The Dutch Housing Crisis
The Netherlands is a small country in western Europe. Its population is beginning to outstrip the amount of available and affordable housing. There is an overall housing shortage of more than 300,000 homes in the Netherlands. Additionally, the homeless population has grown by more than 70% in the past decade. Some social housing waiting lists can span for up to 15 years in certain cities. As a result, the Dutch housing crisis is becoming a bigger problem for the nation.

Many students have delayed their plans to move out of family homes. This is due to the lack of affordable housing. Thus, this delays certain life milestones such as finding a long-term partner or starting a family. The Dutch housing crisis also presents barriers to employment, as people are unable to find housing within the city centers. Furthermore, students’ inability to find housing generates economic vulnerability within their families. No social benefits exist for households if a person over the age of 21 lives in the home.

What is Causing the Problem?

A lack of construction sites, a rise in buildings, an increase in land costs and a devastating shortage of construction workers is causing the Dutch housing crisis. This shortage of construction workers stems from the financial recession of 2008. Many construction companies declared bankruptcy due to the economic crisis. Additionally, about 483,000 construction workers were in the Netherlands in 2008. Moreover, about 251,000 construction workers lived there in 2016. Only 15% of construction workers have returned to the industry since 2008.

Growing privatization affects the Dutch housing crisis as well. More than 100,000 homes are no longer in the social sector. They have been either undergone privatization or demolishing. It is not uncommon for investors to buy private rural land that they refuse to develop. Investors do this to drive up the prices in urban areas. In addition, shelters for the psychologically vulnerable have received less support from the ruling cabinet. As such, an influx of psychiatric patients who require residential care has emerged. Thus, the ruling party’s policy is to shrink the social sector in favor of the private sector. Privatization has weakened tenants’ rights. As a result, private landlords and developers gained a monopoly over the housing market. In some instances, landlords keep hundreds of living spaces empty due to their selectivity over tenants.

Verhuurdersheffing Tax

The policy of privatization means that project developers are responsible for the majority of housing construction. These developers greatly reduced construction activities after the introduction of a new tax. This tax is called verhuurdersheffing (landlord levy) and it taxes those who own more than 50 rental properties.

The cost of rent in both the social and private sectors has also risen significantly. As the purchasing power of lower-and-middle-income households has not risen, many are unable to afford adequate housing. This is especially true for middle-income people, who occasionally struggle financially but fall just outside of the requirements for social housing assistance.

What are the Solutions?

The Netherlands has a well-cultivated reputation for coming up with creative solutions to the challenges it faces. Most political parties in the Netherlands have acknowledged the urgency of the Dutch housing crisis, and each has proposed various policies to remedy the issue. Some of these policies focus on abolishing the landlord levy, increasing construction and offering protection for alternative forms of housing and the acquisition of unused private land.

There are also copious amounts of humanitarian groups that focus on providing solutions to the crisis. Kamers met Aandacht (Rooms with Regard) is one organization that brings struggling young people together, especially those emerging from the youth-care system into adulthood. Sympathetic landlords or housing organizations provide aid for them.

Humanitas Onder Dak (Humanitas Under Roof) is an organization that also offers shelter, guidance and counseling to homeless people. The goal is to help them become fully independent. Lastly, Vluchteling Onder Dak (Refugee Under Roof) connects refugees who often become homeless after their first bid for asylum receives rejection. With a national network of humanitarian aid, asylum seekers obtain housing, food, education and more.

In addition to the aforementioned groups, a growing number of people are also pursuing alternative forms of housing such as the Cube Homes of Rotterdam. Although the situation appears dire, many actors are seeking to improve the housing situation in the Netherlands. Projections have determined that the Dutch housing crisis will worsen in the upcoming years. However, the efforts of local actors in cooperation with one another could reverse this trend.

– Olivia Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a country in northwestern Europe, neighboring Belgium to the south, Germany to the east and the North Sea to the north and west. A founding member of NATO, the E.U. and the OECD, the Netherlands has the world’s 18th largest economy and the sixth-largest in the European Union. With a life expectancy of 81.95 years and a relatively low birth rate, Dutch society is aging. Nevertheless, the Dutch seem to be doing so gracefully, as the rates of elderly poverty in the Netherlands are the lowest in the OECD. Here is the current situation regarding elderly poverty in the Netherlands and what the country is doing about it.

