The Netherlands must remain welcoming to migrant workers: employers

Over a quarter of migrant labourers work in horticulture and farming. Photo: Depositphotos.com

People from central and eastern Europe filled almost 5% of Dutch jobs in 2016, according to new research carried out for the employment agency umbrella organisation ABU.

Together, they contributed €11bn to the Netherlands national income and without their input, Dutch firms would be forced to move or adapt their operations, the research, by SEO Economisch Onderzoek, said.

Half of the 371,000 people from central and eastern Europe working in the Netherlands in 2016 were employed via staffing agencies.

‘The demand for more migrant labourers will only increase in the coming years,’ said ABU director Jurrien Koops. ‘This is due both to economic growth and the fact that the working population will shrink from 2021.’




In addition, migrant workers mainly do simple and routine jobs, which can’t be filled by Dutch workers, he said. ‘So we cannot talk of them taking Dutch jobs,’ Koops said. ‘Dutch workers simply don’t want to do such work given the pay and the flexibility which it demands.’

Nevertheless, efforts will need to be made to make sure the Netherlands remains attractive for seasonal and temporary workers, Koops said.

Housing

In particular the shortage of good affordable housing is a major issue, and many seasonal workers are living in overcrowded flats or on holiday parks.

Several local councils across the Netherlands are bringing in local laws to restrict the number of Eastern Europeans living in certain residential areas, saying they want to keep residential areas ‘liveable’ by limiting the number of foreign workers.

‘ABU is asking local politicians to show leadership and not to give in to false sentiment about stealing jobs and houses,’ he said. ‘Work together with staffing and housing agencies to eradicate the shortage of quality accommodation.This is the only way our regions will remain a draw to both companies and foreign workers.’

Polish community

Research into the Netherlands’ Polish community by the government’s socio-cultural think-tank SCP earlier this year found three quarters expect to live in the Netherlands for at least the next five years.

In particular agriculture and greenhouse horticulture are heavily dependent on Polish workers, the SCP said.

Despite having jobs and working long hours, Polish nationals earn on average a third less than the Dutch and 17% live in poverty. However, just 1.8% are claiming welfare benefits, compared with 2.6% of the Dutch population as a whole.