If you are considering a move to Amsterdam / Netherlands it is important to weigh up the cost of living against how much you will be able to earn.
A variety of banks and consulting firms publish comparative data on both cost of living and earnings. Let's take a closer look...
Prices / Cost of Living in Amsterdam
In relative terms, Amsterdam has average price levels being neither the most expensive destination nor the cheapest. Prices did generally rise significantly after the conversion from the guilder to the euro in 2002. In more recent times we have seen an economic and housing slowdown after the financial crisis hit. Whilst things have picked up to an extent, some people are still feeling the pinch.
In a 2016 survey of 209 cities worldwide, consulting firm Mercer ranked Amsterdam the 64th most expensive city. The top 5 were Hong Kong, Luanda, Zurich, Singapore and Tokyo. Other cities of note were New York (11), London (17), Sydney (42), Paris (44), Rome (58), Brussels (86), Berlin (100) and Toronto (143).
Previous Mercer rankings for Amsterdam were 69th (2015), 39th (2014), 52nd (2013) and 57th (2012). The higher ranking in 2014 was a result of increasing rental prices in the Amsterdam expat housing market. Whilst higher rents remain, the relative ranking has decreased again from the euro weakening against the US dollar.
In the UBS Prices & Earnings report (published every 3 years, last survey 2015, next survey 2018) Amsterdam came in as the 33rd most expensive city out of 71 cities. With New York as a base score of 100, Amsterdam ranks 65 (excluding rent) and 56 (including rent, reflecting the high rent costs in New York).
The Amsterdam cost of living is deemed lower than cities such as London, Sydney, Paris, Rome and Brussels - though more expensive than the likes of Berlin, Barcelona and Warsaw.
Obviously these surveys are relative only - your cost of living will also depend on your circumstance and what you choose to spend your money on. There can be a huge differences in spending between expats. For example:
the single expat with corporate job who rents a nice appartment in the centre of Amsterdam and lives the high life.
the expat couple who have a large mortgage on a house, have 2 kids and run 2 cars.
the international student who has a flat share and works part-time.
the expat who learns the frugal Dutch way - cycling and using public transport, perhaps living in (rent-controlled) social housing with a Dutch partner, knowing the ins and outs of getting value from shopping and going out.
Earnings in Netherlands
Salaries in Netherlands are also at average levels and probably a bit lower than US and the UK. Income taxes are on the high side unless you get the "30% ruling" - check our Taxation in Netherlands brief overview.
In the UBS Prices & Earnings 2015 report, Amsterdam ranks in 23rd place for gross wages - though higher taxes brings its net wages ranking down to 28th place.
Salaries will obviously vary depending on employer, position and how much relevant experience you have. Employees do get at least 20 holiday days per year and a holiday bonus month which is paid in May.
According to PayScale Inc, the median salary by gender in Amsterdam reported by individuals in 2017 is: €40,500 for women and €50,000 for men.
Recruitment consultants Robert Walters publishes an annual salary survey - the 2016 issue has the following salary ranges (depending on experience) for various positions in the Netherlands:
Data Entry €20-30K, Executive & PA €35-53K, Systems Admin €30-60K, Credit Controller €40-70K, Business Analyst €45-90K, National Sales Manager €55-110K and Sales Director €65-170K.
See tips on finding a job in Netherlands