBS started to used punch cards and a device that could ‘read’ the holes punched into them. As counting and checking processes speeded up, CBS was able to produce more tables. Since 1960, CBS has used computers to process and check census data.

Last door-to-door census

CBS conducted its last door-to-door census in 1971. The questionnaire cards were distributed to all households. Respondents were asked to fill in the small ovals corresponding to their answers. Back at CBS, these blackened ovals could be read by IBM optical readers and stored in the computer’s memory.

The 1971 census unleashed a storm of protests. At the time of the census, the government was also discussing plans to introduce a central population register. Every individual in the Netherlands was to be assigned a national identification number. This spawned the first broad public debate about invasion of privacy.

The following census, in 1981, was a failure. In pilot enumerations, 26 percent of households did not return the census forms. After that, the population census was increasingly conducted with the aid of computers.

Digital census

CBS counted the 15 millionth inhabitant of the Netherlands in 1991. It calculated this moment with data from the digital population registration, complemented with data from sample surveys. By the time the 16 millionth inhabitant was counted in 2001, the census had become completely automated. Inhabitants no longer needed to complete questionnaires. CBS expects to count the 18th millionth inhabitant in 2024.

CBS celebrates 125th anniversary

CBS will be celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2024. It will be publishing more articles about its history throughout the year.


This web publication was developed by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in cooperation with Textcetera The Hague.
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Explanation of symbols

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.


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Concept & image editor

Irene van Kuik, Janneke Hendriks, Richard Jollie

With thanks to Hendrik Zuidhoek


Annelie Hakkenes (final editing)

Elma Wobma (general project leader)

Erik van den Berg

Gert Jan Wijma

Karolien van Wijk

Michel van Kooten

Paul de Winden

Saskia Stavenuiter

Sidney Vergouw


Gabriëlle de Vet, Lieneke Hoeksma, Frans Dinnissen


Ronald van der Bie

We thank all CBS colleagues who have contributed to this edition.