Greg Shapiro: The underemployed, the out of work and the bankrupt.

As the Dutch government grapples with redundancy reform and employment rules, Greg Shapiro’s been checking out the fortunes of his expat connections.

Looking at the statistics, let’s take a look at the bigger question: is anyone happy here?


The underemployed. He’s American. He came over here years ago to work with a company that ended up giving him a long-term contract. He didn’t think he wanted a job-for-life, but now he’s quite dependent on it.


Sure enough, the company is now scaling back. First, they wanted him to start up his own company so he could invoice them – as well as other clients. But now they want to terminate his contract, and he’s fighting the decision. Result: it’s very awkward, but he’s still going in to work, and he’s miserable.



The out of work. She’s from Colombia. She had a job at Radio Netherlands Worldwide. She was laid off. I’m still wondering how the Dutch government – the enforcer of the anti-redundancy rules – is able to lay off hundreds of people in one swing of the axe. Since being laid off, she’s started her own company. She’s translating, writing her own blog, and working on a podcast with this guy.


The out of work. He’s American. He also had a job at Radio Netherlands. His show was so successful they syndicated it and it played on NPR in the United States. He’s been on unemployment since they laid him off / he quit. Now he’s itching to get back to work, and he’s starting up his radio show as a podcast. There’s no money in it yet, but he has faith…


The out of work. He’s British. He came over here years ago for a short-term job. He also got a long-term contract. But he decided to leave and start his own company. He married a Dutch woman, and they’re expecting a baby. But one of his steady clients just put all their business on hold. Now he’s looking for work and slightly freaked out about the fact that February set a record for bankruptcies in the Netherlands.



The bankrupt. They’re a small Dutch company in artist management and event organizing. The changes the Dutch government has imposed over the last 2 years proved to be too much. Cutting off all subsidies. Raising the tax on tickets. Then lowering it again.

All the while, they were losing business due to the continued recession, caused by self-inflicted austerity. But – the Dutch government also gave them a big loophole. Apparently it’s possible to declare bankruptcy, change the name of your company, and continue as if nothing happened. That’s what they did. Are they hiring again? Not yet. But they’ve got a new lease on life and a new perspective.

Going solo

Is anyone happy here? Actually, yes. The out of work are all going solo. The bankrupt are battling back. The underemployed guy is the only one who’s really unhappy, fighting for a contract he didn’t really want at a place where he doesn’t really like to work.

Yes, the Dutch government should reform the redundancy rules. But while they’re dragging their feet, the rest of us are moving on with our lives. If they can provide an economy where our solo businesses can thrive, then everybody’s happy. If not, we’ll be moving on.


Greg Shapiro Presents UK comedian Pete Johansson, April NL Tour.

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