The Netherlands: Working conditions of young entrants to the labour market

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Job quality,
  • Published on: 19 December 2013



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We examine people with paid employment between 15-30 years and compare their working conditions to people older than 30 years in Block 1. It is shown that older workers experience more autonomy in work and more often have a permanent contract. In Block 2 we examine differences between the young workers themselves.In Block 3 we show that working conditions for young workers were better before the economic crisis. In Block 4 we see that the initiatives taken by the government to decrease youth unemployment focus on education and that there are little initiatives on working conditions for the young.

Introduction

This EWCO CAR is specifically focused on the group of “young entrants to the labour market”. This group includes all young people (between 15 and 30 years old) who have recently entered into the labour market (i.e., people with a work experience shorter than 1-2 years in the labour market), with relative independence of their age and for whom work is their main and core activity. This definition excludes young people for whom studies are their main activity but who combine their studies with some remunerated activity as part of their training programmes (e.g. apprenticeships in dual systems), as well as unemployed young people, even if they are actively looking for a job (see Background note for more detailed information on the concept of young entrants to be considered in the research).

The CAR coordinating team is conscious that such as “narrow” definition of “young entrants to the labour market” can make difficult the identification and collection of relevant information on the topic. Therefore, and in the case no national information is available using this “narrow” definition, National Correspondents can use a “proxy” definition of “young entrant to the labour market” as any young person (i.e. between 15 and 30 years old) who is in employment, irrespectively of the number of years of experience that he/she has in the labour market (again, unemployed young people are excluded from the analysis).

The questionnaire focuses on the following topics:

  • General description and characterisation of the main current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in your country in comparison to other age groups (around 700 words)

  • Identification and characterisation of existing differences in working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market in your country (around 600 words)

  • Evolution of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in the last five years. Effects of the economic crisis (around 500 words)

  • Initiatives taken by national governments/social partners in order to improve employment levels and working conditions of young entrants to the labour market (around 500 words)

  • Final commentary on the main results (around 100 words)

Block 1: General description and characterisation of the main current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in your country in comparison to other age groups

We use data from the Netherlands Working Conditions Survey 2012 (NWCS; NEA; Koppes et al., 2013). This a yearly survey on working conditions with a sample size of about 22.000 employees. We compare the working population aged between 15 and 30 year to the working population older than 30 years. The tables denote the percentage of the population that had a particular answer to a question.

1.1 Career and employment security issues

There is no statistical difference in satisfaction of work between young and elderly employees. However, there is a big difference in type of contract. Almost 9 out of 10 of the employees older than 30 years, have a permanent contract. Whereas less than half of the employees younger than 30 have a permanent contract. The younger employees more often have a temporary contract or work on-call. An explanation for the latter could be that younger employees have more side-activities, e.g. studies. Other explanation may be that the employers seem to be nowadays less prone to offer their employees a permanent contract after an expiry of a temporary contract.

On average, workers younger than 30 years of age, have a contract for 25 hours per week while workers older than 30 years have a contract of 32 hours per week.

Table 1: Type of contract by age group
 

15-30 yrs

30+ yrs

Permanent Contract

49.4%

87.5%

Temporary Contract, might become permanent

14.8%

4.6%

Temporary contract with date of ending

20.9%

4.1%

Agency work

4.3%

1.6%

On call contract

10.2%

1.3%

Subsidized work

0.4%

1.0%

Source: NEA 2012

In addition, young entrants to the labor market more often have irregular working hours than experienced workers.

Table 2: Irregular working hours by age group
 

Question

 

Do you work in shifts?

Have you worked during evening or nights over the past year

Have you worked during weekends over the past year

 

15-30 yrs

30+ yrs

15-30 yrs

30+ yrs

15-30 yrs

30+ yrs

Regularly

19.6%

11.6%

35.4%

21.2%

50.2%

23.6%

Sometimes

6.0%

2.5%

27.3%

27.2%

21.2%

27.9%

Not at all

74.4%

85.9%

37.3%

51.5%

28.7%

48.5%

Source: NEO 2012

There is no significant difference between the number and frequency of overtime spent working. However, young employees get these fully compensated more often.

Regarding autonomy, employees older than 30 years of age more often get to decide how, in what order and at which speed to perform their jobs. However, there is no significant difference in the working time and holiday flexibility.

Table 3: Autonomy at work by age group
 

Question

 

Can you determine for yourself how to perform your job?