 

The Current Situation

Like most other European countries, the population of the Netherlands is aging. As of 2020, approximately 19% of the population is aged 65 and older, lower than the European average of 20.5% but higher than the U.S. figure of 17%. In 2016, the rate of elderly poverty in the Netherlands was only 3.1%. Elderly poverty in the Netherlands is the lowest within the OECD and much lower than the U.S. rate of 23%, the highest rate of elderly poverty within the OECD.

The good news for those in their golden years in The Netherlands does not stop there. Households that people aged 65 and older head in the Netherlands saw their capital increase from an average of 22,000 Euros annually in 1995 to 86,500 Euros in 2015. The income of this age group is five times higher than that of an average Dutch household. During the late 1990s, only about one in three elderly Dutch persons were homeowners, but by 2015 more than half owned their own homes. The risk of those aged 65 and over falling into poverty has also decreased over the past 20 years.

The Dutch Pension System

The Dutch pension system rests on three pillars: a flat-rate state pension, supplemental occupational pensions and voluntary private pension provisions. The first pillar, a flat-rate state pension, receives financing through payroll taxes paid to residents 67 years of age and older. Supplemental occupational pensions, the second pillar of the system, consist of additional occupational pensions accrued during employment. The third pillar is the voluntary private pension system, through either endowment insurance or annuity insurance. Together, these three assistance sources have provided a stable income source for older adults in the Netherlands.

The Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index has classified the Dutch pension system as a B+ system, one of the best in the world. Only Australia has an equal rating for its pension system, and only Denmark’s pension system ranks higher with an A rating. The U.S. pension system, by comparison, obtained the rating of being a C system. A B+ pension system is defined as having a sound structure but with some room for improvement, while a C system has some positive features but significant shortcomings.

Extensive Home Ownership

According to Statistics Netherlands, increased capital among the elderly, which decreases the chances of slipping into poverty, lies in extensive homeownership. More than half of elderly homeowners own a home with a market value above the original purchase price.

Universal Health Care

Dutch law requires all residents to have a private health insurance policy, and insurers must accept every applicant. Furthermore, a national insurance system for long-term care such as nursing homes and exceptional medical expenses exists in the Netherlands. This insurance is mandatory and paid for through public insurance contributions. There seems to be a clear relationship between elderly poverty and health care spending. Among OECD countries, the Netherlands has the second-highest health care spending and the lowest rate of elderly poverty.

The picture has not been so rosy for the entire elderly population of the Netherlands. Elderly poverty in the Netherlands among those of non-Western background, who made up 6% of the total elderly population in 2020, is higher than that of the native Dutch. Income levels and life expectancy are lower among these groups than they are among native Dutch elders. This is an issue of concern, which reflects the disparity within larger Dutch society between natives and those of non-Western migrant backgrounds.

Tens of thousands of older people in the Netherlands do indeed live in poverty. Still, the low rate of poverty and significant financial success of the vast majority of older people in the Netherlands suggests that the system is working well for most.

Adam Abdelaziz
Photo: PIXY

 

The Childcare Benefits Scandal
Many regard the Netherlands as a prosperous nation. The majority of its residents live decent lives and can easily access social welfare benefits. However, like many places throughout the world, the country has seen an increase in the number of people who can no longer make ends meet. Even with benefits assistance, 1 million out of 17 million people suffer economically. This crisis has affected all demographics. There is growing evidence of the disproportionality of this economic stratification. Certain government agencies and policies that the Netherlands intended to serve as financial safety nets for people caused more harm for some than good. This resulted in the childcare benefits scandal.

Over the past two years, the country has dealt with de toeslagenaffaire or “the benefits affair.” This is a scandal involving the illegal reclamation of social benefits by the government. It forced many victims into financial ruin. The scandal exposed both the overzealous anti-fraud practices of the Dutch tax services. It also exposed their continued unconstitutional ethnic profiling of fraud suspects. In January 2021, the third cabinet of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, known as Rutte III, resigned over the scandal. This article addresses the causes and consequences of the toeslagenaffaire. It is one of the most recent, dramatic examples of corruption and institutional bias in Dutch history.

