Netherlands: Latest working life developments – Q2 2017

Increase in employment figures and childcare facilities, a rise in the number of accidents in the workplace, initiatives to boost youth employment and new collective agreements are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in the Netherlands in the second quarter of 2017.

Increases in employment and number of children in day care

Latest figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) report the lowest youth unemployment figures (9%) in over 8 years, showing that more young people aged between 15 and 25 are now in employment than before the 2008 crisis; nearly 1.3 million workers in this age group were employed in May 2017. Total unemployment had decreased to 5.1% by the end of May 2017, while long-term unemployment (more than one year without work) continues to decline as it has done since the first quarter of 2015. During the same period, average collectively agreed pay increased by 1.4% compared with 2016. However, the increase is lower than the inflation rate, which currently stands at 1.5%.

Data from the Ministry for Social Affairs and Employment show that the number of women in employment is at its highest since 2012, with women working on average 25 hours per week. The Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, Lodewijk Asscher, commented on the positive trends in female employment and the parallel increase in the number of children in day care, which reached 702,000 in the fourth quarter of 2016. In 2016, some 768 new child day care centres were established, reaching a total of 7,499 by the end of the second quarter of 2017.

From 2017, the quality of childcare facilities in the Netherlands will be monitored by the National Quality Monitor on Childcare (LKK). A representative sample of facilities will be examined each year, considering all aspects of childcare with a focus on the development and well-being of the children being cared for.

Unpaid wages and increase in work-related deaths

The 2016 annual report of the health and safety inspectorate (SZW) found a 14% increase in fatal occupational accidents compared with 2015. The sectors most affected were construction, industry, trade and waste management. SZW Inspector-General Marc Kuipers stressed the need for more focus on accident prevention with, where possible, cooperation between the SZW inspectorate and companies, and a stricter enforcement of rules.

The report also highlighted instances of exploitation by companies, including systematic under-payment of workers and an excessive number of hours being worked. In these instances, companies were deliberately violating pay and working time legislation. The report concludes that the SZW inspectorate will target these problems, and will aim to increase its cooperation with a variety of actors and their specific data sources.

New employment scheme for older and young workers

In April 2017, metal sector employers signed a two-year ‘generation pact’ with the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) to make more work available to young people in this sector. The scheme is valid for 25 months, until 1 June 2019, and makes it possible for older workers who are close to retirement to reduce their working time in favour of young workers. Around 2,000 young people are expected to secure a permanent job as a result of this scheme.

New collective agreements

In April 2017, trade unions FNV, the National Federation of Christian Trade Unions (CNV) and De Unie, concluded an agreement with the transport sector employer TLN for a 10% pay increase, to be phased in over 3 years, for 130,000 workers.

Railway trade union FNV Spoor and infrastructure services provider ProRail concluded a collective agreement valid from 1 March 2017 to 1 July 2019. Terms include a 5% salary rise, an increase in the number of permanent contracts and specific provisions aimed at reducing stress at work, particularly for older workers.

Automotive company VDL Nedcar signed an agreement with unions to ease a production backlog over the course of 2017. The agreement provides for an increase of working time for production workers in exchange for extra leave; it also includes an offer of fixed-term contracts for 1,400 workers currently employed through temporary work agencies.

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