There are currently more job vacancies than job seekers. The union expects the tightness in the labor market to become worse in the coming years. That is why we must approach all solutions to this shortage with both hands, including hiring more migrant workers.
If we don’t, the staffing shortage could become even greater. “We’ve only recently seen what this can lead to,” says Natalie Van Berkel, a UWV board member. “There are fewer trains, there are longer waiting times in many places, and the catering industry is closed more often.”
She also points out that problems threaten, for example, the energy transition and the construction of hundreds of thousands of homes. He added: “These transformations will be delayed, at the very least, if we do not solve the problems.”
The job market is shrinking for the first time
The Netherlands has always had a growing working population. But at the end of this decade we will witness a contraction for the first time. The main reason is the aging of the population.
The good news: There are opportunities, but we must take advantage of them, says Van Berkel. One solution is to invest in technology. Especially in places where you don’t necessarily need people. Take self-checkouts, which are already being used in supermarkets.
“This allows you to work with fewer employees, while still leaving jobs, for example to help customers with self-checkouts and answer other questions.”
Another solution is part-time workers who work longer hours. Research shows that one in eight part-time workers are open to this. “But the preconditions have to be good,” Van Berkel explains. “Think about good childcare and the ability to work from home enough.”
Companies are also advised not to focus on the applicant’s CV, but rather look at the skills. “Sometimes, candidates don’t have the right experience or training. But if they have the right social skills, they can still get the necessary training once they’re hired.”
Labor migration is necessary but sensitive
Van Berkel is also considering using more migrant workers from within the European Union. But this is politically sensitive. For example, last year Social Affairs Minister Karen Van Gennep came up with a proposal to bring in young people from deprived French neighborhoods to fill gaps in the Netherlands’ labor market. This led to much criticism, especially from right-wing parties. The SP also saw no benefit in it.
However, UWV sees this as an opportunity that the Netherlands should not miss. “We need everyone we can get in the job market,” Van Berkel says. It also points out that the Netherlands has a shortage in sectors where other EU countries have a surplus, for example in construction, retail and childcare.
“You also have to look at labor migration in a broader context. It’s one of the possible solutions you have to look at given the shortage. Big employers are already doing it. I will add: it’s a political decision. But we can do it.” “We cannot afford not to have a discussion, including a discussion of labor migration from outside Europe.”
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