Learn Dutch or face welfare benefit cuts, minister says

People who do not speak Dutch will have to learn the language in order to continue claiming welfare benefits, if a proposal from junior social affairs minister Jetta Klijnsma becomes law.

Ministers are due to discuss the plan on Friday, the Volkskrant says. The Dutch language requirement will apply to everyone, including Dutch and EU nationals.

People who fail to attend lessons and do not pass the exams will have their benefits cut temporarily, the Volkskrant says. The paper does not say who will pay for the classes.


Making speaking Dutch one of the conditions for claiming welfare benefits (bijstand) has been mooted for several years and was included in the coalition agreement. Welfare is paid to people who do not, or no longer, qualify for unemployment (ww) or incapacity (wao) benefits.

The right-left VVD-PvdA cabinet originally planned to make speaking the language one of the conditions for claiming bijstand but was forced to water the proposal down because it conflicted with international law.

Opponents also say the measure is unnecessary because claimants already have to prove they are doing all they can to get a job, and that includes learning the language.

Get tough

The plan is the latest in a string of measures to get tough on welfare claimants. People will also have to move home or commute for up to three hours a day for a job and ensure they look presentable. They will also be required to perform some sort of community tasks in return for benefits.

Right-wing MPs also want benefit claimants to be forced to take on seasonal jobs or face sanctions, Nos television reported.

The Dutch horticultural sector employs large numbers of seasonal workers from eastern Europe because of the shortage of local people willing to do the jobs.

During a debate with Klijnsma on Wednesday evening, MPs from the two Liberal parties and the Eurosceptic PVV said local councils should do more to make welfare claimants take on temporary work in the farming sector.

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