Joop den Uyl

This is a Dutch name; the family name is den Uyl, not Uyl.
His Excellency
Joop den Uyl

Joop den Uyl in 1975
45th Prime Minister of the Netherlands
In office
11 May 1973  19 December 1977
Monarch Juliana
Deputy Dries van Agt (1973–1977)
Wilhelm Friedrich de Gaay Fortman (1977)
Preceded by Barend Biesheuvel
Succeeded by Dries van Agt
Leader of the Labour Party
In office
13 September 1966  21 July 1986
Preceded by Anne Vondeling
Succeeded by Wim Kok
Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands
In office
11 September 1981  29 May 1982
Serving with Jan Terlouw
Prime Minister Dries van Agt
Preceded by Hans Wiegel
Succeeded by Jan Terlouw
Minister of Social Affairs and Employment of the Netherlands
In office
11 September 1981  29 May 1982
Prime Minister Dries van Agt
Preceded by Wil Albeda
Succeeded by Louw de Graaf
Minister for Suriname and Netherlands Antilles Affairs of the Netherlands
In office
11 September 1981  29 May 1982
Prime Minister Dries van Agt
Preceded by Fons van der Stee
Succeeded by Jan de Koning
Parliamentary leader of the Labour Party in the House of Representatives of the Netherlands
In office
7 September 1982  21 July 1986
Preceded by Wim Meijer
Succeeded by Wim Kok
In office
16 January 1978  10 September 1981
Preceded by Ed van Thijn
Succeeded by Wim Meijer
In office
15 February 1967  11 May 1973
Preceded by Gerard Nederhorst
Succeeded by Ed van Thijn
Minister of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands
In office
14 April 1965  22 November 1966
Prime Minister Jo Cals
Preceded by Koos Andriessen
Succeeded by Joop Bakker
Member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands
In office
16 September 1982  24 December 1987
In office
16 January 1978  11 September 1981
In office
8 June 1977  8 September 1977
In office
23 February 1967  11 May 1973
In office
6 November 1956  5 June 1963
Personal details
Born Johannes Marten den Uijl
(1919-08-09)9 August 1919
Hilversum, Netherlands
Died 24 December 1987(1987-12-24) (aged 68)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Political party Labour Party
Spouse(s) Liesbeth van Vessem (m. 1944; his death 1987)
Children Saskia Noorman-den Uyl (born 1946)
Marion den Uyl (born 1947)
Barbara den Uyl (born 1949)
Marten den Uyl (born 1951)
Xander den Uyl (born 1953)
Rogier den Uyl (born 1957)
Ariane den Uyl (born 1965)
Alma mater University of Amsterdam (Bachelor of Economics, Master of Economics)
Occupation Politician
Civil servant
Managing editor

Johannes Marten den Uijl, known as Joop den Uyl (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈjoːb dɛn ˈœyl];[1] 9 August 1919 – 24 December 1987) was a Dutch politician of the Labour Party (PvdA). He served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 11 May 1973 until 19 December 1977.

Den Uyl previously served as a Member of the House of Representatives from 6 November 1956 until 5 June 1963. He became Minister of Economic Affairs from 14 April 1965 until 22 November 1966 in the Cabinet Cals. He became the Labour Party Party leader on 13 September 1966 and served as the Parliamentary leader in the House of Representatives from 15 February 1967 until 11 May 1973 and again a Member of the House of Representatives from 23 February 1967 until 11 May 1973. Den Uyl became Prime Minister of the Netherlands, leading the Cabinet Den Uyl.

After his prime-ministership, Den Uyl remained in active politics and returned as the Parliamentary leader in House of Representatives from 16 January 1978 until 10 September 1981 and a Member of the House of Representatives from 16 January 1978 until 11 September 1981. He became Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, Minister for Suriname and Netherlands Antilles Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister from 11 September 1981 until 29 May 1982 in the Cabinet Van Agt II. After the fall of this cabinet, Den Uyl again became the Parliamentary leader in the House of Representatives from 7 September 1982 until his resignation as Parliamentary leader and as the Labour Party Party leader on 21 July 1986, he was succeeded in both positions by Wim Kok. He served as a Member of the House of Representatives for the last time from 16 September 1982 until his death on 24 December 1987.

