Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Dutch agriculture is highly commercialized and specialized. The cities have been a market for the country's agrarian products from the twelfth century onward. After the Agrarian Crisis of 1880 the Dutch farmers specialized in labor-intensive horticulture and dairy farming. Intensive fertilization, agrarian training and Research, reorganization of small farms, land consolidation, and Common Market agreements increased productivity.
Industrial Arts. Throughout its history, Dutch industry has depended heavily on the importation of raw materials to supply its major industries: the production of foodstuffs and stimulants, which developed when raw material was imported from the colonies; the nineteenth-century clothing- and footwear-manufacturing and metal industries; and the primary twentieth-century industry, the production of petrochemicals. There is today an increasing number of mergers between both national and multinational enterprises. After the Emergence of modern industry in the mid-nineteenth century, the significance of agriculture for the national product diminished steadily, while the significance of the secondary sector increased until it fell behind the growing services sector after 1960.
Trade. The small size and the spacial position of the Netherlands (especially the location at waterways strategic for maritime and inland shipping) are of enduring significance for the international economic relations of the country. Where the waterways meet, the big seaports have risen; in fact, Amsterdam and Rotterdam's Europort is the world's largest harbor. Traditionally the Dutch have been traders and merchants. Since the fifteenth century the Netherlands has been a seagoing nation, owing their affluence to the exploitation of overseas provinces and to a prospering trade. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were characterized by commercial capitalism: as the trade center of the world the Netherlands maintained and even increased its wealth by trade and the trade-related industries. This era has become known as the "Golden Age."
Division of Labor. The Dutch labor force consists of 7 million people, with only 38.8 percent being female. Despite the growth of the female work force since the 1960s, labor participation of married women has remained considerably lower in the Netherlands than in other European countries. During the 1960s the Dutch population could not meet the growing demands for labor because the work force was over-skilled. Consequently, the Dutch labor market in the 1990s is characterized by a large number of jobless people and at the same time a large number of foreign workers who are employed in the lower-paid and lower-skill jobs.
Land Tenure. In about 1500 the east and south (the sandy soil regions) were characterized by traditional village communities structured according to the peasant model. Peasants formed the majority of the agrarian population until the mid-nineteenth century, dwelling on very small and unspecialized family farms. Alternative work outside agriculture was lacking. Specialization in cash crops and cattle breeding was impossible because of capital shortage. The peasant Family was almost self-sufficient and productivity was low. In the west and north (the clay soil regions) agriculture developed according to the fanner model. In these areas feudalism never gained a foothold. In Holland the polders (land reclaimed from the sea) provided the people with land acquired in ownership or in leasehold on businesslike conditions. Village communities were of no significance in these areas; the farmers lived dispersed over the land on their own farmsteads. They produced for a market, and their enterprises were capital-intensive. After the agrarian crises, modernization led to production increase.