De Toeslagenaffaire: What Exactly Happened?

Over the past decade in the Netherlands, tens of thousands of innocent people received social benefits for childcare. The belastingdienst (Tax and Customs Agency) falsely identified the people as having committed welfare fraud. The system declared it the childcare benefits scandal. The case sparked increasing outrage. Moreover, the system flagged the parents as fraud risks due to their nationality.

In 2012, the belastingdienst used people’s second nationality as one of the five so-called “indicators” of potential fraud. This was in addition to four other factors, such as possessing high-deductible items. In 2014 and 2015, the Netherlands amended privacy laws. This prevented access to information regarding a benefit recipient’s nationality from the belastingdienst in an effort to combat institutional discrimination.

However, the belastingdienst retained access to personal records belonging to benefits-receivers created prior to the removal of the person’s nationality. After this came to light, the Adeling Toeslagen (Benefits Department) continued to deny ethnic profiling, arguing that it was only concerned with an individual’s Dutch nationality. Adeling Toeslagen did not single out any nationality. It investigated all Ghanian nationals in 2020 based on evidence. Spokespeople from the belastingdienst claimed discrimination based on nationality was different than discrimination based on race or origin. However, the Adeling Toeslagen later admitted to engaging in ethnic profiling.

Stripped Benefits

Being falsely identified as fraudsters resulted in parents being stripped of their benefits and ordered to repay said benefits in full. When parents protested these false fraud allegations, they could not obtain legal aid, their objections routinely received dismissal and they still had to pay. This often amounted to tens of thousands of Euros. The scandal plunged very low-income families into crisis, resulting in many losing their personal possessions, jobs and marriages.

Justice in Court

The court awarded the parents 30,000 Euros (just over $36,000 USD) eventually. The court distributed the funds over a span of four months. The court expected payment from the parents concerning illegal debt. In fact, one ruling stated that parents must use at least two-thirds of their allotted 30,000 Euros to repay the illegal debt concerning the childcare benefits scandal. However, authorities eventually waved their full debts so that they could keep their full compensation amount. However, many still have not received their compensation.

Who Was Responsible?

There are still cases and inquiries pending. However, little accountability has occurred thus far. The court forced the Rutte III cabinet to resign. The court held no member responsible for the matter. This was based on a high court ruling claiming although the rule of law had been violated, the belastingdienst, as an institution, was immune to prosecution. The court did not prosecute any individual official. The members committed no discrimination “in their own interests.” This was despite the fact employees of the belastingdienst – who had sounded the alarm for years about the issue – had called for the prosecution of their managers themselves.

Cabinet Members Unharmed

Despite the media attention, the resignation of the Rutte III cabinet was of little consequence to the cabinet members. Mark Rutte’s first cabinet, Rutte I, had to resign in 2012. This occurred after his coalition was unable to find a compromise regarding the proposed introduction of controversial austerity measures. The cabinet re-appointed him as Prime Minister twice after his resignation. A statement from 2003 convicted Mark Rutte of racism in 2007 when he was Secretary of State. He subjected Somali residents to extra fraud investigations concerning the childcare benefits scandal.

Even though Rutte III has resigned, each member may serve in their position until elections on March 17, 2021. Continuous elections will allow each member to hold office. Rutte’s party, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie) appears poised to secure another victory in the upcoming elections. This is based on a current Ipsos poll, even after losing some support in the wake of the resignation of Rutte III.

Olivia Nelson
Photo: Pixabay

Dutch Social Benefit SystemTo an outsider, the Dutch social benefit system may seem easy to gain access to. However, accessing benefits in the Netherlands is not always easy and has its unique obstacles. Additionally, living off of benefits does not come without risks and consequences. There are three common myths regarding the Dutch social benefit system.

Myth #1: The Dutch Receive Benefits Indefinitely

Despite the Netherlands having a reputation for freely distributing welfare benefits, the Dutch social benefit system has become increasingly restrictive recently. This is due to increasing austerity measures, which have continued to intensify, even during the COVID-19 crisis.

