Municipalities want Cabinet to raise minimum wage, welfare benefits
Municipalities want the government to significantly increase minimum wages and welfare benefits. They worry that if low-income households’ position doesn’t improve rapidly, a new underclass will emerge in the Netherlands in the coming years, the association of Dutch municipalities VNG said in an essay published on Wednesday, AD reports.
Over the past years, the number of people going to the municipality with financial problems has only increased. Due to the pandemic, the energy crisis, and the high inflation, the number of households receiving income support has doubled to almost one million, according to the newspaper.
According to the municipalities, after the benefits scandal and Groningen, the national government must become a reliable partner again. The current benefits system isn’t working. Citizens are worried about being labeled as fraudsters for making mistakes in the complicated system. About 600,000 households must repay at least 500 euros to the Tax Authority every year. “The benefits system has placed uncertainty about income with the citizen,” the VNG wrote. “We approach people with an eye for fraud - while it often concerns mistakes.”
The VNG suggests scrapping allowances for rent, childcare, and other necessities people on minimum wage can’t afford and having reception organizations, housing corporations, and municipalities provide these directly. “Then they are no longer a risk to our residents.” Ideally, people shouldn’t even have to apply for the support but receive it automatically from their government.
“As municipalities, we have been calling for years that the Cabinet should structurally work on social security,” VNG director Peter Heijkoop said to AD. “However, that is not happening. Problems have not gotten smaller, but bigger in the past ten years.”
The national government focuses too much on politics and too little on the people they govern, the municipalities said. “Crises like corona or energy costs are tackled with plasters and temporary stopgap remedies. Parties and Ministers prefer to score with their own plans in the media rather than help with structural solutions.”
And in the meantime, municipalities are carrying more and more responsibilities, and their organizations can hardly cope anymore. “We have to turn the tide now,” Heijkoop told the newspaper. “Without the basic security of income, work, and a government that stands by your side, every change becomes a threat. If we fail to do so in the next ten years, a group of uncertain people will arise. This dichotomy can cause a socially divisive problem.”
The VNG, therefore, called on the national government to get over itself and step in.