Netherlands could lure unemployed in France, Spain to resolve labor shortage
Minister Karien van Gennip of Social Affairs and Employment likes the idea of luring unemployed young people from France or Spain to work in the Netherlands, which is facing staff shortages in almost every sector. Migrant workers form a big part of the Dutch economy, she said in an interview with the newspaper AD. "I can't imagine that we can run the economy without them."
"There is a really high youth unemployment rate in France, especially in the suburbs. I could imagine that we invest in those French or Spanish school-leavers to let them work here in the hospitality industry or horticulture," Van Gennip said. But she added that her first focus is on the "one million Dutch people who are still on the sidelines" looking for work or wanting to work more.
Rits de Boer of the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment recently suggested halting the arrival of migrant workers while the authorities tackle the abuses surrounding them. The Inspectorate investigates reports of dozens of migrant workers sleeping in small rooms tucked away in bunk beds. Or construction workers who do everything on-site - cooking, eating, sleeping, working. Or Ukrainian refugees facing massive fines if they complain about their working conditions in Westland greenhouses.
Van Gennip agrees that abuses must be tackled, but the Dutch economy would not function without migrant workers, she said. "We have about half a million labor migrants in the Netherlands, 800,000 to 900,000 throughout the year, because not everyone stays here all year round. There are many, that's true. But our economy also runs to a large extent on labor migrants. You can no longer see the Netherlands separate from them."
Van Gennip is working on multiple laws to tackle abuses, including a law that requires separate contracts for employment and rent. That way, migrant workers don't lose their homes if they leave their job. She also wants employment agencies to have permits before they can work with migrant workers. That law is expected to take effect in 2025.
“Making laws takes a long time. And certainly, a law like this must be good. Because if it leaves room somewhere, people will still look for the loopholes. But my point is: we have to do it right. And I think that is possible,” the Minister said.