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Netherlands Shows the Way with Well-being ..

  • May 27th, 2013
  • Posted by EU Australia

Ruigrok, AmbassadorChildren in the Netherlands are doing best in terms of good health and general well-being, according to the latest report from UNICEF … and it’s no surprise according to the senior Dutch representative in Australia, Annemieke Ruigrok, who says it’s “a lot to do with  nutrition, especially the high consumption of dairy products”.



Mrs Ruigrok, Ambassador of the Netherlands, said nourishment had to be a key to the welfare of children, and the Netherlands also put a lot of emphasis on their education.

After Dutch children, those in four Scandinavian countries  – Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – headed the United Nations list released last month, ranking children’s well-being in 29 industrialised countries, showing Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain at the bottom of that range.

The results are part of ‘Report Card 11: Child well-being in rich countries,’ following achievements of the world’s most advanced economies from 2000-2010.




It excluded Australia because of incompatibility of data sets, but giving a commentary, it praised stepped-up methods of monitoring welfare, now being put into use; while, as is common in such cases, indicating the country would be well down the list, due to hard conditions for children in remote regions, notably remote indigenous communities.

The well-being idea can take in factors such as unemployment, where again the Netherlands rates relatively well, compared to other European Union countries – at 8.1% .

However the main drive in “wellbeing” calculations is to measure non-economic factors that make life good and durable; describing people’s experiences of their positive and negative emotions, satisfaction, vitality, resilience, self-esteem and sense of purpose and meaning.




Says the economics think tank and consultancy group, NEF: “Social well-being is made up of two main components: supportive relationships, and a feeling of trust and belonging.”

It was taken up in the EU’s GDP and Beyond program three years ago, the task given to the statistics agency, Eurostat, to add well-being to the usual topics, like increases in income, which at a certain point will fail to generate more happiness, or Gross Domestic Product, which does not directly link to reducing inequality between rich and poor

Mrs Ruigrok, content to hear positive news from home, has also been extolling positive relations with Australia: in traditional fields like the common maritime history, from the time of the Dutch East India Company onwards; to the hundreds of thousands of Dutch migrants who came to Australia after World War II; to a healthy tourist trade; to recent close military cooperation in Oruzgan province, in Afghanistan.




The recent visit of another prominent Dutch figure, the anti-immigration political leader, Geert Wilders (see EUAustralia Online, 19.2.13), has raised questions about political tensions in the Netherlands over race and religion.

“As a matter of course, also in contries like the Netherlands, there will be problems; there will be things wrong” ”, said the Ambassador.

“Mr Wilders has every right to express his opinions, and we cherish the right of free speech, both in the Netherlands and here in Australia.

“He is in opposition in the Dutch parliament, where there is now a coalition government with a strong parliamentary majority and  a mandate to remain in office during the current four years.”

Mrs Ruigrok, who was speaking at a business gathering of the Australian Council for Europe (Brisbane, 11.4.13), as a female Ambassador remains one of a still-restricted group.

As an instance, of the 25 European Union embassies in Australia (including the EU Delegation), three have women as heads of mission, (Mrs Ruigrok, Eva Ponomarenkova of Slovakia, and Anna Siko of Hungary – see EUAustralia Online, 22.11.12). There is also Siren Gjerme Eriksen, Ambassador of Norway.




Eurostat, Brussels, “Euro indicators 50/2013: Feb 2013 Euro area unemployment …”, 2.4.13.

New Economics Foundation (NEF), London, “Projects: measuring well-being in Europe”, “National accounts well-being”.;, (19.4.13).

UNICEF (United Nations Childrens’ Emergency Fund), NY, “New UNICEF report ranks children’s well-being in 29 of world’s richest countries”, 10.4.13., (19.4.13).

Unicef Australia, Sydney, “Gaps on the well-being of Australia’s children notable in UNICEF’s global report card”, 10.4.13., (19.4.13).