Social Security in the Netherlands

Find out how the social security system works in the Netherlands...

The public health and social security system in the Netherlands is comprehensive but expensive. The country has a high percentage of "economically inactive" citizens claiming one or more benefits. To further complicate matters, with effect from 1 January 2006 the Healthcare Insurance Act (Zorgverzekeringswet) came into force and the former two-tier public/private healthcare system has been replaced by a single system for everyone.

Social security in the Netherlands falls into two categories: social welfare benefits (sociale voorzieningen) and social insurance benefits (sociale verzekeringen). There are also other benefits such as housing subsidies (not normally available to temporary residents) and educational funding which are not dealt with here.

  • Social welfare benefits are financed from government funds and are intended to provide a basic level of assistance which is means-tested
  • Social insurance benefits are mostly funded from employee contributions to the system and it is compulsory for employees and the self-employed to contribute. These contributions cover illness, disability and unemployment
  • In addition, national insurance schemes (volksverzekeringen) cover old-age benefits, death benefits, long-term invalidity, some medical expenses and child allowances. They apply to anyone with a Dutch residence permit

Getting a BSN number

The BSN (Burgerservicenummer) number (formerly a SoFI-number) is a unique, personal number issued to everyone registered in the Basisregistratie Personen (BRP), or the Personal Records Database of a municipality. It is required when starting a job, opening a bank account, using the health care system, applying for benefits, buying a car and announcing a change of address.

Foreigners arriving in the Netherlands must register with the registration office (Dienst Burgerzaken) of the Basisregistratie Personen (BRP). Within weeks, a new resident will receive a letter containing registration details and the BSN number.

  • For more information on how and where to get a BSN number from Click here
  • For detailed information from the Burgerservicenummer website (in Dutch)
  • Information in English (note, the CSN - Citizens Service Number - is the English term for BSN): Click here
  • Or call BSN/CSN hotline - Tel: 088 900 1010

Note: Foreign residents who have previously been issued with a SoFI number need not change this to the BSN number - this will have happened automatically.