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Serious rise in poverty in the Netherlands06 December 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
New statistics from state statistics agency CBS reveal that poverty in the Netherlands has increased sharply over the last two years, from 7,4 per cent in 2010 to 9,4 per cent in 2012.
Despite the economic crisis beginning in 2008, the full impact on household incomes has only begun to be felt over the last few years. Now, 664.000 households in the Netherlands are at risk of poverty, with a total of 1,329 million people in 2012 existing on a low income.
Estimates suggest that the poverty rate will have risen again in 2013, but less than in 2012, and decline slightly in 2014.
Poverty in the Netherlands
Adults in poverty are often employed, although of the 348.000 working poor in 2012, 165.000 were self-employed. There were also 255.000 poor social assistance benefit recipients and 79.000 people aged over 65 (i.e. retired) in poverty.
There are also more children in poverty now: over 100.000 more than in 2007. That means one in three poor people is aged under 18. In addition, people living in poverty are less likely to be immigrants to the Netherlands, with 60 per cent of people in poverty identifying as native Dutch.
Further, almost a quarter of all households in the Netherlands living below the low-income threshold in 2011 were in the Randstad, with the largest share in Amsterdam. The poverty rate has risen more in The Hague and Rotterdam than Amsterdam since 2009, however, and Rotterdam has the most poor postcode districts in the top 20.
Working two jobs
The struggle to stay above the poverty is also revealed in another CBS report which shows that the amount of people holding two jobs has increased, to around half a million people.
The number has increased since 2008, with the largest increase occurring with those who started their own business while also retaining another employed position.
Young people are also the most likely to combine two jobs. Of those 15- to 25-year olds who work at least 12 hours a week, more than 12 per cent has two jobs.
Dutch labour market
That the situation is only going to improve slowly is evident in a report from the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) from Maastricht University. Examining the prospects for recovery in employment in the medium term in the Netherlands, it described them as "bleak."
The report estimated that while the largest increase in employment is expected in the healthcare sector, the contraction in that industry will still continue until 2018. Also, budget cuts to the public service will result in a further contraction in public sector employment, another large employer in the Netherlands.
Figures like these on poverty and unemployment are having repercussions beyond worrying anyone trying to find a job.
A poll of 1.800 Dutch voters conducted on behalf of the SP (Socialist Party) found that eight out of 10 don’t want the Netherlands to open its borders to Romanian and Bulgarian workers on January 1, 2014 when they become full members of the union.
Even the most pro-Europe Dutch, D66, had 53 per cent of its voters considering it unwise to allow free movement of workers from these countries. Among voters for the anti-immigration PVV, that number is 100 per cent.
A Christian Democrat MP has also said that the arrival of new workers from Eastern Europe will make it more difficult to find work for the current Dutch unemployed. "Our labour market certainly has a national side next to a European side," he said.
Minister for Social Affairs and Employment Lodewijk Asscher has already expressed his concerns that cheap labour could flood the Netherlands and said recently that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s calls for limits on EU migration were "potentially interesting."
Responding to Asscher’s initial statement, the Romanian Minister for Labour Mariana Câmpeanu called the Netherlands "xenophobic" in September this year at a summit at The Hague.
Asscher's statements are not enough for some members of Parliament, however, as one SP member called on Asscher to allow the Netherlands to unilaterally rebel against the EU on this issue.
The minister is meeting with his European colleagues later in December to discuss what is being described as the unwanted side effects of free movement in Europe.