The Dutch have regained trust in their careers and their chances of getting a new job. This is shown by the 2017 PageGroup Job Confidence Index. After the Swedish and the Germans, our workforce is the most positive about the future of the job market. What are the most important trends for job seekers this year?

After years of bleak messages about the job market, the sun finally emerged in 2016. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) recorded the sharpest drop in unemployment figures in ten years. The number of people in employment sky-rocketed to nearly 8.5 million. This means that there were more people in work at the end of 2016 than there were at the start of the economic crisis.

This growing confidence is reflected in the Job Confidence Index, PageGroup’s quarterly gauge of sentiment among the workforce. Confidence in the economy improved markedly this past year. At the start of 2016, 63 percent of employed people and job seekers expected the economy to rally. In the final quarter of the year, this percentage had risen to nearly three quarters (73 percent) of the workforce. After the Swedish and the Germans, the Dutch are also the most positive about the near future of the job market: 66 percent think it will continue to improve this year.

Respondents' confidence in the economy is displayed in the graph below. Click on the different countries to compare results. 

A number of trends emerged from the 2016 Job Confidence index, which are likely to continue in the year ahead. These are the 3 most important developments:

1. Older candidates are going strong

The number of people over 50 who have a positive view of their chances on the job market showed steady growth over the past year. At the start of 2016, only 37 percent of respondents thought it would be possible to find a job within three months. At the end of the year this group had grown to nearly half (47 percent) of the candidates. 

There is cause for this growing optimism: In 2016 the unemployment rate showed the steepest drop among older employees, falling from 6.4 to 4.9 percent.

Joost Fortuin, managing director of PageGroup in the Netherlands, feels it is only logical that companies are hiring more older employees. “They have the knowledge and experience the younger generation still lacks,” he writes in his Marketing Tribune column.

Also read: Don’t dismiss over-50s as victims of the job market

2. Applicants can make demands again

Until recently, it was mostly companies who found themselves in the position to make demands of candidates. But as scarcity grows on the job market, the tables are starting to turn. This year, the answer to ‘why are you the most suitable candidate for us?’ will increasingly be: ‘why are you the most suitable employer for me?’

“The generation now entering the job market wants to know what the career path will be at a certain company, as well as their salary and opportunities for education,” says Joost Fortuin. “Many companies are still saying: join us first and we’ll see about those things later.” But those days are over. The candidate sets the bar.”

This shift in the balance of power is also reflected by the Job Confidence Index. There is a reason 77 percent of candidates under 30 foresee a bright future for themselves on the job market.

Also read: 6 things top employers do to value their employees

3.Work-life balance gains importance

Now that candidates can make more demands, a good work-life balance will become a priority again. In 2016 just 35 percent of respondents was happy about their work-life balance. This puts the Netherlands near the bottom of the Confidence Index’s European ranking. Only the Polish rated their work-life balance lower, at 29 percent. In order to improve this balance, 90 percent of Dutch people is looking for a job as close to home as possible, as shown by previous research by PageGroup.

Also read: Dutch professionals not willing to relocate for work

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