Does Spain really differ much from the Netherlands?

Axel Schiphof

Spain: the winner of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and in dire financial straits. The Netherlands: one football defeat richer, and along with 17 Euro countries, decision-maker when it comes to the financial aid Spain receives. We realise that there are differences between Spain and the Netherlands, but if we compare the statistics on engagement among the professional population, how different are the two countries, actually?

Engagement percentages

Our global employee survey, the Global Employee Engagement Index shows that employee engagement and committment to the organisation stands a 18.7% in Spain. The Netherlands has a considerably higher score, with an index of 24.1%. One logical explanation could be that Spanish employees are simply not able to be engaged or committed, given the unemployment rate of 24.6% (source: Eurostat, May 2012). After Austria, the Netherlands has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, at 5.1% (source: Eurostat, May 2012).

Naturally, the disparity could also be attributed to cultural differences. Much like the Scandinavian countries, in the Netherlands, a great deal of attention is placed on work-life balance, opportunities for development and a sense of purpose in one’s work. In Spain, people have a different work ethic. Essentially, money has to be earned, as bread needs to be put on the table. A sense of purpose is derived from other aspects of life, not from one’s job. Of course this is a generalisation, but it is a trend that has been observed by Effectory and (HR) professionals who are able to compare the Netherlands and Spain.

Unemployment among young people

Another interesting observation is that 48.6% of young people in Spain are unemployed (source: Eurostat, May 2012). At present, young people have no choice but to pack their bags and emigrate abroad. Those affected are often highly educated, and in Spain, these departing members of the work force are referred to as the mileuristas. The young people who do stay in Spain seem to be taking on the less enjoyable work in the country. The population age group of 24 and younger scores a 5.6 for ‘doing meaningful work’ as compared with a score of 8.0 in the Netherlands for this same age group.

There are remarkable differences between the Netherlands and Spain, including when it comes to employees’ perceptions. The Netherlands scores higher than Spain on nearly every aspect of employership.

Are there also similarities?

Definitely. Both the Netherlands and Spain score a mere 6.6 for the answers to the question ‘I am satisfied with the organisation I work for’. The European average is 6.9. Countries that score high for this question are: Denmark (7.5), Norway (7.7) and Austria (7.5). Another similarity is that Spain and the Netherlands score around 6.5 for ‘efficiency’. It should be noted that the 6.6 score for Spain is one of the country’s highest scores, and the score for the Netherlands (6.5) is one of its lowest.

Europe, a continent with so much wealth and so many differences.