Society - Trends

Almost everyone and everything online

Life without internet is barely imaginable nowadays. Dutch people do more and more activities online. Apart from emailing, banking and online shopping, the internet is used more and more for other things such as text messaging, making phone calls and filing income tax returns. Practically all people in the Netherlands aged 12 and over (96 percent) had internet access in 2018. Over 86 percent access it on a daily basis, mostly on their smartphones.

The Netherlands leading in home internet access

In terms of internet access at home, the Netherlands ranks at the top in the EU. Last year, 98 percent had access. Other EU countries with very high internet penetration rates are the United Kingdom (95 percent), Finland and Germany (94 percent). On average, 89 percent of EU households were connected to the internet last year; this was 76 percent in 2012.

In large parts of Southern and Eastern Europe, home internet access is much less common, although most countries have caught up in recent years: 72 percent of Bulgarian households were connected in 2018 against only 51 percent in 2012.

Most important device to go online is the smartphone

In 2018, the most widely used types of devices to go online were smartphones and laptops. Smartphones were used in 87 percent of households versus laptops in 78 percent. Smartphones have gained much ground in recent years: in 2012, only 50 percent of Dutch households had one or more smartphones. Tablets have become more popular as well: in 2018, 63 percent of households owned one, versus 39 percent in 2013. Likewise, game consoles and TVs were increasingly used to go online compared to previous years. On the other hand, desktop computers have lost ground: these were used by 64 percent of households to go online in 2012, but by 2018 this had declined to 50 percent.

More internet telephony

Between 2012 and 2018, the share of people who used the internet to make phone calls rose from 23 to 55 percent. Especially young people like to make internet calls: last year, this applied to 77 percent of the 12 to 24‑year-olds, versus 22 percent of the over-75s. The shares were only 34 and 4 percent respectively in 2012. Internet telephony is also more popular among highly educated than among low-educated: 65 against 46 percent. This gap is not explained by the fact that highly educated people use more smartphones or are younger on average. Internet telephony has risen in popularity across all education levels.

Social media on the rise among seniors

The use of social media is most widespread among young people, but elderly people have warmed to social media in recent years. Direct messaging has increased in particular with 8 in 10 Dutch people aged 12 and over now messaging via such platforms as WhatsApp. The share of elderly people using direct messaging has seen continuous growth, among the over-75s even from 15 to 32 percent in a span of two years.

Furthermore, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have become more popular: 62 percent of Dutch people aged 12 and up were using such networks in 2018. Among the elderly, the use of sociale networks has increased relatively sharply: in 2018, the share of 65 to 74‑year-olds had risen to 34 percent, up from 12 percent in 2012. The share was up from 2 percent in 2012 to 19 percent in 2018 among those over the age of 75.

In 2018, social networks such as Instagram and Twitter were used by 82.1 percent of 12 to 44-year-olds. The share was 57.5 percent among 45 to 64-year-olds, 33.7 percent among 65 to 74-year-olds and 18.8 percent among over-75s.

Looking up information on health topics

The internet is also being used to look up information. 84 percent of internet users looked up information on goods and services online in 2018. More information is being searched about health and lifestyle as well. In 2018, 67 percent of Dutch people aged 12 and up were looking for information on health and lifestyle, versus less than half in 2012. This included information on diseases, nutrition and exercise, for instance. Online searches on these topics are mainly common among the 25 to 44‑year-olds: 80 percent in 2018. The share of people seeking health information was 70 percent among 45 to 64‑year-olds and 52 percent among those aged 65 and over.

8 in 10 Dutch consumers shop online

In 2018, around 11.5 million people in the Netherlands – 78 percent of the population aged 12 and up – indicated they had purchased goods or services online. In 2012, this was the case for 64 percent. The share of people buying online rose most rapidly in the age group 65 and over: from 25 percent in 2012 to 45 percent in 2018. Among people aged 25 and 44 years, 94 percent said they had bought something online in 2018, versus 83 percent among the 45 to 64‑year-olds. In 2012, this was still 83 and 64 percent, respectively. The most frequent purchases in 2018 for online shoppers were clothing and sports goods (56 percent), trips and holiday packages (50 percent) and entrance tickets (46 percent).

6 percent are never online

In 2018, approximately 886 thousand people or 6 percent of the Dutch population aged 12 years and over indicated they had never used the internet. This was 10 percent in 2012. Most of the non-users are found in the age group 75 and over. The group of over-75s who have never been online has become smaller. In 2012, a share of 66 percent in this age category indicated they had never used the internet; this had declined to 50 percent in 2015 and to 32 percent in 2018.

Non-users are rare in the younger age categories. Among the 45 to 64‑year-olds, a share of 4 percent had never been online. Almost all people aged 25 to 44 years use the internet.


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Opening page and header: © Hollandse Hoogte / Martijn Beekman

Society - Trends: © Hollandse Hoogte / Patricia Rehe

Economy - Trends: © Hollandse Hoogte / Marcel Krijgsman

Labour and income - Trends: © Hollandse Hoogte / Sabine Joosten


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