Unemployment tops 8%, ministers say figures are ‘very serious’

The official Dutch unemployment figure reached a new high of 8.1% in March, according to the latest figures from the national statistics office CBS.

In total, 643,000 people are without a job, an average increase of 24,000 a month since the start of the year. The sharpest rise was among people aged 25 to 45, the CBS said.

The unemployment rate has risen steadily for the past 18 months, breaking the 500,000 barrier in mid August for the first time since 1996. Never before have so many people been out of work in the Netherlands.

Social accord

‘These very serious figures show how important it is that we have reached agreement with unions and employers,’ social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher said in a reaction.

The minister was referring to last week’s deal involving freezing €4.3bn in new austerity measures plus new efforts to boost employment.

In particular, it is important that €600m has been allocated to help younger and older workers find a job through extra training and internships, the minister said. ‘We are now focused on reversing the rise in unemployment,’ he said.

Action

But opposition MPs said they are extremely worried about the jobs market. ‘While prime minister Mark Rutte is calling on people to buy houses and cars, every day one thousand people are losing their job,’ Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer is quoted as saying by the Financieele Dagblad.

Alexander Pechtold, leader of the Liberal democrats D66, said the new jobless total is worse that had been expected. ‘The delay in crucial reforms agreed in the social contract and the lack of political stability are not contributing to a recovery of confidence,’ he said.

‘We are lacking a clear view because the ruling parties VVD and Labour have not succeeded in together creating broad support for a plan for the future of the Netherlands,’ Pechtold said.