Fin. Min. wants unemployment benefit cut as permanent job offers fall
Departing Finance Minister and CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra wants to reduce the maximum duration of unemployment benefits from two years to one, he said in an interview with newspaper AD just a day before Statistics Netherlands reported that the number of permanent jobs in the country fell for the first time in three years in the last quarter of 2020.
Hoekstra told AD on Thursday that "the time has come to shorten the duration of the unemployment benefit from two to one year", combined with increasing the benefit when it starts. Hoekstra believes this will encourage people to find new work, while at the same time saving 600 million euros per year.
"The labor market must be improved and people must be helped to find a job more quickly," Hoekstra said. "And it is also necessary for people themselves to have a job. Because it also leaves you with happiness in life." He added that this plan will need to be discussed after the pandemic and combined with better education and career opportunities for unemployed people.
On Friday, Statistics Netherlands reported that the number of permanent jobs in the Netherlands decreased in the autumn for the first time in three years, likely due to the pandemic and lockdown. In October 5,304,000 Netherlands residents had a permanent contract, 23 thousand fewer than the month before - the biggest decrease since January 2013 at the end of the credit crisis. In November, that number decreased by another 9 thousand. The December figures aren't in yet, but the stats office expects another decrease.
The decline in permanent job prospects is not a surprise, as economists already predicted that companies won't be able to survive the crisis by cutting flexible and temporary contracts alone, according to NU.nl. Flex- and temporary workers were the first to lose their jobs when the pandemic started. Now the expectation that temporary jobs will follow suit seems to be coming true.
Other parties, especially on the left wing, fiercely criticized Hoekstra's suggestion to cut back on unemployment benefits in the midst of a crisis. GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver accused him of "cutting back on the social safety net", according to ANP. PvdA leader Lilian Ploumen said Hoekstra wants to "strip the benefits and take security from employees."