The Netherlands faces a repeat ‘tragedy from guest worker history’ if not enough is invested in the socio-economic integration of Romanians and Bulgarians, a government advisory group says on Tuesday.
The Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) says both ministers and industry must take action now the Dutch market is fully open to workers from these eastern European countries.
‘So far, the economic benefits of European labour migration to the Netherlands and elsewhere in the EU have oustripped the costs,’ the council says.
‘Nevertheless, there is cause for concern, particularly regarding the lower end of the labour market,’ the researchers say.
While Romanians who already work in the Netherlands are generally better educated than the Poles who have come here, ‘the group of Romanian workers also includes those with very little education or training, and many Bulgarian workers have a vulnerable labour market position’.
The WRR says the main lesson from the past is that ‘the cost of labour migration becomes higher if people – and their children – do not work.’
Many of the Moroccan and Turkish labourers who came to the Netherlands in the 1970s are now unemployed and their children are less likely to be in work than their Dutch counterparts.
The bottom of the jobs market in particular needs attention and more effort must be made to stamp out unfair competition. This involves using current laws properly and taking new European initiatives. Temporary, payroll and freelance contracts should all be looked at carefully, the council said.
At the same time, the Netherlands needs to do more to attract well-educated migrants, who currently account for one-fifth of new arrivals.
For example, efforts could be made to ensure the 2,650 Romanian and Bulgarian students currently in the Netherlands stay on by investing more in the educational and knowledge infrastructure.
‘Some of them are enrolled in programmes – in particular technical – for which there is a demand in the Dutch labour market,’ the council said.