He was seen as an idealistic, but also polarizing politician. Throughout history, Dutch political leaders have tended to soothing manners - Den Uyl was one of a relatively few exceptions. People either loved him or hated him. Followers of his idealistic policies called him Ome Joop (Uncle Joop).[2] He was criticized for creating a budget deficit and polarizing Dutch politics.[3] Associated with Den Uyl was the maakbare samenleving (the makeable society, the idea that society is constructed and that government is a player in the construction). Another idea associated with Den Uyl was de verbeelding aan de macht (imagination in the driver's seat, the power of conceptual thinking, particularly in politics).[4]


Early life

Johannes Marten den Uijl was born on 9 August 1919 in the town of Hilversum. He was born in a Calvinist reformed family. His father, Johannes den Uyl, was a shopkeeper and a basketweaver who died when Den Uyl was only 10. Den Uyl attended the Christian Lyceum (the present Comenius College) in Hilversum from 1931 to 1936. Following this he studied economics at the University of Amsterdam. During this period in his life he left the church. In 1942 he attained the doctorandus degree. Until 1945 he was a civil servant at the National Bureau for Prices of Chemical Products, part of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. During that period he was part of the underground newspaper group that published the clandestine Het Parool (The Password). After the Second World War he worked for Het Parool, Vrij Nederland and other former resistance papers. From January 1949 to 1963 he was head of the Wiardi Beckman Stichting, the think tank of the Partij van de Arbeid (Labour Party, a Dutch Social democracy party). In 1953, at the invitation of the American government, Den Uyl stayed for a few months in the United States, gaining an appreciation of the American experience.[5]


Joop den Uyl as Minister of Economic Affairs in 1965.

In 1953 Den Uyl was elected to the city council of Amsterdam and in 1956 he was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1963 he became municipal administrator for economic affairs in Amsterdam, resigning his parliamentary seat. He resigned that post in 1965 to become minister of economic affairs in the Cals administration. As the responsible minister, he decided to close the uneconomic coal mines of Limburg, causing high local unemployment. Following the parliamentary elections of 1967, he became leader of the Labour Party in parliament.

Visit to the Dutch Antilles, 1974

Den Uyl's Labour Party won the 1973 elections in alliance with the progressive liberal Democrats 66 and radical Christian Political Party of Radicals, but failed to achieve a majority in parliament. After lengthy negotiations, he formed Kabinet-Den Uyl with the Christian-democratic Catholic People's Party and Anti Revolutionary Party. This cabinet faced many problems. An early problem was the 1973 oil boycott following the Dutch support of Israel in the Yom Kippur war. Den Uyl said in a speech on national television that "things would never return to the way they were" and implemented fuel rationing and a ban on Sunday driving.

Joop den Uyl with Henry Kissinger in 1976.
1977 election poster calling for people to "Vote for the Prime Minister"

Between 1973 and 1977, the country's economic situation turned ugly. The government's budget deficit increased tenfold, inflation approached 10 percent, the unemployment rate doubled, and the current account went from positive to negative – the latter a critical problem in a country that rises or falls on foreign trade. Despite economic difficulties, however, the government was able to enact a wide range of progressive social reforms, such as significant increases in welfare payments, the indexation of benefits and the minimum wage to contractual private sector wage developments,[6] a system of rent rebates (1975),[7] and a universal work incapacity insurance scheme (1976).[8] The Primary Education Act of October 1974 gave more freedom to school heads regarding the programming of the curriculum, and an Act of June 1974 made supplementary benefits available to unemployed persons who accepted lower paid- work. In addition, a law of June 1976 enabled employees aged sixty, two years after the first date of receipt of benefits (WWV scheme), to continue receiving them until the age of sixty-five. The purpose of this legislation was to improve the financial circumstances of older employees who are unemployed for a long time.[9] In August 1976, job protection was introduced during pregnancy and for 12 weeks following childbirth.[10] The number of years of full compulsory education were increased,[11] and an Act on equal pay in the private sector was introduced.[12] In addition, investments were carried out in social services, such as home care services for families.[13]

