More people have jobs and the unemployment rate continues to fall

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The number of people aged between 15 and 75 in paid employment in the Netherlands has increased by an average of 21,000 a month for the past three months, the national statistics office CBS said on Thursday.

In September more than 8.6 million had a paid job while a further 4.3 million were not working. Of them, 422,000 were officially classed as unemployed.

The shift means the official Dutch unemployment rate fell to 4.7% in September, down from 5.7% a year ago and 4.9% on the previous quarter. The figures do not include people with part time jobs who would like to work more hours.

At the same time, 351,000 people were claiming unemployment benefit (ww), a drop of 11,000 on the second quarter of this year.

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Lack of care workers is putting patients at risk, says nurses

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The new government needs to come up with an emergency plan to tackle the lack of care professionals, which is causing high levels of work stress and is putting patients at risk, nurses’ association V&VN warns.

A survey by the association among 17,000 nurses and care workers shows 85% of care staff have to cope with fewer colleagues or work extra shifts.

‘Sometimes one person has to look after 81 patients, irresponsible’, wrote one of the respondents. Another said ‘I am afraid to make mistakes. At the end of a busy day I don’t know whether I may have forgotten something.’

Over three-quarters of the respondents said the lack of staff is directly influencing their health and personal lives while almost half said patient safety is at risk. One in ten people working in care is considering leaving the profession.

Make caring more attractive

Better pay, better basic contracts for young nurses and care staff, and less administrative and cleaning tasks are among the options nurses say will do much to make caring a more attractive career choice, V&VN claims.

‘It is very important that managers and administrators listen to what care workers have to say,’ V&VN director Sonja Kersten said. ‘The signals about work pressure are alarming. We are in dire need of new staff. But there are things that can be done now, such as giving people more financial security and improving people’s work schedules.’

According to the V&VN, an increasingly elderly population, changes in the care system and new quality norms in care home nursing mean some 125,000 care professionals will be needed up to 2025. This is on top of the thousands of vacancies already unfilled.

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25% rise in people doing two jobs, money a main motive

Some 600,000 people in the Netherlands have two jobs, mainly because they can’t make ends meet with one or because they want to do something else as well, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday.

The number of dual job holders has risen by 25% over the past 10 years and they now account for one in 14 of the Dutch working population, the CBS said.

Artists, sports men and women, and other people involved in the cultural and recreation sector are most likely to do two jobs while builders and people working in finance services are least likely to do so. Women and youngsters are more likely than older men to have more than one employer.

Most of those with two formal jobs say they need the money to survive. But even with two jobs, they only manage to drum up an average of 29 hours of work a week, the CBS said.

Freelancers who also have a part-time job account for around 40% of the total.

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Women with flexible jobs less likely to be mothers: CBS

Women with flexible jobs are likely to have children later than those who are on staff, according to a report from the CBS Dutch statistics office.

The report studied 25,000 childless 18 to 45-year-old women with a partner between 2003 and 2015, to explore the relationship between flexible work and family patterns.

It analysed their chances of having a baby within a year, breaking these statistics down into averages for women with flexible contracts, staff jobs, working freelance and without paid jobs.

It found that young couples were apparently more likely to go for children earlier with the security of the female partner in fixed-contract work.

Security

Women without paid work were most likely to give birth, with a 19% chance of having a child within a year – but staffers were almost as likely to start a family (18%).

Freelancers had a 17% chance of giving birth, while those on flexible contracts were least likely to do so (13%).

The report, commissioned by the social affairs department, found no relation between the working patterns of the male partners and chances of children. It found differences in the education levels of women, with the highly-educated more likely to have children when working on staff or freelance.

The number of people with flexible jobs is increasing, while the birth rate has dropped in the past decade, and the study says that policy makers will have to respond to the implications of this. Uncertain income, reports the Volkskrant, could lead to putting off children.

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Amsterdam seeks ‘testers’ for new North-South metro line

Amsterdam’s north-south metro line is set to begin operation next summer and the city’s public transport company GVB is seeking ‘testers’ to try out the route, the Parool has reported.

The GVB is seeking ‘thousands’ of volunteers to help work in the new line which will connect Amsterdam’s northern suburbs with the southern railway station Zuid.Testing will start next March.

The GVB has admitted the test scenarios will determine the line’s maximum daily passenger numbers. Potential volunteers are being urged to keep an eye on the GVB website.

‘We are looking for the most diverse test panel possible,’ a spokesman told the paper.

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Wages can go up, but not in all sectors, says Dutch employers’ chief

The Netherlands biggest employers organisation VNO-NCW sees potential for an average 3% pay rise next year, chairman Hans de Boer told Radio 1.

