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Key macro developments

The year 2020 was dominated globally by the fight against the spread of Covid-19 and can be characterised as one of the most remarkable years in modern history. The key events and developments for the Dutch economy were as follows:

  • The Covid-19 pandemic affected the Dutch economy and society from March 2020 onwards. Following the controlled lockdown initiated by the government, measures were eased over the summer and resulted in an increase in economic activity. However, a second wave of Covid-19 flared up again during the last quarter of the year and once again resulted in a so-called functional lockdown. The year ended with positive news on the availability of a vaccine in early 2021.

  • Dutch GDP declined by 3.8% in 2020, with significant differences across the final three quarters of the year. The economy contracted in both Q2 and Q4 due to the lockdown, while Q3 saw a strong recovery as the contingency measures were eased. Private consumption was the major contributor to economic growth in Q3 but dropped 6.6% over the year. Remarkably, house prices were not affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and increased by an average of 7.8%. In December, the EU and UK reached a Brexit agreement on trade, preventing the introduction of tariffs. It is still unclear what impact this agreement will have on the Dutch economy.

  • Consumer confidence declined heavily after the outbreak of the virus to the lowest level since 2013. It recovered during Q4, but ended the year much lower than at the start of the year. Producer confidence displayed the same pattern, although the recovery was considerably stronger.

  • Average unemployment rates increased slightly over the year, although government support measures prevented higher levels. The number of unemployed people increased after the first lockdown and declined again in Q4.

  • The yield on 10-year Dutch government bonds was relatively stable but did decline in the course of the year and ended 40 basis points lower at -0.54%.

  • Inflation rates showed a similar trend and amounted to 1.3% on average, substantially lower than in 2019.

Key economic indicators

2021 forecast

2020

2019

GDP

2.9%

(3.8)%

1.6%

Consumer spending

2.4%

(6.6)%

1.5%

Consumer price index (CPI) *

1.6%

1.3%

2.6%

Government bond yields, long-term *

(0.3)%

(0.3)%

(0.1)%

Unemployment rate *

5.0%

3.8%

3.4%

*Average numbers over the year
Source: Oxford Economics (25 February 2021)