Employers and junior social affairs minister Paul de Krom have reached a deal on creating 5,000 new jobs for people who find it hard to get work or who have a mental or physical handicap, the minister said on Wednesday.
The new jobs are part of a radical shake-up of the special-needs job sector, which the minister described as the current cabinet’s ‘biggest reform’ to date.
The plan involves merging basic welfare benefits (bijstand) and the Wajong benefit for the young handicapped and abolishing sheltered work schemes. The primary motive is ‘reforming the bottom layer of the labour market’, and ensuring ‘those who can work do work’, the minister told the Volkskrant.
Responsibility for the new scheme will be shifted to local councils. If people are not able to work hard enough to qualify for the minimum wage, employers will be able to cut salaries and the local councils will make up the difference.
The government hopes the new system will save €1.8bn a year within 30 years.
Lobby groups for the handicapped say while they support efforts to find people with special needs regular jobs, the new rules will be very complex and difficult to implement.
Some 100,000 people currently work in special projects for the handicapped. A further 200,000 youngsters claim the young-handicapped benefit Wajong – of whom around half work part-time. A further 314,000 people are claiming welfare benefits.
In particular, low-skilled work currently done by people from Eastern Europe offers opportunities, the minister is quoted as saying in the Financieele Dagblad.
‘In Rotterdam, 33,000 people are claiming welfare benefits but nearby local authority areas employ thousands of Eastern Europeans. That has to change,’ De Krom said. ‘I want and expect a culture change.’