Friday 07 May 2021

Coronavirus hits international community hard; jobs and income under threat

Many financial service firms are located in Zuidas. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Almost a quarter of international workers questioned for a new poll say they had considered leaving the Netherlands because of coronavirus, but three in five say they are not aware of anyone who had done so.

The survey was carried out by the International Community Advisory Platform towards the end of last year, to try to establish how coronavirus is affecting the international community. In total, 2,350 people from 104 different countries took part.

Although a majority were unaware of anyone who had left, the impact of the virus on international workers has been significant. Some 65% of respondents are worried about the impact of coronavirus on their household income. Three in 10 say their job could be under threat and 9% have already lost work.

Several major employers of international workers in the Netherlands have already said they are cutting their workforce. Booking.com, for example, is shedding hundreds of jobs in Amsterdam, and Uber said last June it is reducing the size of its Dutch HQ workforce.

Shell too said earlier this year it is cutting 900 jobs in the Netherlands. Heineken reconfirmed last week it would cut 300 jobs in Amsterdam. The big Dutch banks have also been reducing the size of their operational teams.

Mental health

The uncertainty is also taking a toll on international workers’ mental health, with three quarters saying coronavirus is having an impact on them personally. And being in the Netherlands during the pandemic has been particularly problematic for people who moved here relatively recently and who have no social network.

‘Coronavirus has drastically slowed down our integration into Dutch society as it is more difficult to socialize, practice Dutch and build up our network outside the expat community,’ said one international worker in The Hague.

The impact on the mental health of respondents is something to keep an eye on, in particular the 15% who are unsure where to turn for help, said ICAP board member Deborah Valentine. ‘Just 2% of people reported having help from their employers, and this is something which HR departments could take on board.’

Missing family

Missing friends and family in other countries has also been a major issue, given the disruption to international travel since the start of the pandemic. And over a quarter say they are very worried about friends and family back home.

‘For a whole year my kids have not seen their grandparents. It is heartbreaking that they find it normal to kiss a phone when they talk to family. If we are at a park they run up to old people to say hi to them,’ one respondent in Amsterdam said.

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