Netherlands: Flexible labour and self-employment on the rise

A new report by TNO Innovation for Life and Statistics Netherlands on the dynamics of the Dutch labour market shows that the flexibilisation of labour trend still continues.

In June 2015, TNO Innovation for Life and Statistics Netherlands published an overview report on the dynamics of the Dutch labour market (in Dutch), with a focus on flexibilisation of labour. According to the report, in 2014, the proportion of Dutch employees with a flexible work relationship increased again, to 22% (2004: 15%), putting the Netherlands in the top three EU15 countries with high rates of labour market flexibility, behind Portugal and Spain. The proportion of self-employed without personnel also increased, with the combined result that the proportion of permanent jobs dropped to 62% (73% in 2004).

The group of flexible workers is very diverse, comprising:

  • employees with a fixed-term contract with the prospect of a permanent contract (21% of the total population of flexible workers);
  • employees with a fixed-term contract  of more than one year (10%);
  • employees with a fixed-term contract of less than one year (8%);
  • on-call employees (30%);
  • temporary agency employees (13%);
  • workers on permanent contracts, but with no fixed hours (7%);
  • workers on fixed-term contracts without fixed hours (12%).

Sectors with the highest shares of flexible workers are restaurants and catering (42%), services (29%), culture, sports and recreation (29%) and  trade (26%). Shares are relatively low in the public sector (7.5%) and financial services (11%). The proportion of flexible contracts is especially high in the 15–24 age-group (over 50%), and among lower-skilled employees (28%).

Employers mainly hire flexible workers to cope with peaks and troughs in demand, while employees mainly take up flexible work if they cannot find permanent employment. This is mainly true for employees with a fixed-term contract, but also for a sizeable group of temporary agency workers.

Debate on flexible work and new legislation

Following an agreement between the social partners and the government, new legislation on flexicurity entered into force in 1998. However, the intended aim to grant flexible employees a stronger position was at best only partially achieved. This resulted in new debates, and a new agreement in 2013. This agreement resulted in the new Act on Work and Security (WWZ), which entered into force on 1 July 2015 (see earlier article). The main aim of the act is to establish a new balance between employees with permanent contracts (the so-called 'insiders') and the very diverse group of flexworkers ('outsiders'). In the past year, the debate has also included self-employed workers.

 

 

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