Do you determine for yourself the order of your proceedings?

Can you determine your own work pace?

 

15-30 yrs

30+ yrs

15-30 yrs

30+ yrs

15-30 yrs

30+ yrs

Regularly

44.6%

65.9%

46.2%

67.7%

37.0%

25.0%

Sometimes

37.9%

23.0%

32.5%

20.5%

18.9%

13.0%

No

17.5%

11.0%

21.3%

11.9%

44,1%

62.0%

Source: NEA 2012

There is no significant difference in the fear for losing one’s job.

1.2 Skills development

When comparing the young entrants and people older than 30 years, there is no significant difference in the amount of employees that took a course or training in the past two years. However, since young entrants may not be working yet for two years, this figure may suggest the young entrants have received less training, while the time period in the organisation is less long than that of older workers.

When a course was taken, the younger employees more often paid the course entirely themselves (10.1% versus 3.0%). and took it entirely in their spare time (24.8% versus 15.6%.).

1.3 Health and well being

There are no significant differences found in exposure to risks and hazards, psychosocial risks, monotonous or complex work or stress at work. It even seems that younger workers have less intensive jobs. Of the young workers 18.5% never finds their job hectic, versus 10.2% of the elderly. Also, young workers more often answer the question whether the job requires a lot of attention, with never or sometimes (37.7% versus 20.8%). The same applies for intensive thinking (never is the answer of 19.5% of the young workers, versus 6.1% of the elderly).

1.4 Reconciliation of working and non-working life

There is no significant difference in the ability to set one’s own working time arrangement. Workers of the age 30 or higher, on average work more hours at home than workers younger than 30 years (Mean is 1,0 hour versus 2,1 hours. Overtime is excluded, not corrected for size of contract). However, still the elderly workers more often neglect family activities due to work, as can be seen in table 5. This could be due to the fact that employees older than 30 more often have children.

Table 5: Neglect family activities due to work by age group
 

15-30 yrs

30+ yrs

Never

62,1%

49,3%

Sometimes

30,5%

41,8%

Regularly

6,0%

7,4%

A lot

1,3%

1,5%

Source: NEA 2012

Block 2: Identification and characterisation of existing differences in working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market in your country

2.1 Personal characteristics of young entrants

In this section we focus on the meaningful differences found in Block 1, and investigate if there are differences within the group of young entrants.

Differences between the age ranges

Our findings of block 1 can be extended to the differences within the group of young employees. We saw before that employees older than 30 years of age, more often have a permanent contract. This is in line with what we find within the group of young entrants. The older the worker, the more often he or she has a permanent contract. Also our findings regarding irregular working hours are extended; the younger, the more irregular working hours. Older people within the age group 15-30 years also have more autonomy at work than the younger workers. Also the struggle to balance working and non-working life seems to grow as workers age. Younger workers more often indicate never to neglect family-activities than workers at their late twenties.

Differences by gender

According to law, male and female are equal and until their thirties, we do not find any evidence that they are treated differently at work.

Differences by education level

Higher educated workers less often experience irregular working hours. Of the high educated workers (HBO+), 87.0% never works in shift. Of the low and medium educated workers this percentage is 69.6% resp. 70.9%. High educated workers also work less during evenings or nights; 41.9% of the high educated workers did not work during evenings or nights over the past year, as opposed to 36.7% of the low educated and 35.3% of the medium educated. Same holds for the weekends. 44.1% of the high educated workers did not work during weekends, as opposed to 20.9% of the low and 25.3% of the medium educated workers.

Autonomy appears to increase as the level of education increases, as can be seen in Table 6.

Table 6: Autonomy at work for young workers by educational level
 

Question

 

Can you determine for yourself how to perform your job?

Do you determine for yourself the order of your proceedings?

Can you determine your own work pace?

Educational level

Low

Medium

High

Low

Medium

High

Low

Medium

High

Regularly

34.9%

42.0%

61.4%

33.4%

44.7%

65.1%

35.2%

44.9%

53.8%

Sometimes

40.0%

40.5%

30.3%

37.0%

33.5%

24.9%

41.7%

36.2%

33.0%

No

25.1%

17.5%

8.3%

29.7%

21.8%

10.0%

23.1%

18.9%

13.1%

Source: NEA 2012

Also, higher educated workers more often took a course in the past two years. Of the high educated, 64.8%, of the medium educated 49.5% and of the low educated 42.0%. The lower educated who took a course, more often paid for it entirely by themselves (15.4%) than the medium (10.2%) and high (5.8%) educated.