A regulation was introduced in September 1973 providing for the employment of persons “for whom it is difficult to find employment and who have been in prolonged unemployment.”[14] In January 1974, a statutory minimum wage for young people between the ages of 15 and 22 was introduced, and in March 1974 the insurance scheme for wage and salary earners was extended to cover the costs of physiotherapy treatment “where this has been prescribed by a doctor.”[15] In September 1975, a regulation on the promotion of vocational training for young people was introduced, aimed at “a great number of young people who, as a result of the present educational system, depend on on-the-job training within the framework of the Apprenticeship Law.” The chances of obtaining an individual rent subsidy were also significantly increased, while an Act of June 1975 amended a number of existing Acts “with a view to introducing changes regarding the organization and the districts of factory inspection and the inspection of ports and dangerous machinery,” and also conferred legislative powers on the Minister of Social Affairs under the Act “concerning the loading and unloading of ocean-going vessels and extended the scope of the Silicosis Act.”[16]

The Collective Redundancy (Notification) Act of 1976 imposed an obligation on employers (who intend to collectively dismiss employees) “to give written notice of this intention to the relevant trade unions for consultation,”[17] while that same year consultative works councils were replaced by powerful ones modelled after the German works councils.[18] Also in 1976, a law was passed forbidding dismissal upon pregnancy or marriage for all women.[19]

A February 1976 regulation on accidents in nuclear installations provided for interministerial coordination on measures to be taken “in the event of accidents and for the preparation of an emergency plan,” while a law of June 1976 provided for special measures for unemployed persons who reached the age of 60 and who had used up their rights to unemployment benefit.[20] A law of December 1976 relaxed the conditions for exemption from national insurance contributions or entitlement to ·pay reduced contributions, and also extended entitlement to orphans' pensions “to illegitimate children whose mothers are dead and who have not been recognized by their fathers.” The Asbestos Decree of April 1977 prohibited the storage and use of crocidolite (blue asbestos) and materials or ·products containing crocidolite and also prohibited “ the spraying of asbestos or materials or products containing asbestos and their use for thermal insulation or for acoustic, preservative or decorative purposes.” In September 1977, regulations were issued “regarding the conditions under which young persons of 16 and over may exceptionally drive agricultural tractors.” In May 1977, a subsidy scheme for the placing of handicapped persons was introduced.[21]

In 1977 the cabinet fell due to a conflict between Den Uyl and the Catholic People's Party minister of Justice Dries van Agt. The Labour Party entered the elections under the banner "Vote for the Prime Minister". The Labour Party won by a landslide (it got over 33% percent of the votes, a relatively large share in the divided politics of the Netherlands at that time) and 53 seats. Labour's coalition partner Democrats 66 also made gains, from 6 to 8 seats. However, its other coalition partner Political Party of Radicals lost nearly all its seats, making it impossible for Den Uyl to form a new government that he could count on to support him in parliament. More than 200 days after the election, the Christian Democratic Appeal (a new party that was formed by Den Uyl's former coalition-members Catholic People's Party and Anti Revolutionary Party, joined by the smaller Christian Historical Union) formed a cabinet with the liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, supported by a small majority of 77 seats (out of a total of 150).

Joop den Uyl as the Parliamentary leader of the Labour Party in the House of Representatives in 1986.

After being opposition leader from 1977 to 1981, Den Uyl returned to government in 1981. The Labour Party formed a coalition with Christian Democratic Appeal and Democrats 66. Den Uyl became vice-minister president and minister for Social Affairs and Employment. Van Agt, by now Den Uyl's nemesis, led this cabinet. The cabinet was in constant internal conflict and fell after eight months. The elections of 1982 were won by the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy. Labour Party made few gains, Christian Democratic Appeal suffered light losses and the Democrats 66 lost most of its seats. Den Uyl returned to parliament and led the Labour Party in opposition until 1986. As leader of the main opposition party, Den Uyl - always a soft-spoken Atlanticist - provided cover for the government's controversial decision to place NATO cruise missiles on Dutch soil. In turn, this decision — and a similar one by the Belgian government — satisfied one of the West German conditions for the placement of cruise missiles and Pershing II missiles in West Germany.

