Some 2.4 million babies were born in the Netherlands in the period 1946–1955. Although births also peaked in other countries in western Europe after the war, until the mid 1950s the Dutch birth rate was the highest in the region.
The effects of this baby boom were far-reaching: overcrowded primary school classes in the 1950s, a surge on the labour market and in higher education in the 1960s, a construction frenzy in the 1970s, and from 2011 a large rise in the number of 65 year-olds. The future holds a rapid increase in the number of over-80s in store .
In its book Baby boomers. What the statistics say (available in English), Statistics Netherlands presents a number of observations on today’s 55-64 year-olds, looking at the past, the present and the future.
1970s: new life courses
Baby boomers chose different life courses than their parents. They broke away from the standard pattern of starting work after school, but staying with their parents, marrying from their parents’ home and starting a family – at which point women gave up work to become full-time mothers – and experimented with other forms of living together. Cohabiting before marriage, for example, delaying childbirth, sometimes for a long time, returning to work after having a baby, and divorcing their partners.
2012: 225 thousand 65 year-olds
The present group of 55-64 year-olds have higher levels of education than their parents, but relatively lower levels than younger generations. Baby boomers are relatively prosperous. They are still working, are at the top of the careers, and therefore have a relatively high income and have built up a substantial amount of capital.
The first baby boomers, those born in 1946, became eligible for old-age pension 2011. Their retirement led to a sharp rise in the number of state-paid pensions.
2050: 1.8 million people 80 or older
Around 2050, 1.8 million people – 10 percent of the population – will be 80 or older. Obviously, the economy will have a strong focus on services and care. This will be particularly relevant for older single people who do not have a partner to help them.
The book Baby boomers gives an impression of the influence of this post-war generation on Dutch society. It is a snapshot of their situation today, looks back at their past and forward to their future.