It appears that high educated workers have an advantage over low educated. The most likely explanation can be found in the type of job. Low educated workers are more likely to work in the production industry, which has irregular working hours, less autonomy and no courses are needed to perform that sort of job. High educated workers are more likely to work in the knowledge industry, which offers more autonomy and personal development.

2.2 Occupational characteristics

Employees in the service sector suffer from worse working conditions as compared to the average Dutch employee. They less often have a permanent contract, more often have irregular working hours and less autonomy at work. Workers with a management function, more often neglect family activities due to work.

Workers at small companies, less often work in shifts than workers at companies with more than 50 employees. Apart from this, there are no significant differences found in the working conditions for the young workers at firms between SMEs and larger companies.

Block 3: Evolution of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in the last five years. Effects of the economic crisis

3.1 Please provide information on the evolution of working conditions of young labour entrants in the last five years. Have working conditions of this group improved/deteriorated in comparison to the existing situation five years ago (before the economic crisis began)? What are the reasons for these changes

We compare the working conditions of workers younger than 30 years in 2007 to the working conditions in 2012.

Some conditions are better in 2012 than they were in 2007. In 2012 young workers worked less hours overtime (4.2) than in 2007 (5,4). Also family activities are less often neglected. In 2007 42,5% of the younger workers indicated to at least sometimes neglect family activities due to work. In 2012 this is reduced to 38.9%. Maybe the economic crisis lowered the working load in companies, reducing the amount of overtime.

However, most conditions were worse in 2012 than they were in 2007. In 2007 young workers more often had a permanent contract, as can be seen in Table 7. The most likely explanation is that due to the economic crisis employers are more careful when hiring someone.

Table 7: Trends in type of contract of workers 15-30 years of age
 

2007

2012

Permanent Contract

61,1%

49,4%

Temporary Contract, might become permanent

17,3%

14,8%

Temporary contract with date of ending

11,1%

20,9%

Agency work

4,3%

4,3%

On call contract

5,2%

10,2%

Subsidized work

1,0%

0,4%

Source: NEA 2007 and 2012

As can be seen in Table 8, the irregular working hours of young workers have increased over the past five years. A possible explanation for this is that employers have the power to be more demanding because of the economic crisis; higher unemployment rates implicate more competition between employees on the labor market.

Table 8: Trends in irregular working hours of workers 15-30 years of age
 

Question

 

Do you work in shifts?

Have you worked during evening or nights over the past year

Have you worked during weekends over the past year

 

2007

2012

2007

2012

2007

2012

Regularly

15,1%

19,6%

30,2%

35,4%

40,5%

50,2%

Sometimes

3,7%

6,0%

29,1%

27,3%

23,7%

21,2%

Not at all

81,2%

74,4%

40,6%

37,3%

35,8%

28,7%

Source: NEA 2007 and 2012

Autonomy at work has decreased over the past couple of years for the younger workers, as can be seen inTable 9. It could be that employers pose more strict regulations due to the economic crises they are facing, resulting in less autonomy for the employees or that the proportion of jobs with high autonomy are becoming less.

Table 9 Trends in autonomy at work for workers 15-30 years of age
 

Question

 

Can you determine for yourself how to perform your job?

Do you determine for yourself the order of your proceedings?

Can you determine your own work pace?

 

2007

2012

2007

2012

2007

2012

Regularly

53.8%

44.6%

55.9%

46.2%

56.5%

44,1%

Sometimes

34.4%

37.9%

28.2%

32.5%

29.9%

37.,0%

No

11.8%

17.5%

15.9%

21.3%

13.7%

18.,9%

Source: NEA 2007 and 2012

The results regarding job guarantees are striking. In 2007 14.3% indicated the risk of job loss was present, as opposed to 26.2% in 2012. The lower job security since the economic crisis may also be an explanation for the lower sick leave in 2012 (4.8 working days) compared to 2007 (5.7).

Despite the working conditions which have definitely gotten worse for young employees, there is no significant difference found in satisfaction about work and working conditions in 2007 versus 2012.

