TRS.20.009 – Financial Vulnerability in The Netherlands

Route: Towards resilient societies

Cluster question: 035 How can we best design the socioeconomic institutions of the future?

The Netherlands as a whole is wealthier than ever. Yet one fifth of its population struggles financially, with excess debt or the consequences of poor financial planning. This presents a major challenge to society, because the considerable efforts devoted to providing solutions appear to have little effect. Indeed, the situation seems to get worse rather than better.

We want to understand how households become financially vulnerable, why it is so difficult to prevent them getting into this situation, and why it proves so hard to lift them out. We do this by investigating the evolution of financial vulnerability in the Netherlands from a new, long-term perspective.

The project strikes out in three directions. First, we collect data on the savings, indebtedness, and financial competencies of Dutch households to measure their financial vulnerability over the course of the twentieth century. Second, we analyse how, at different points in time, four potentially vulnerable groups coped with major changes in their personal financial situation: (a) young adults leaving home; (b) wage workers becoming small business owners; (c) migrants settling in the Netherlands; and (d) employees preparing for retirement. Third, we evaluate the effectiveness of four century-old interventions aimed at preventing or reducing financial strains: nudging, communication, employee assistance programs, debt relief.

In doing this the project seeks to determine the best course of action to reduce financial vulnerability. What should the government do to encourage households becoming financially self-reliant and protected against major income shocks? What should the financial sector do to ensure its private customers get products adapted to their individual circumstances? And what should households themselves do with or without the help from their social network?


20th Century, Financial Vulnerability, Resilient Societies, The Netherlands


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Prof. dr. O.C. (Oscar) Gelderblom