Generally, to gain access to the Dutch social benefit system an individual needs to be a Dutch or European citizen, or alternatively, a registered resident. The individual must also be above the age of 18, not be imprisoned or detained, must have little or no income and must not receive a pension or other benefits.

While this may seem like easy entry criteria, the threshold for having social benefits cut is relatively low. Taking a non-student above the age of 21 into one’s home results in an automatic reduction of benefits. This is the case even if the person does not contribute financially and even if they would be homeless otherwise. Social benefit recipients are prohibited from receiving most gifts, even if they are clearly legitimate in nature and not an attempt to cheat the system. If one receives any form of assistance, even from a family member, the government will automatically reduce benefits.

Recently, one low-income, single mother was ordered to pay more than €7,000 after it became known that the woman’s mother would buy the family a bag of groceries once a week. Since the story came to light, the single mother’s case is being re-heard. It is not unheard of for people to be labeled as fraudsters for receiving modest gifts. If the victim’s case did not receive widespread attention, it is likely that the decision would have been upheld.

Myth #2: Foreigners Favored for Social Benefits

As mentioned, one of the first stipulations of receiving benefits is to be legally registered in the Netherlands. For low-income immigrants who have their asylum or residency applications rejected, this creates an overwhelming barrier to economic stability.

Over the past few years, the Dutch government has had to answer to the victims of the childcare benefits scandal, which saw thousands of parents legitimately receiving benefits for childcare having their benefits reclaimed.

Many of these parents were highlighted as potential fraudsters on the basis of having a second nationality and placed on a secret blacklist by the tax authorities. Later, they were denied benefits for things like simple paperwork mistakes or omissions. At one daycare center, only those with a second nationality had their benefits suddenly stripped. Clients with only a Dutch nationality were unaffected.

Myth #3: High Social Benefit Amounts

In many cases, what people receive is less than what they need to get by. For the city of Amsterdam, the net amount that a person may receive per month is €1,021.67 while the maximum for a family is €1,459.52. However, in Amsterdam, the cost of living surpasses that greatly. Those living on this amount must keep a grueling budget with little room for savings. Yet, if they were to receive another form of income to supplement this deficit, they could potentially lose all benefits entirely. This generates a system of poverty where people have little social mobility and must live mere subsistence lifestyles.

In February 2021, the government of the city of Breda chose to officially limit social benefits for homeless people, stating that the homeless do not need as much support money because they have a lower cost of living. The government justified this by stating that homeless people have no housing costs. The cuts had been in place since 2019 but have only recently become policy. The cuts were also motivated by antiquated ideas of addiction. One official invoked ending addiction as a reason to limit social benefits to homeless people.

Political Climate in the Netherlands

In March 2021, Wopke Hoekstra, the party leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal party proposed a plan to gradually reduce eligibility time for benefits. The plan would increase the benefits initially received by beneficiaries from 75% of their old wage to 90% for the first two months. The increase would then be 80% in the next four months and remain at the current 70% in the final six months. According to Hoekstra, the plan would save the government €600 million annually.

Further, over the past decade of government under Rutte’s ruling party, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy has pursued a policy of reducing benefits with the aim of eventually phasing out unemployment assistance by 2035 entirely. The Dutch government’s own planning offices have observed this process to be driving an increase in poverty.

Outlook Moving Forward

Poverty in the Netherlands currently occurs at a rate of about 8% of the general population. According to the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB), this percentage is set to increase by one quarter over the next few years if the current plans for further austerity are followed through. The CPB recommends introducing a universal basic income as a solution, which would decrease poverty by 60%.

