Widespread jobless benefit fraud in Polish community, Nieuwsuur says

Hundreds of Polish nationals who have come to the Netherlands to work have been fiddling unemployment benefits in what appears to be a concerted way, according to an investigation by current affairs programme Nieuwsuur. The Polenfraude, as the broadcaster dubbed the scandal, is facilitated by up to 150 intermediaries who help workers claim unemployment benefits while they are on holiday in Poland, Nieuwsuur said. People who have worked for 26 weeks are in theory entitled to three months unemployment benefit if they lose their jobs. To claim, they must be resident in the Netherlands and actively looking for work. However, 'thousands' of Polish nationals have turned to intermediaries who deal with the paperwork - including sending in fake job applications - and using false addresses. It is not clear from the report who instigates the fraud - the worker or the agency, which charges a fee. Nieuwsuur said that internal documents from the state job centre UWV, which processes claims, show that officials were aware of the fraud as far back as 2012 but had done nothing to stop it. Spot checks by the UWV on Polish nationals' claims showed that 30% of those using an agency to deal with the paperwork were not in the Netherlands. Given that 9,400 Polish nationals used an agency to claim unemployment benefit, this implies 'thousands were committing fraud or had committed fraud,' Nieuwsuur said. Just two people have so far been taken to court for this sort of benefit fraud. The two agents, based in Tilburg, were given community service sentences while their 315 clients were ordered to pay back the money and were fined. Community Some 75% of Polish nationals living in the Netherlands have a job but they are much more likely than the Dutch to have temporary or flexible contracts, work long hours and do basic manual labour, according to research by the government’s socio-cultural think tank SCP. Some 160,000 Polish nationals were registered as living in the Netherlands in 2017, making them the sixth biggest migrant group in the country. In addition, a further 90,000 come to the Netherlands periodically to do seasonal work. 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.  More >

'New labour law plans won't work'

Draft legislation aimed at restoring the balance between permanent and flexible employment contracts will not tackle the problem, according to a review by the Council of State. The council is the government's most senior advisory body and advises on all draft legislation. In its response, the council says the government's plans are 'inadequate' and 'could easily lead to new problems elsewhere in the labour market'. Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees says the new draft legislation will encourage companies to take on more permanent members of staff. The number of people on flexible contracts has soared in recent years and the new government has pledged to tackle the differences between permanent and flexible employment contracts. The aim of the legislation is to reduce the legal gap between working as an employee or as a temporary worker, Koolmees said at the plan's presentation on Wednesday. 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. The changes to redundancy law will allow firms to sack staff after a string of minor misdemeanours rather than one major fail. In addition, maximum trial period that a new employee can be required to work will go up from two to five months. Companies will also get a discount on unemployment benefit premiums if they take on permanent rather than temporary members of staff. Fundamental However, the council said it its recommendations that it will take a fundamental and broader approach to bridge the gap between temporary and permanent jobs. This will require tackling 'labour law, the social security system and tax system', the council said.  More >

More women in high earning category

Women now account for one in five very high earners at big Dutch organisations, up from 15% in 2010, according to new research from the national statistics office CBS. The CBS looked at companies and organisations with a workforce of at least 500 and studied the composition of the highest earners - the top 0.2%. In total, around 6,600 people were included in the study. In healthcare, where women fill 84% of the jobs, women accounted for 30% of the highest earners, well above the average, the CBS said. In construction and other areas where men dominate the workforce, women held just 4% of the best paid jobs. The CBS said the fact that women are more likely to work part-time has an impact on their earnings potential. Almost all the high earners in the research group worked full time, including 95% of the best paid women.  More >

Migrant workers not a risk to Dutch jobs

Migrant workers only rarely take jobs which were being done by the native Dutch population, according to new research by the government's socio-cultural policy think-tank SCP. 'Older and younger workers do not appear to displace each other from the labour market, but rather complement each other,' the SCP said. 'Most of the scientific literature on migration also offers no evidence of migration-induced displacement.' However, political measures to steer the labour market may lead to some displacement, as some categories benefit from wage cost subsidies or individual guidance to help them find work more quickly, the SCP said. The think-tank said that although its analyses shows there is no clear evidence of displacement on the Dutch jobs market, people do feel that their chances of finding work have reduced as a result of an influx of the new groups of potential workers. 'After losing their job, some interviewees have found that it is not easy to find work,' the SCP said. 'They believe that displacement by new groups on the labour market plays a role in this, along with competition from other groups already present on the jobs market, technological change and a more flexible labour market.' The SCP does say that people who are in direct competition for jobs with immigrants may lose out. 'Migrants often have a below-average education level, which means they compete for jobs with low-skilled manual workers,' the SCP said. Nevertheless, the negative effects for low-skilled workers are mainly short-term because they occur during the first few years after the arrival of migrants, the SCP said.   More >

More nurses are going freelance

An increasing number of healthcare workers are leaving their permanent jobs and becoming freelancers because they are fed up with red tape and the pressure of work, the Volkskrant reported on Thursday. In the first nine months of this year, over 10,000 nurses and other care workers registered themselves as self-employed at chambers of trade - a rise of 20% on last year, the paper said. This, however, is causing problems for hospitals who are faced with higher wage costs and structural staff shortages, which is putting pressure on remaining staff. Earlier this week it emerged that the Slotervaart hospital in Amsterdam is facing bankruptcy, partly due to rising wage costs. In specialist units at the hospital, some 50% of the staff were hired in via agencies. The Volkskrant says that the cost of hiring in external hospital staff rose by 17% last year. In the care of the elderly sector, the rise was 16.4%. The pay rates for independent nurses and care workers has risen up to 12% since last year because there is so much demand, nursing organisations told the paper. Agency costs and value added tax also have to be added to the total bill. Lex Tabak, joint director of SoloPartners, an agency that represents some 8,500 freelance care workers, told the paper that a 'silent revolution' is underway. 'People are taking control themselves. They will no longer put up with the way their daily routine has become so far removed from providing good nursing care,' he said.  More >

Dutch unemployment rate nears record low

The official Dutch employment rate fell again in September and now stands at 3.7%, the national statistics agency CBS said on Thursday. This is just 0.1 percentage point higher than the record low unemployment rate reached in the second half of 2008, ahead of the financial crisis, the CBS said. Last month 8.8 million people were doing some form of job, while 4.1 million people were not working for a variety of reasons. Around half of the people in work have a part-time job.   More >