Unions demand quick solution for students in financial problems due to coronavirus
Student unions LSVB and FNV Jong & United call on Minister Wouter Koolmees of Social Affairs and Employment to quickly come up with aid for students now facing financial trouble because they've lost their side-jobs in the coronavirus crisis. Koolmees said on Tuesday that he will look for solutions, but the unions want to know when students will benefit from this.
According to the unions, arrangements were hastily made to mitigate the financial impact of the coronavirus for employers and workers, but there is no arrangement for the thousands of students now in trouble. Due to the loan system, students are increasingly dependent on their side-jobs to pay rent and food and keep their study debts down. As they also have to study, most students are flex workers - the workers first cut when a company faces trouble.
"We see that due to the loan system you have to borrow more or work more, rooms have also become more expensive. And there are more and more flexible contracts," Bas van Weegberg of FNV Jong & United said to NL Times. "We have about 1,300 reports from students who lose an average of 500 euros per month right now, and so are really getting into financial trouble."
According to Van Weegberg, international students are even more affected, because they can't fall back on a safety net like going back to live with their parents. "It is already difficult for Dutch students if they do not have parents who can support them financially, but that is even more difficult for foreign students. The uncertainty about the postponement of their studies, whether it will take longer, is also a problem for them."
"Working students are also ordinary employees, although they often have less financial buffer than most people," Van Weegberg said. "Vulnerable groups such as flex workers and students should therefore be entitled to the same schemes as permanent employees."
According to the unions, students work a estimated 17 hours a week on average, but outliers of 24 or even 32 hours in addition to their studies are also common.
The Minister of Education previously advised students to borrow more to cover the gap in income, LSVB said, but this caused great unrest among students. "They often already have substantial loans and work alongside their studies precisely to limit or avoid student debt altogether."
Once this crisis is over, LSVB and FNV Jong & United will continue their campaign for the abolition of the loan system and the return of the basic study grant.