There are twelve provinces of the Netherlands representing the administrative layer between the national government and the local governments, with responsibility for matters of subnational or regional importance.
|Provinces of the Netherlands
|Kingdom of the Netherlands
3 special municipalities
|Least: Zeeland, 391,124
Most: South Holland, 3,804,906
|Smallest (including water): Utrecht, 1,560 km2 (602 sq mi)
Largest (including water): Friesland, 5,753 km2 (2,221 sq mi)
The most populous province is South Holland, with just over 3.8 million inhabitants as of January 2023[update], and also the most densely populated province with 1,410/km2 (3,700/sq mi). With 391,124 inhabitants, Zeeland has the smallest population. However Drenthe is the least densely populated province with 191/km2 (490/sq mi). In terms of area, Friesland is the largest province with a total area of 5,753 km2 (2,221 sq mi). If water is excluded, Gelderland is the largest province by land area at 4,960 km2 (1,915 sq mi). The province of Utrecht is the smallest with a total area of 1,560 km2 (602 sq mi), while Flevoland is the smallest by land area at 1,410 km2 (544 sq mi). In total about 10,000 people were employed by the provincial administrations in 2018.
The provinces of the Netherlands are joined in the Association of Provinces of the Netherlands (IPO). This organisation promotes the common interests of the provinces in the national government of the Netherlands in The Hague.
Politics and governance
The government of each province consists of three major parts:
- The provincial council (Provinciale Staten) is the provincial parliament elected every four years. The number of members varies between 39 and 55 (since 2015), depending on the number of inhabitants of the province. Being a member is a part-time job. The main task of the provincial council is to scrutinise the work of the provincial government.
- The provincial executive (Gedeputeerde Staten) is a collegial body supported by a majority in the provincial council charged with most executive tasks. Each province has between three and seven deputies, each having their own portfolio. The task of the Provincial Executive is the overall management of the province.
- The King's Commissioner (Commissaris van de Koning) is a single person appointed by the Crown who presides over the provincial council as well as over the Provincial Executive. The Commissioner is appointed for a term of six years, after which reappointment for another term is possible.
The members of the provincial council are elected every four years in direct elections. To a large extent, the same political parties are enlisted in these elections in the national elections. The chosen provincial legislators elect the members of the national Senate within three months after the provincial elections. The elections for the water boards take place on the same date as the provincial elections.
The last provincial elections were held in 2023. The next provincial elections are scheduled for 2027.
- Sustainable spatial development, including water management
- Environment, energy and climate
- Vital countryside
- Regional accessibility and regional public transport
- Regional economy
- Cultural infrastructure and preservation
- Quality of public administration
To a large extent, the provinces of the Netherlands are financed by the national government. Also, provinces have income from a part of the Vehicle Excise Duty. Several provinces have made a large profit in the past from privatising utility companies originally owned or partly owned by the provinces. Essent, which was originally owned by six provinces and more than a hundred municipalities, was sold for around 9.3 billion euros.