Stricter regulations for Dutch social welfare benefits

Stricter regulations for Dutch social welfare benefits

In the Netherlands, there are certain benefits and allowances, which you can apply for. However, in order to receive these, you must meet certain requirements.

Dutch as a requirement

In 2016, speaking Dutch, as a condition for receiving social welfare benefits, came into force. However, the Dutch language requirement is only optional, and it is therefore up to municipalities to decide whether they will enforce it and how strict they will be in doing so.

In order to meet the language requirement, you must be able to speak a basic level of Dutch. This entails being able to have a simple conversation, in which you, for example, articulate and understand information and opinions. If you cannot prove that you have a basic command of Dutch, either with a certificate from the Civic Integration Exam or another Dutch language certificate, you will have to take a Dutch course.

If you are receiving social welfare benefits and have been obliged to learn Dutch but do not do so you risk facing cuts to your benefits. The Dutch government states that those who do not make an effort to learn Dutch face benefit cuts of 20 percent in the first six months. Should they still refuse to learn Dutch, cuts of 40 percent will be applied to the following six months. After a year, the benefits will be stopped completely.

Last year, research showed that almost all municipalities enforce the language requirement when granting the social welfare benefit. However, few municipalities issued sanctions to those who could not prove a basic command of the Dutch language.

Important part of integration

The Dutch State Secretary of Social Affairs, Tamara van Ark, wants to make binding agreements with municipalities regarding the enforcement of the Dutch language requirement and sanctions for social welfare benefit recipients.

An intermediate evaluation of the implementation of the language requirement is being carried out, the results of which will be available at the beginning of next year. Furthermore, a large-scale evaluation is scheduled for 2019. At this moment in time, Rotterdam is the only city where the municipality adheres to the language requirement and sanctions.

Van Ark also expressed that the Dutch language is extremely important in finding a job in the Netherlands; working being something which is communicated in the coalition agreement as an important part of integration.

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

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mokumhammer 21:24 | 10 December 2017

David Gibbs Explain 'welfare'? Do you mean UWV? Then you are wrong. It is an insurance - every worker pays in to - has nothing whatsoever tot do with speaking dutch. Do you mean bijstand? Then say so.

minasolanki 09:07 | 11 December 2017

Hi David, UWV refers to unemployment benefit. This article is about the social welfare benefit, which is "bijstand" in Dutch. Hope this helps. Have a nice day!

Jurek 19:28 | 6 December 2018

Hi, If I would like apply for rent benefit do I need to know Dutch language?

minasolanki 10:04 | 7 December 2018

Hi Jurek, You can see all the requirements for rent allowance here: Have a nice day! :)