New push to give asylum seekers quicker, more access to Dutch labor market
The D66 wants to let asylum seekers start working in the Netherlands sooner and for longer. According to the party, this will help asylum seekers integrate faster and will help fill staff shortages in the Netherlands’ tight labor market. The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, will debate this proposal by D66 MP Anne-Marijke Podt on Monday, NOS reports.
Asylum seekers must meet many conditions before being allowed to work in the Netherlands. They are only allowed to work after living in the Netherlands for six months, and then they can’t work for more than 24 weeks per year. They also need a work permit that employers must apply for at the UWV and must open a bank account for their salary. The last condition is often quite a challenge. You need a citizen's registration number (BSN) to open a bank account, and the backlog for registration has grown significantly. In January 2022, over 2,000 asylum seekers were waiting for registration. In May 2023, that was 13,440.
Ukrainian refugees are exempt from most of these conditions. They can register with any municipality upon their arrival in the Netherlands and start working as soon as their employer registers them as an employee with the UWV.
D66 parliamentarian Podts argues for equal treatment for Ukrainians and other asylum seekers when entering the labor market. She wants asylum seekers to be able to integrate as quickly as Ukrainians by also letting them register with any municipality and start working from day one.
Public support for helping asylum seekers find work earlier is growing. Professors recently wrote a manifesto to that extent, according to NOS, and the association of Dutch municipalities VNG and the province of Utrecht asked Minister Karien van Gennip of Social Affairs and Employment to make this happen.
“If asylum seekers are linked early to a municipality where they can get a job, it will save the municipality a benefit and promote integration,” a spokesperson for the King’s Commissioner in Utrecht told the broadcaster. “For asylum seekers, unless you have significant trauma, it is also better to get started right away instead of sitting aimlessly on the edge of your bed. In the end, it is better for everyone.”
Whether Podt’s initiative will get support from a parliamentary majority remains to be seen. Opponents, including coalition partner VVD, argue that letting asylum seekers work may constitute a promise of residence. They argue that the 24-week limitation was introduced to prevent people whose asylum application got rejected from being entitled to benefits.
Incidentally, a Dutch court recently ruled that the 24 weeks limit is contrary to European law.