The Dutch economy has been oriented toward the world for ages. Tradebrought riches to a selected number of merchant fam ilies, particularly during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. Agriculture, fishing, and small industries were other important eco nomic activities that employed the Dutch population. Yet, the Indus trial Revolution did not start until the last decades of the 19th cen tury, after new infrastructural projects such as railroads and canals were finished and obstructing local taxes had been abolished. Ape riod of economic progress followed, with characteristics such as the increase of purchasing power, the coming of chains of shops and new firms, the boom in the diamond cutting and tobacco industries, and the fast growth of Rotterdam as a transit port. This development, however, was interrupted by World War I and stagnated because of the Depression of the 1930s. The Dutch crisis was more severe than in other European countries because the government refused to abandon the gold standard until 1936. During World War II, Nazi Germany damaged the Dutch economy considerably. About 60 per cent of the transport system and 30 percent of the industrial base were destroyed. A black market flourished, and the Dutch financial posi tion became critical. A period of reconstruction brought new economic growth after 1945. Monetary reform; harmonious consultations between govern ment, employers, and employees about prices and wages; the Mar shall Plan; and the budding economic cooperation with neighboring countries yielded their fruit. The average economic growth was al most 5 percent during the period from about 1950 to 1970, a pattern that was also visible in the other countries of the European Economic Community. Typically Dutch, however, were the high labor costs and consumer expenditures. New investments were hard to achieve. The international oil crises in 1973 and 1979 also worsened the competi tive position of the Netherlands. Unemployment kept increasing in the 1980s, and hard measures, such as cutbacks on wages and bene fits, and the ending of support to enterprises in difficulty and grants to cultural institutions, were necessary. Since the end of the 1980s, the Dutch economy has recovered. But growth figures have remained modest and international circumstances have had immedi ate repercussions. At present, most people (about three-quarters of the labor force) work in the service sector (including government). The remaining quarter is mostly employed in manufacturing and other indus tries, with just a few percent in agriculture. Current policies are geared to the development of a knowledge-based economy, which is oriented toward a highly developed information technology.

Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. . 2012.


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