The Dutch economy has officially entered into a recession, marked by consecutive declines in quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) figures. The volume of GDP fell by 0.4 percent in the first quarter and experienced a further dip of 0.3 percent in the second quarter of the year, according to data released by the national statistical office, Statistics Netherlands (CBS).
In a striking contrast to economic developments in neighboring countries, the Dutch contraction of 0.3 percent stands out. During the same period, France and Belgium witnessed their economies grow by 0.5 and 0.2 percent, respectively, in the second quarter of 2023 compared to the previous quarter, as stated by CBS. Germany’s GDP remained unchanged, mirroring the performance of the European Union as a whole. Notably, when compared to the pre-pandemic fourth quarter of 2019, the Dutch economy’s recovery outpaces that of neighboring countries and the EU average.
In stark contrast, neighboring France and Belgium saw growth rates of 0.5% and 0.2% in Q2, while Germany remained flat. The recession’s main drivers were reduced exports and household consumption, with exports of goods and services down 0.7%. The trade balance made a significant negative contribution, while investments in fixed assets and government consumption showed mixed trends.
The recession’s root causes can be attributed primarily to diminished exports and reduced household consumption, according to the statistics office. Exports of goods and services witnessed a decline of 0.7 percent in the second quarter compared to the previous quarter, while imports experienced a modest increase of 0.5 percent. Consequently, the trade balance emerged as the major contributor to the contraction in the second quarter. Household consumption also registered a notable decline, contracting by 1.6 percent.
In terms of investments, there was a 1.3 percent increase in fixed assets during the second quarter, primarily driven by heightened investments in transportation and machinery. However, residential investment witnessed a decline, while government consumption experienced growth of 0.7 percent.
A closer look at various industries reveals that over half of Dutch sectors experienced a decrease in added value – the disparity between energy, materials, and services produced and consumed – during the second quarter of 2023 in comparison to the first quarter. The most substantial decline was observed in mineral extraction, while the trade, catering, transport, and storage sector had the most pronounced negative impact on economic development. Notably, energy companies’ added value displayed the most significant increase.
This recession marks the third instance of contraction within the past four quarters for the Dutch economy. Although a contraction of 0.2 percent was reported in the third quarter of 2022, the economy rebounded with a growth of 0.6 percent in the final quarter of the year, attributed largely to consumer spending.
Despite the prevailing optimism among many economists that the Netherlands could sidestep a recession, the economy’s performance has proven otherwise. Throughout this year, the country’s economy has been characterized by a mixture of struggles and resilience, as noted by analysts from various institutions.
The Dutch economy had previously faced a substantial recession in the first half of 2020, driven by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. During this period, a record-breaking quarterly contraction of 8.5 percent was observed between April and June. Prior to this, the last major recession occurred in 2008 and persisted for six consecutive quarters. There were also minor recessions in 2011 and 2012.
Caretaker Minister of Economic Affairs, Mickey Adriaansens, acknowledged the mild recession and emphasized the importance of making prudent decisions in the lead-up to Budget Day. She underscored the need to maintain consumer purchasing power and a stable business climate, advocating for stability and predictability to prevent disruptions in the economy and any undue tax increases. Adriaansens expressed a commitment to addressing the tight labor market and bolstering the Netherlands’ international competitive position, while also considering intervention to counteract unwarranted price hikes.