The income gap in the Netherlands is not shrinking despite years of government measures, the government’s socio-cultural think-tank SCP said in a new report.
The SCP looked at the period between 2014 and 2020 and found that some 28% of the population continues to have a lesser degree of access to work and income, social networks, care, support and education compared to other social groups.
‘We see time and again the same groups of vulnerable citizens who are left behind and whose problems accumulate in all sorts of areas,’ SCP director Kim Putters told current affairs programme Nieuwsuur.
One of the reasons vulnerable people are struggling is the complex Dutch system of benefits for healthcare, rent and childcare, Amma Asante, director of social security watchdog Nationale Cliëntenraad told the programme.
‘The government gives people the money upfront and depending on how much people have earned, looks to see if the amounts were justified. If people earn just over the limit they have to pay it all back and they get into debt and become part of the ‘working poor’, Asante said.
Putters said the main question the government should take into account is people’s general welfare.
‘Not only jobs, how many hours people can work or job security. It’s the accumulation of problems, the care bill, debt, and worries about the children that should be looked at,’ he said. ‘This is a sizeable group, some 28% of the population, that is systematically left behind and we have known this for a very long time. The cabinet has said it will tackle this but the gap remains.’
The danger, Putters said, is that people start to think hard work and making an effort won’t get you anywhere.
‘That is the way towards a polarised society. What is needed is a reality check,’ he said. ‘It is not enough to focus on jobs. It’s filling in complex tax returns, a payment reminder from the healthcare insurers, the practicability of the rules… People are getting caught in a bureaucratic maze and become lost. We need to bring back the human dimension.’
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