No more than 2,000 people were given a permanent job contract in 2011, compared with 83,000 in 2010, according to new labour market figures from the government’s job centre and benefits payment agency UWV.
The UWV says it is shocked by the findings but has no ready explanation, because there was no similar drop in permanent jobs during previous economic downturns.
‘It may have something to do with the continuing uncertainty hanging over the market, but we really don’t know,’ a spokesman told Trouw.
The number of short-term job contracts for periods of longer than one year grew strongly: from 227,000 in 2010 to 368,000 last year.
In the construction trade, for example, the number of permanent contracts fell by 4,000 but there were 12,000 vacancies with either a temporary contract or where the employer was looking for freelancers and staffing agency support.
Research by the government’s socio-cultural advice agency SCP last month showed most short-term contracts are renewed at the end of the period with another short-term period.
Opposition MPs have demanded the cabinet explain the figures. This shows ‘workers are increasingly seen as an interchangeable part of the production process,’ said Labour MP Mariette Hamer.
Fatma Koser of the Liberal democrats D66 called for redundancy law reform, ‘so that employers would again dare to offer staff a permanent contract.’
Unions have also called the figures a ‘wake-up call’ which illustrates how flexible the workforce has become.
The Netherlands has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU, at 5.8%, but research suggests this may partly be due to hidden joblessness among the country’s 750,000 freelancers – known as zzp’ers or zelfstandigen zonder personnel.
Some 4.8% of the working population is officially registered as a freelancer, almost double the figure from a year ago.
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