‘It is always wise to let wages rise in line with economic growth, around 3% as the [central] bank indicated,’ De Boer is quoted as saying by broadcaster NOS. ‘But there are always companies which are not doing as well, and they should be left out. One sector can deal with more than another. So the sectors and unions will have to talk to each other.’

The central both and prime minister Mark Rutte have both indicated that they consider the time is right for pay rises and the FNV trade union federation said last weekend it is aiming for an average 3.5% rise in the coming pay negotiation round.

A wage rise will be good for domestic spending which in turn is good for the economy, De Boer said.

NOS points out that in June, De Boer criticised central bank chief Klaas Knot for calling for higher wages. Instead, taxes should be cut, De Boer said.

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Over 40% of work-related illness is due to stress or burn-out

Some 40% of people who have job-related health issues are either over-stressed or suffering from a burn-out, according to new figures from the national work-related disease register, compiled by the AMC teaching hospital in Amsterdam.

In total, 6,270 reports of work-related illness were registered, most of which affected either men or the over-45s. Reports were made to the centre by 863 company doctors.

People working in construction, transport and logistics, the financial services, industry and healthcare are the most vulnerable to work-related health problems. In total, 42% of complaints had a psychiatric basis. Next on the list were muscle and movement-related problems (27%) followed by hearing issues (22%).

In total, 161 people per 100,000 workers were diagnosed with a work-related illness last year. In 70% of cases, people are declared 100% or partially unfit for work.

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External experts often earn more than ministers: AD

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External experts hired by government institutions often earn substantially more than ministers, the AD reported on Thursday.

The paper looked at 148 state institutions, including government departments, provincial councils, water boards and local councils, and found that outside experts are paid ‘sky high’ hourly rates.

In 2016, some 20 people were paid over €179,000 or €175 per hour, which is more than minsters earn. The true number may be higher, the AD says, because not all institutions provide information on what they are paying external personnel.

Teylingen local council paid €266,000 to a project manager who handled ‘complex land exploitation projects’, something the council claims it did not have the expertise to do, the AD writes.

Local politicians have been indignant about the lack of transparency of some local councils. ‘It’s too ridiculous for words. Of course we should be informed when this sort of money’s involved,’ Eindhoven councillor Dré Rennenberg told the paper. His local council paid almost €228,000 to a project manager.

Hiring expensive outside expertise is not against the law although there are plans to apply the Law on Top Incomes (WNT), which puts a cap on salaries for top civil servants, to everyone who works for the government.

Government expenditure on outside experts has gone up by 19% in the last two years, the AD writes.

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Unions and employers fail to reach deal on Dutch labour market reforms

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Unions and employers have failed to reach agreement on changes to redundancy law and the pension system, dashing hopes that the new coalition government will have substantial reforms in the bag.

The three big unions and employers organisation VNO-NCW had hoped to reach a deal by last Friday but have now decided there is no point in holding further talks at the moment.

The unions had been hoping to use the talks to reach a common position with employers on boosting the use of permanent contracts.

Han Busker, chairman of the biggest trade union federation FNV, told reporters on Monday that had not been possible to reach a deal on making it more attractive for companies to take on permanent staff or to stop potential abuses.

CNV chairman Maurice Limmen said that given the good economic prospects, now had been the time to give people more job security and to stop the shift towards further use of flexible and short-term contracts.

Risks

Hans de Boer, chairman of the VNO-NCW, said he is extremely sorry the talks had failed. ‘Employers do not dare offer staff permanent contracts because of all the risks. We want an end to that situation,’ he said.

The VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie had asked the unions and employers to try to reach a joint position on various labour market reforms. The failure of the talks means it will be more difficult for the next government to reach a deal on reforms which have both union and employer support.

Prime minister and VVD leader Mark Rutte said that the failure of the talks is ‘extremely disappointing’.

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Outgoing Dutch coalition reaches last minute deal on teachers’ pay

Prime minister Mark Rutte arrives for the talks. Photo: Najib Nafid via HH

The two parties which make up the outgoing coalition have worked out a deal to make sure ministers can approve next year’s spending plans after several hours of crisis talks.

They have agreed to take more time to allow the four parties negotiating to form a new cabinet to have their say about the 2018 budget, within financial parameters set by the current coalition.

The main bone of contention was Labour’s insistence on extra money for primary school teachers. The agreement includes ‘a substantial amount’ to boost teachers’ pay, Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher told reporters after the talks. The new government will have the final say about how much this should be.

‘[VVD leader and prime minister] Mark Rutte has assured me that next year’s budget will include a substantial amount for teachers’ salaries,’ Asscher said. ‘Primary school teachers should be more highly valued and a better salary is part of that.’

Asscher had promised to pull the plug on the caretaker coalition if no agreement on teachers’ pay could be reached.

The 2018 spending plans will be sent to the Council of State for its consideration on Wednesday and will be presented to parliament on the third Tuesday in September.

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