Some 820,000 people in the Netherlands are currently claiming some form of invalidity benefit, the Financieele Dagblad reported at the weekend.
Add to that the number of welfare (bijstand) and unemployment benefit (ww) claims and over 1.6 million people are economically inactive, the FD said.
‘Twenty-five years ago, Christian Democrat prime minister Ruud Lubbers made his famous “The Netherlands is sick” statement, but the country is not much healthier now,’ the paper said on its front page.
At the time, Lubbers was referring to the fact that 879,000 people were claiming WAO – the invalidity benefit which is now being replaced.
Although there are fewer people claiming benefits because they are unfit for work, there has been an increase in claims for welfare and jobless benefits (ww), the FD said.
In addition, national statistics office figures show that 65% of benefit claims end because people reach retirement age, not because they have a job.
Despite the rise in benefit claims, the paper points out that the number of actual hours being worked has gone up some 20% since 1990 and the bill to the state for social security benefits has gone down.
‘In the 1980s it was a question of changing approach. Older workers were eased out and replaced by youngsters,’ said Marco Pastors, who heads a government programme to boost employment in Rotterdam.
‘Now we have to cope with a lot of low-skilled people from ethnic minorities who are on benefits. They are not getting jobs because of competition from abroad, primarily eastern Europe. The situation is much more serious than it was then.’
Rene Paas, chairman of the social security managers’ assocation Divosa, told the paper that two-thirds of the 1.6 million benefit claimants could ‘in principle’ work.
‘It is worrying that this group has not become smaller… It as is if we have agreed to let them remain home on benefits. You could equally well call that “sick”.’
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