Friday 30 October 2020

Expat partners are an untapped source of highly-skilled labour: survey


A survey of people who moved to the Netherlands to be with their partners who either lived or were posted here shows seven in 10 gave up their career or business to relocate.

And despite claims that the Netherlands has plenty of jobs for international workers, almost seven in 10 said not speaking Dutch was a problem when trying to find a job.

‘Even though the official work in all the tech companies is done in English, the culture within the organisation compels you to learn Dutch or else you will not be interviewed,’ one Indian national said.

‘A completely qualified Java developer will not be considered if they don’t speak Dutch or have English as their native language. I am fluent in English but still I never get called back.’


In total 960 people took part in the survey which was carried out by the International Community Advisory Panel in early 2020, before coronavirus struck. Many of the respondents too said their difficulties in finding a job had left them depressed and unhappy, and having relationship issues.

The research showed respondents were looking for work in a wide variety of fields, with an even split of 12% to 13% focusing on education, IT and technology and management or consulting. One in five of the nationwide respondents were men, who had followed their partners to the Netherlands, but in Amsterdam this percentage was 31%.

Full time

Part-time work may be popular among the Dutch, and Dutch women in particular, but just over half the respondents said they were looking for a full time job, and two-third said they were prepared to retrain to work in a field where there was more demand.

‘It was incredibly difficult (and humbling) to try and find work in the first three years after moving here. I had assumed I would be able to pick up where I left off in my career in America, but that was not the case,’ one respondent said. ‘I love working. My partner earns enough to provide for us both, but I did not move here to be a stay-at-home partner.’

Asked what advice they would give to new arrivals, many said people should start learning Dutch as soon as possible.

Learn Dutch

‘Update your LinkedIn, take Dutch lessons, do a course in your specific field in the Netherlands, be open to other fields as well,’ said one. ‘Do some voluntary work to socialize with other Dutch people. More importantly: don’t have any high expectations and go with the flow. I succeeded in doing that.’

‘The survey shows that everyone involved in the chain, from the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency to local authorities and employers, should be upfront about the advantages new arrivals will get from knowing at least a bit of the local language,’ said ICAP’s Deborah Valentine.

‘Companies bringing in workers from abroad should also better manage the expectations of partners about finding work, particularly now coronavirus is starting to have an impact on employment levels.’

The survey was commissioned by IN Amsterdam, the city council’s service centre for international workers.

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