Family and later life

Den Uyl was married to Liesbeth den Uyl, née Van Vessem. They had three sons and four daughters. Of those Saskia Noorman-den Uyl became a member of parliament for the Labour Party until 2006 and Xander den Uyl became a leading figure in ABVAKABO, one of the Dutch Labour unions.

After the elections of 1986, which he won, Den Uyl left politics. He was succeeded as leader of the Labour Party by Wim Kok. He died on Christmas Eve of 1987, aged 68, of a brain tumor.


National honours
Ribbon bar Honour Date
Grand Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau 9 September 1982
Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau 11 April 1978
Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion 5 December 1966
Honorary medal for Initiative and Ingenuity of the Order of the House of Orange 19 September 1974
Foreign honours
Grand officer of the Honorary Order of the Palm (Suriname)


"Twee dingen:..." ("Two things:..." In interviews, many of Den Uyl's answers started with these two words, sending a signal to the listener to drop any expectation of a simple yes or no.)


  1. Joop in isolation: [ˈjoːp].
  2. (Dutch) De mythe van het vechtkabinet van Joop den Uyl. University of Rotterdam. 2002
  3. (Dutch) Suèr, Henk. Joop den Uyl: verguisd en inspirerend at the Wayback Machine (archived 5 March 2012).
  4. (Dutch) Onthullende biografie Joop den Uyl at the Wayback Machine (archived 27 June 2009). University of Amsterdam. 21 February 2008
  5. International Institute of Social History, Archief Joop den Uyl, item 187. Retrieved on 9 October 2007.
  6. Wagenaar, H. (31 October 2000). "Government Institutions: Effects, Changes and Normative Foundations: Effects, Changes and Normative Foundations". Springer Science & Business Media via Google Books.
  7. West European Housing Systems in a Comparative Perspective, p. 37, at Google Books
  9. Growth to Limits: The Western European Welfare States Since World War II, Volume 2 edited by Peter Flora
  10. PF 2.5 Annex: Detail of Change in Parental Leave By Country at the Wayback Machine (archived 21 July 2014)
  11. Hindman, Hugh D. (1 January 2009). "The World of Child Labor: An Historical and Regional Survey". M.E. Sharpe via Google Books.
  12. Bagilhole, Barbara (1 January 2009). "Understanding Equal Opportunities and Diversity: The Social Differentiations and Intersections of Inequality". Policy Press via Google Books.
  13. Starke, P.; Kaasch, A.; Hooren, F. Van; Hooren, Franca Van (7 May 2013). "The Welfare State as Crisis Manager: Explaining the Diversity of Policy Responses to Economic Crisis". Springer via Google Books.
  17. Blanpain, Roger; Bellace, Janice R. (1 January 2012). "Trade Union Rights at the Workplace". Kluwer Law International via Google Books.
  18. Regini, Professor Marino (11 December 1992). "The Future of Labour Movements". SAGE via Google Books.

Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Joop den Uyl.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Anne Vondeling
Leader of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Wim Kok
Preceded by
Gerard Nederhorst
Parliamentary leader of the Labour Party
in the House of Representatives

Succeeded by
Ed van Thijn
Preceded by
Ed van Thijn
Parliamentary leader of the Labour Party
in the House of Representatives

Succeeded by
Wim Meijer
Preceded by
Wim Meijer
Parliamentary leader of the Labour Party
in the House of Representatives

Succeeded by
Wim Kok
Political offices
Preceded by
Koos Andriessen
Minister of Economic Affairs
Succeeded by
Joop Bakker
Preceded by
Barend Biesheuvel
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Minister of General Affairs

Succeeded by
Dries van Agt
Preceded by
Fons van der Stee
Minister for Suriname and Netherlands Antilles Affairs
Succeeded by
Jan de Koning
Preceded by
Wil Albeda
Minister of Social Affairs and Employment
Succeeded by
Louw de Graaf
Preceded by
Hans Wiegel
Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands
With: Jan Terlouw
Succeeded by
Jan Terlouw
Preceded by
Robert Pontillon
President of the Party of European Socialists
Succeeded by
Vítor Constâncio
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