Dutch pension system scores 8.5, but there is room for improvement

Published on: 1 November 2023

The Netherlands has the best pension system in the world, but it is not perfect. This is evident from the rating that researchers from Mercer give our system. Actuarial director Alexander Paulis of APG: “An 8.5 is better than good, but at the same time it still leaves room for improvement. I am thinking, for example, of reducing the grey and white areas and issues like combining pension, care and housing.”



  • The main reason for the higher rating is the tightening of early retirement regulations.
  • The system review does not seem to be included in the survey.
  • The study also does not address related pathways such as pensions after divorce, lump sums or pensions for the self-employed.
  • The researchers make three recommendations: reduce household debt, increase labor force participation of older people and implement a care pension credit for people caring for young children.


Mercer’s research assessed a total of 47 pension systems worldwide. It showed that the Dutch index value rose slightly from 84.6 in 2022 to 85.0 in 2023. The main reason for this improved rating is the tightening of early retirement regulations. Overall, the researchers say that the Dutch pension system is financially robust and, as a result, “is in an excellent position to provide benefits to pensioners both now and in the future.” “I fully expected that the Netherlands would be among the top countries, but partly because of the system overhaul. But I didn’t see much about that in the survey,” Alexander Paulis of APG responds. He considers that to be a shortcoming. “It very much looks like the study was conducted without including the reforms. Why would they do that? I don’t know, but perhaps the relatively late adoption of the Future of Pensions Act (Wtp) by the Dutch parliament has something to do with it.”

Adjacent pathways

Alexander is also critical of the fact that there is nothing about “adjacent” pathways, such as pensions after divorce, lump sum payments or pensions for the self-employed, which have also been ongoing in the Netherlands for quite some time, according to the survey. “An 8.5 is more than good, but at the same time leaves room for improvement. I am thinking, for example, of reducing the gray and white areas. Not everyone accrues enough pension in the Netherlands, and that group is growing. Whereas a few years ago we thought that we would slowly move from less than 90 percent to 100 percent in this area, things seem to be moving more slowly.  Attention should be given to this, and hence also the adjacent pathways on pensions for the self-employed, for example. But women’s pension accrual also deserves attention. And I expect that combining pension, care and housing will certainly receive renewed, or more, attention in the future”, Paulis says.

Important role

The survey shows appreciation for the Dutch system has increased, particularly in the area of sufficiency, compared to last year. The latter also applies to the other pillar, which is leading in the assessment, namely sustainability. The state pension benefit also plays an important role in the Netherlands’ high score. Compared to other countries, the state pension benefit is above average. Nevertheless, the researchers also have recommendations for the Netherlands. The Netherlands’ score could be increased by reducing household debt, increasing the labor participation of older people and introducing a care pension credit for those caring for young children. These are recommendations that Paulis says seem to be on the periphery of our pension system. "Especially when you contrast this with the major system overhaul.”

The Dutch pension system is the top position again. Iceland, last year’s No. 1, is now in second position. Research firm Mercer examined the pension systems of 47 countries. Denmark, like last year, is in third place and Israel is now in fourth place. According to Alexander Paulis of APG it should be noted, however, that the differences between these countries are small and fall within the survey's margins of inexactitude.