Refugees driving force behind increase in Dutch welfare benefits

The number of welfare recipients in the Netherlands increased to 474 thousand in the first quarter of this year, Statistics Netherlands announced on Wednesday. That is 15 thousand more welfare recipients than the same quarter last year. According to the stats office, the increase can mainly be attributed to refugees who haven't been able to find a job.

Between March 2016 and March 2017 the number of welfare recipients with a non-Western background increased with more than 19 thousand. "For a significant part this involves people who applied for asylum in the Netherlands and received a residency permit", Statistics Netherlands writes. The largest group is made up of Syrian refugees, followed by Eritreans. Many refugees do not have the necessary qualifications to find a job quickly in the Netherlands.

The number of people with a Dutch or Western background receiving welfare decreased with almost 4 thousand in the same period. Statistics Netherlands attributes the decrease to the improving labor market. Unemployment in the Netherlands has been steadily decreasing since a peak in early 2014. "Typically welfare responds with a delay to the labor market."