Despite its relatively small size, the Netherlands punches above its own weight internationally. The Netherlands has moved one spot up the top 10 to ninth position, after holding the 10th position for the past three years. The Netherlands benefits from improved performances in most sub-indices, notably Education and Enterprise. Despite its relatively small size, the Netherlands has the fourth most top-ranking universities after the US, UK, and Germany, with 13 universities in the QS Global University Rankings. As a result, it comes fourth overall in the Education sub-index, outperforming Australia and Canada. Beyond its cultural highlights (Gouda cheese, tulips, and Delft pottery to name a few), the Netherlands has strengthened its soft power with progressive policies, a world-renowned education system, and significant contributions to international law. The Netherlands is also a leader in combating climate change through off-shore wind-farms and water management infrastructure. Lauded around the world for being the most liberal societies, the Netherlands’ new four-party coalition, sworn in in October 2017, marks a steer to the right. The traditionally liberal political landscape was fractured by the rise of the far-right, anti-EU, anti-immigration, and anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV). Despite this, all indications point to the Netherlands continuing to demonstrate strong soft power assets that may allow it to maintain its spot in the top 10, and possibly move up the ranks even further.
The Netherlands sets an example for other countries to follow when it comes to building an equal and tolerant society. Being the only non-Scandinavian country in the top 5 of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report, the Netherlands is still a forerunner in achieving gender equality through its continuous efforts in reducing the gender gap across health, education, politics, and economy.
The Netherlands’ performs consistently well across all the indices, though its high scores in the Government index may be threatened by anti-Islam policies like the banning of face coverings, including burqas and niqabs, in public spaces. Liberal Netherlands’ reputation as an accepting and free society is undermined by the rise of the PVV and anti-Islamic sentiments.
The Netherlands has always competed with the world’s soft power heavyweights. However, as a leader in progressive policy, the Netherlands should further extend and promote its views globally by engaging further in international organisations or using digital platforms to promote Dutch culture and values.