The Economist reports:
The Netherlands consistently ranks as one of the best places in the world to live. Dutch kids are among the happiest in the world, according to Unicef. Some attribute their high quality of life and general good nature to a rather laid-back approach to work: more than half of the Dutch working population works part time, a far greater share than in any other rich-world country. On average only a fifth of the working-age population in EU member states holds a part-time job (8.7% of men and 32.2% of women); in the Netherlands 26.8% of men and 76.6% of women work less than 36 hours a week (see chart).
...and Dutch politics was dominated by Christian values until the 1980s: the focus was mainly on providing state aid (implicit subsidies in the fiscal system) so that women could stay at home with children.
This changed in the late 1980s, when the state realised that it would be a good idea to mobilise women into the job market. But the cultural conviction that families still needed mothers home for tea-time prevailed, and thus the state worked closely with employers to ensure that the new part-time jobs would enjoy similar legal positions to their full-time equivalents. This has, to an extent, been continued: in 2000 the right for women and men to ask for a job to be part-time was written into law. But Ronald Dekker, a labour economist at Tilburg University, thinks this law is a confirmation of existing practice and therefore largely symbolic, only necessary for certain “archaic industries”. Instead, he reckons the high prevalence of part-time jobs is largely down to the wide availability of good quality, well-paid “first tier” part-time jobs in the Netherlands: jobs often considered inferior in many other countries.
One of the many benefits of welfare states: the system makes it easy for people to adjust the amount of work they do according to their individual wishes and needs.