Flexible and freelance contracts on the rise, despite shortage of workers

In 2003 some 1.7 million people worked via flexible contracts or were freelancers, but this has now risen to 3.1 million, according to new research by national statistics agency CBS and the TNO research institute. In 2003, 75% of people in work had a permanent contract but that has since gone down to 60%. In the construction sector, for example, fewer than 50% of workers have a permanent job. The rise of short term contracts, call-out contracts and self-employment is undermining the Dutch social security system because fewer people are contributing pension and benefit premiums, labour market researchers told the Telegraaf. 'Self-employment has tax advantages which employees don't get and flexible working practices are undermining the social security system, ' sociologist Fabian Dekker said. And while many freelancers and flexworkers want the autonomy, not everyone does, and employers are keen to force people into flexible contracts, Dekker is quoted as saying. Construction In 2003, 75% of people in work had a permanent contract but that has since gone down to 60%. In the construction sector, for example, fewer than 50% of workers have a permanent job. People working in the hospitality industry are most likely to have a call-out or zero hour contract even though the hospitality industry is also suffering from a major shortage of workers, with nearly 31,000 unfilled vacancies. At the same time, new CBS figures show that there are now 100 unemployed people for every 80 job vacancies, a sign of increasing tension in the jobs market. Trade, business services and healthcare top the list of sectors with the biggest shortages. The Dutch unemployment rate has now fallen back to 3.6%, its lowest level since just prior to the economic crisis of 2008.  More >

No increase in 'probation' for new staff

Plans by social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees to increase the probation period for new employees from two to five months in an effort to encourage employers to offer workers a permanent contract will not gain a majority in parliament, the AD reports. Unions and other labour market experts had been quick to condemn the plan because of the potential for abuse. They fear employers could look on the scheme as a new form of temporary contract and dismiss a worker at the end of the five months. All four government parties - VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie - also think the risks of abuse are too great, and will tell Koolmees to ditch the plan during a debate on Thursday, the AD said. The measure is part of a package aimed at reducing the legal gap between working as an employee or as a temporary worker. To this end, the rules for sacking staff have been relaxed while the period temporary staff can work on short contracts will be extended from two to three years. Companies will also get a discount on unemployment benefit premiums if they take on permanent rather than temporary members of staff. Some 5.3 million people in the Netherlands now have a permanent job, or around 60% of the total workforce, according to CBS figures at the end of last year. Two million people have a flexible contact and 830,000 people are classed as self-employed. The situation has changed significantly over the past 15 years. In 2003 nearly 75% of workers had permanent contracts.  More >

Dutch work most in evening in EU: research

Almost three in 10 Dutch people sometimes work evenings and one in five work on Sundays, particularly in e-commerce, researchers at Belgium's Leuven university have found. The number of evening workers is much higher than the European average which is 13.7%, the researchers said. And the number of Dutch people working on a Sunday went up by 20% compared to 2006. Flexible shop opening hours and same day delivery of packages contribute to the flexible Dutch economy, the researchers say. ‘It’s partly to do with the rules and regulations. Belgium has very strict rules regarding working in the evenings and on Sundays, and in some instances it is simply not allowed. In the Netherlands the law is more flexible and e-commerce is taking advantage of this,’ Leuven researcher Sarah Vansteenkist told het Parool. The flexible working hours result mainly in low-skilled jobs in the service sector and distribution centres of webshops like Bol.com or Wehkamp, the paper said. According to labour market expert, Ton Wilthagen flexible laws regarding working hours has enabled economic growth. ‘But that doesn’t mean there are no rules at all. Unlimited night shifts are not allowed here either,’ he said. More women than men work weekends, the research showed. ‘Women work in care more often, which involves working at the weekend, and that will only increase with an ageing population. Teachers, who are predominantly women, prepare for the week at the weekend as well,’ the paper quotes Vansteenkist as saying. Wilthagen said that contrary to night work, working at the weekend and in the evening is not bad for health. ‘If you are happy to work those hours, and most people who do are, then there is no problem,’ he said.  More >

Wages rose an average 2.1% last year

Pay deals agreed in sector-wide talks were up by an average of 2.1% last year, the highest increase since 2009, the national statistics agency CBS said on Thursday. That year the effect of the economic crisis still had to be fully felt and wages rose 2.8%. In 2017, wages rose 1.8%, the highest rise in six years. Unions, economists, prime minister Mark Rutte and the central bank chief have all called for wages to go up because of the improved economic conditions. Workers are also set to keep more of their income this year because of income tax cuts this year. In September, the biggest Dutch trade union federation FNV said it is targeting a pay rise of 5% in the coming round of pay and conditions talks, its biggest demand in 30 years.  More >