Increase in welfare benefits; bad quarter for hospitality sector

At the end of March, the number of active general welfare benefits increased compared to the previous month for the first time since early 2017. The number of benefits to self-employed, including coronavirus specific benefits, increased sharply. The hospitality industry in particular had a bad first quarter, seeing the biggest turnover decrease in seven years, according to figures released by Statistics Netherlands on Friday.

At the end of March 2020 a total of 413 thousand Netherlands residents up to state pension age received a general social assistance benefit, a thousand more than at the end of February 2020. Despite this month-to-month increase, the number of active general welfare benefits was still 2 thousand lower than the previous quarter, and 19 thousand lower than the first quarter of 2019. "This meant that for the 10th quarter in a row, there were fewer people with general social assistance benefits than a year earlier," the stats office said. 

A total of 14 thousand self-employed persons were receiving a benefit at the end of March, either through the self-employed persons assistance decree Bbz or through the temporary bridging scheme for self-employed Tozo, which was specifically implemented to help self-employed through the coronavirus crisis. In both January and February 3,600 self-employed received a Bbz benefit. The Tozo scheme was implemented in March, so there is no previous information on it. The sharp increase in self-employed receiving benefits is mainly due to the Tozo scheme, according to Statistics Netherlands. 

The first quarter of 2020 was a bad one for the hospitality industry, with turnover dropping 14 percent and volume 14.5 percent compared to the previous quarters. The decrease mainly happened in March, when the government implemented measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

The turnover for accommodation providers, like hotels and holiday parks,decreased by 14.9 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the previous quarter. The volume decreased by the same percentage. Food and beverage outlets, like restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets, saw turnover decrease by 13.6 percent and volume decrease by 14.4 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2020