Dutch Disease

DEFINITION of 'Dutch Disease'

Negative consequences arising from large increases in a country's income. Dutch disease is primarily associated with a natural resource discovery, but it can result from any large increase in foreign currency, including foreign direct investment, foreign aid or a substantial increase in natural resource prices.

BREAKING DOWN 'Dutch Disease'

Dutch disease has two main effects:

1. A decrease in the price competitiveness, and thus the export, of the affected country's manufactured goods
2. An increase in imports

In the long run, both these factors can contribute to manufacturing jobs being moved to lower-cost countries. The end result is that non-resource industries are hurt by the increase in wealth generated by the resource-based industries.


The term "Dutch disease" originates from a crisis in the Netherlands in the 1960s that resulted from discoveries of vast natural gas deposits in the North Sea. The newfound wealth caused the Dutch guilder to rise, making exports of all non-oil products less competitive on the world market.

In the 1970s, the same economic condition occurred in Great Britain, when the price of oil quadrupled and it became economically viable to drill for North Sea Oil off the coast of Scotland. By the late 1970s, Britain had become a net exporter of oil; it had previously been a net importer. The pound soared in value, but the country fell into recession when British workers demanded higher wages and exports became uncompetitive.


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