Annemarie van Gaal: Stop pampering part-timers

Women who want the top job should work full-time but should also be able to hire a tax deductable housekeeper, writes Annemarie van Gaal

In her book ‘Lean’, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg calls for women to go for the top business positions. The Dutch translation of the book coincided with a report which highlighted the Netherlands’ dismal performance when it comes to women in top jobs.

We’re down the bottom of the list in Europe and not far off in the world ranking. On top of that it seems the number of women holding executive jobs has gone down drastically this year. At this rate we’ll fall off the charts altogether.

On the other hand, we do head the European list of women working in part-time jobs. And that’s where the problem lies. More than three quarters of working women work part-time and a part-time job can never be a top job. That’s the simple truth of it.


I’m not going to argue in favour of men taking on a share of the care duties. That won’t solve the problem. Too many men have already cut down on the working week to help around the house. No, the Netherlands is doing something fundamentally wrong. It’s pampering its part-timers and pampering does not make highflyers.

Why do we still see draft proposals which allow women to spread their maternity leave over thirty weeks? This sends out the wrong signal. Every employer will think twice before he hires a young, childless woman to do a responsible job.

We’re also sending out the wrong fiscal message. Why do we still have a fiscal advantage for women who don’t work? The rule is being phased out and will be abolished by 2024 but why not abolish it now, at this moment? Now that would be a clear message.

And why are part-time hours still more remunerative than full-time hours? If we want to use the female potential in this country and help the economy we will have to strip our fiscal system of these negative incentives.

Hired help

A large part of the reason for our lacklustre performance is that Dutch women don’t have the possibility of getting hired help. It’s easy for Sandberg. She doesn’t have to cook or wash and she has a wonderful housekeeper to look after her five and seven year-old 24/7.  

Here, hired help is limited to a cleaner who comes in three hours a week. A real housekeeper who collects the kids from school, helps them with their homework and cooks is just not part of our culture. There is no market for a person like that and if you did find one, she would be unaffordable.

I know women who have asked temporary work agencies for help in their search for a housekeeper but always in vain. Temp agencies only have cleaners on their books, not a real housekeeper who will also look after children. Ads only attract people who want a job on the side, cash-in-hand. That’s no option either.

I propose we give all women who work full-time a fiscal deduction for household help. If she takes on a housekeeper to run her house and look after the children she can deduct the costs.

This would send the right signal to working women, improve our ranking and stimulate the economy at a time when we need it most. It would also open up a new jobs market for housekeepers and at the same time deal with a large part of the black money circuit connected with cleaning. What’s stopping us? 

Annemarie van Gaal is an entrepreneur and head of publishing company AM Media. She is also a writer and television personality

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation