Thursday, January 7, 2010

By the numbers

I spend 40 minutes on the bike each day, level 15, good for about 25 pages of reading about world affairs in the Economist.  When the articles get slow, I find myself drifting to the statistics at the back of the magazine, seeing how my adoptedBy the numbers country is holding up relative to it’s neighbors and peers.

House prices are down 7.1% in the Netherlands, after an 87% run-up in the prior ten.  Perhaps it’s a good time to buy, although they are still 21% overvalued relative to rents.  I suppose that could be due to a drop in rental rates as well, although most of the apartments I’m reviewing still seem expensive.  By comparison, house prices are down 9% in the US and 16% in Denmark (both too cold).  They are rising again in Britain.

Dutch Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is up 1.7% in the latest quarter, a bit below most European and the US numbers, but at least the economy is expanding.  Inflation is running 2.3%, double the US rate and half the British.  The unemployment numbers are among the best in Europe at 5.3% (only Austria looks better): Britain is at 8% and the US is 10%.  If the GDP number is soft, though, then why the low unemployment?  I wonder if it is due to social policy and lower productivity: maybe the very high rate of Dutch part-time workers also drives down the unemployment number?

Trade balance is good, exports exceeding imports by $46 bn in the past 12 months.  It’s probably partly due to the strength of the euro relative to the dollar and pound.  Still the Dutch did well even in comparison to it’s neighbors (only Germany was better).  I wonder what the unique exports are (flowers?).  Despite the bank bailouts, the Netherlands national budget is less out-of-balance than almost any other European country.  The stock market is up 37% in the past year, vs. mid-20’s for the US and Britain.

All of it paints a surprisingly good picture: the local team seems to be weathering things well on a national level, although the local shops are certainly hurting.

Once in the mood, I couldn’t resist a peak at the CIA World Factbook:  the Dutch have

  • 16.7 million people (a slight excess of males until age 65)
  • 7.3 million landlines; but 20 million mobile phones
  • 342 broadcast television stations
  • 12 million internet hosts; 14.4 million users
  • 2,800 km of railway, 6,215 km of waterways
  • and 1 heliport

and, of course, one bike per person

and this curious notation at the bottom of the page: “major European producer of synthetic drugs, including ecstasy, and cannabis cultivator; important gateway for cocaine, heroin, and hashish entering Europe; major source of US-bound ecstasy; large financial sector vulnerable to money laundering; significant consumer of ecstasy.” Ouch.


gvg said...

If the Economist uses the numbers form the official dutch bureau of statistics (Dutch: Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, CBS), than those are inflated because of what is called "deeltijd-ww".
In short: the government allowed the use of the part-time WW (ww=werkeloosheid wet=unemployment law)for people that where about to be layed off at the height of the crisis. It means people will get a part of their salary not from the company they work for, but from the government. The catch is that they count as fully employed in dutch statistics. This is because (in this case) the deeltijd-ww is being used to prevent people from having to find another job, when an improvement (to 100% of their current job) is expected).
However, they did start at an unusual low rate to begin with.

Fromt the CBS:
* House prices: in November 4.7% cheaper than in November 2008. Price-drop is levelling off.
* Unemployment: 5.2%
* Inflation: 1.2% in 2009
* Inhabitants: 16,571,685
* Internet access: 93%
* Railways: 2,896km
* Waterways: 6,214km
* Heliports: 4 (that I know of and excluding military/hospital ports)
* bikes: 13,572,000 (2007, latest official figure)

The CBS in English (almost all figures and press releases are available in English):

And if you really want to go crazy (and, for instance, find out which percentage of people above 64 have seen a medical specialist in 2008), the Statline database from the CBS in english:

Dave Hampton said...

Reallly interesting, many thanks for the insight. The statistics still paint a very good picture of the Dutch economy and living standards relativve to that in other nearby places.

And it still feels to me like things are going better overall, maybe a matter of attitude, maybe one of substance?