3.2 Based on possible existing prospective studies, please provide information on the expected evolution of employment levels and working conditions of young labour market entrants in your country in the near future (coming 2-3 years)

Youth unemployment rates are increasing rapidly. From 10% in January 2011, it has increased to 17% by February 2013 (CBS). Youth unemployment has not been this high since the eighties (nu.nl). The overall unemployment rate was 8% February 2013. CPB (2013) expects the overall unemployment rate to stabilize around this level in 2013 and 2014.

Block 4: Initiatives taken by national governments/social partners in order to improve employment levels and working conditions of young entrants to the labour market

4.1 Identify main recent national measures/initiatives (1-2) put in place in your country by public authorities in order to improve employment opportunities and working conditions for young entrants to the labour market.

In March 2013 the government announced to spend 50 million euros on a plan to increase working opportunities for the youth (Ministerie SZW, 2013). It has a focus on:

  • Stimulating technical studies, a sector where professionals are needed.

  • Regional parties provide support to young people looking for a job.

  • An ambassador to stimulate parties to work together on this topic.

These measures, which are not made concrete yet, are very much in line with earlier initiatives. One of those initiatives focused on decreasing the number of school drop-outs. In the above mentioned plan it is mentioned that this is very effective, which is confirmed by ECABO (2012), and that this measure will be continued. The idea behind this is that preventing youth unemployment starts with preventing drop-outs.

The social partners are happy with this initiative, however they claim that it is too little and too late. Also, the focus is too much on prevention according to the social partners. An initiative for the current unemployed is lacking.

To answer the question whether the researchers think those measures are enough, it is important to realize that the youth unemployment in the Netherlands may be very high, but in European context it is still not that bad. The economic crisis hits all of us. Prevention of youth unemployment by focussing on studying the right course and preventing dropping out, seems to tackle the problem at its source.

This report has made it clear that young workers often have temporary instead of permanent contracts. On the one hand this increases flexibility for the employer, which might make him more likely to hire. On the other hand, it gives insecurity to the employee. The government is well aware of this. In the plan mentioned above it is mentioned that the government has the intention to increase job guarantee, but a concrete plan lacks so far. Earlier, in July 2010, it was induced that workers under the age of 27 could have four prolongations of temporary contracts in a row before the employer was obligated to make it a permanent contract. Normally, in the Netherlands only three prolongations of temporary contracts in a row are allowed. This disposition was abolished per 1 January 2012, since it was evaluated to have been not effective.

4.2 Identify main recent initiatives (1-2) put in place in your country by social partners (either at national, sector or company level) in order to improve working conditions amongst young entrants to the labour market.

In the Netherlands social partners mostly negotiate with the government. FNV Jong presented a plan ‘Help jongeren de crisis door’ (‘Help the younger ones through crisis’) to the government March 2009. According to FNV Jong, this plan stimulated the government to spend 250 million euros to decrease youth unemployment in 2009. That plan is called ‘Actieplan Jeugdwerkloosheid’ (Action plan youth unemployment). We are not aware of more direct initiatives taken by social partners.

Commentary by the NC

Youth unemployment is definitely a concern of the government, although not as much as the social partners would like it to be. There seems to be little focus on working conditions. However, as seen in this report, the working conditions of the young workers are not very bad compared to elderly workers. The instruments put in place focus on obtaining the ‘right’ education. By right we mean in a sector or job where professionals are needed. Therefore, we would say that the quality of the people are addressed, not the quality of the jobs.

Literature

  • CBS. Data is freely accessible via statline.cbs.nl.

  • CPB (2013). Centraal Economisch Plan 2013. Den Haag: Sdu Uitgevers. ISBN 978-90-1257-777-9.

  • Ecabo (2012). Trendwatch Nederlandse economie en arbeidsmarkt. Actuele ontwikkelingen en prognoses. Downloaded March 2013 at www.ecabo.nl.

  • Koppes,  L.L.J., Vroome, E.M.M. de, Mars, G.M.J., Janssen, B.J.M., Zwieten, M.H.J. van & Bossche, S.N.J. van den (2013). Nationale Enquête Arbeidsomstandigheden 2012: Methodologie en globale resultaten. [Netherlands Working Conditions Survey 2012: Methodology and overall results]. Hoofddorp: TNO.

  • Ministerie SZW (2013). Letter to the House of Representatives of the Netherlands. Reference number 2013-20626.

  • Nu.nl is a Dutch newsfeed website. The article was downloaded March 2013 from the following link: http://www.nu.nl/economie/3359275/geld-en-ambassadeur-aanpak-jeugdwerkloosheid.html.

Iris Blankers, TNO

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