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Mental Health and Work: Netherlands

image of Mental Health and Work: Netherlands

Tackling mental ill-health of the working-age population is becoming a key issue for labour market and social policies in OECD countries. OECD governments increasingly recognise that policy has a major role to play in keeping people with mental ill-health in employment or bringing those outside of the labour market back to it, and in preventing mental illness. This report on the Netherlands is the seventh in a series of reports looking at how the broader education, health, social and labour market policy challenges identified in Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities about Mental Health and Work (OECD, 2012) are being tackled in a number of OECD countries.

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Assessment and recommendations

Mental ill-health poses a key labour market and social policy challenge. The total estimated costs of mental ill-health for society are large, reaching 3.3% of GDP in the Netherlands, and are mainly the result of indirect costs through lost employment and reduced performance and productivity rather than direct health care costs. Sickness absence among workers with mental health problems is a big problem in the Netherlands. The percentage of people with moderate or severe mental health problems who are absent from work is 30-50% higher in the Netherlands than in other OECD countries. People with mental health problems frequently end up on disability, unemployment or social assistance benefits, and their share has been rising over time. In 2012, 7.9% of the working-age population received a disability benefit, of which one-third on the grounds of mental ill-health. Among unemployment and social assistance beneficiaries, approximately 30% and 40% report mental disorders, respectively. Finally, people suffering from mental health problems are less likely to be found in employment and face an unemployment rate double the rate of their healthy peers. Nevertheless, the employment rate of people with mental ill-health is higher in the Netherlands than in many other OECD countries, in part because of the widespread use of part-time employment.

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