The Netherlands suffered economic crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, despite (or perhaps because of) its access to North Sea gas. In response to mounting inflation and unemployment, a tripartite agreement between employers, unions, and government was reached in 1982. This agreement laid the basis for macroeconomic stabilization in the 1980s. At the same time, a variety of structural reforms were introduced--centered on improving the flexibility of the labor market by increasing part-time work. The results appeared impressive: by the mid-1990s, the Netherlands was enjoying strong economic growth and unemployment rates of below 3%, much lower than its large continental European neighbors. However, many observers doubted the sustainability of this so-called "polder model." Low unemployment had been achieved in part by reducing participation rates. Some doubted whether a declining working population could sustain the Dutch standard of living. At the same time, the Netherlands was not a leader in technological development, and others were concerned whether it could compete effectively in the new global information economy.
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- 2002 HBS
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