Olivia Nelson
Photo: Pixabay

human trafficking in the NetherlandsHuman trafficking in the Netherlands is a serious issue and one that the Dutch government is attempting to alleviate. According to the Human Traffic Victims Monitor, there were 958 registered trafficking victims from 2013 to 2017. Hopefully, with aid from the government and help from organizations, the Netherlands can see a decrease in human trafficking.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in the Netherlands

    1. Tier 1 Category: Local government officials are not ignorant of the prevalence of human trafficking in the Netherlands. The U.S. Department of State designated the Netherlands as Tier 1, meaning the Dutch government fully complies with the minimum requirements for eliminating trafficking as set forth by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, passed by the U.S. government in 2000.
    2. Legalizing Prostitution: The prostitution industry has been legal in the Netherlands since 2000. Once it was legalized, the demand for services increased but the supply did not. Human traffickers bring in international women to meet the demand.
    3. Labor Exploitation: In addition to sexual exploitation, human trafficking also takes place in economic fields where victims are subject to employment under deplorable conditions. It is not uncommon for these jobs to involve human rights violations.
    4. Criminality: Another form of human trafficking involves forcing individuals to commit crimes. Criminal exploitation is when an individual is forced to steal, beg or otherwise illegally acquire goods or monies and hand them over to the individual doing the exploiting. Perpetrators are often members of highly organized criminal organizations.
    5. Underreporting: The number of victims of human trafficking in the Netherlands is nearly five times the reported estimate. More than 6,000 individuals fall victim to human trafficking each year in the Netherlands, with roughly two-thirds of cases involving coerced sexual exploitation.
    6. Police Officer Training: It is standard practice in the Netherlands to complete training on how to handle human trafficking before passing the police academy. There are also officers who specialize in the handling of human trafficking. These officers must pass an examination before completing the academy.
    7. Sheltering Victims: The Dutch government has funded shelters for victims of human trafficking. It offers victims of human trafficking a stay of up to three months in a shelter. During this time, victims are provided with a safe space to begin the healing process. Here, victims also think about pursuing legal action against their trafficker. After three months, victims who agree to work with police to pursue their traffickers are permitted to stay longer in the shelter.
    8. Human Trafficking Task Force: In 2018, the Dutch government implemented its new anti-trafficking plan. It focuses on identifying victims, strengthening communication between shareholders, encouraging governments to take anti-trafficking action at a local level and amping up the work done to prevent labor trafficking. Since then, the task force has moved into inspecting brothels, training community leaders to identify human trafficking in order to safely intervene and has increased efforts against child trafficking.
    9. Not For Sale Campaign: Born in the early 2000s, the Not For Sale campaign is based in the heart of Amsterdam. The organization works with victims of human trafficking. It works especially with those victimized by sexual exploitation. The organization helps victims gain job experience and life skills needed to support themselves financially. Not For Sale also works to provide food, housing, healthcare and education for victims.
    10. GRETA: The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings is an organization responsible for monitoring the implementation of anti-trafficking legislation. In 2018, GRETA published a report making note that even though the trafficking situation in the Netherlands requires much focus, the Netherlands is making significant improvements in the battle against trafficking.

By working at a local level to examine economies and conditions that perpetuate the cycle of human trafficking, the government and organizations can successfully alleviate human trafficking in the Netherlands.

Jessica Raskauskas
Photo: Unsplash

The Netherlands' Foreign Aid
The Netherlands leads in refugee advocacy, COVID-19 relief and environmental protection and occupies a significant place on the world stage because of its commitment to foreign aid. The Netherlands is the world’s seventh-largest donor country, spending 0.59% of its gross national income, or $5.3 billion USD, on official development assistance (ODA) in 2019. The Dutch government plans to increase ODA by $2.7 billion between 2019 and 2022 to compensate for budget cuts the previous administration made and increased its development budget by $354 million in September 2020 in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Netherlands aims to assist unstable regions of West and North Africa and the Middle East through a focus on four major priorities: law and security, water management, food security and reproductive health. The Netherlands’ foreign aid is a key aspect of the country’s public policy and shapes its reputation for philanthropy worldwide.

Human Rights in the Netherlands

Human rights are a cornerstone of the Netherlands’ foreign aid. The country has a commitment to increasing protection for marginalized communities both at home and abroad. The Netherlands welcomed 94,430 refugees and asylum seekers in 2019 and over 100,000 each of the preceding three years. The government has also taken steps to support refugees, allocating $453 million, or 9% of the ODA budget, to refugee housing costs in 2021. Additionally, the Netherlands allocated additional funding to fight the root causes of poverty, migration, terrorism and environmental challenges in Africa and the Middle East. The Netherlands hopes to address the root causes of these problems in their countries of origin to reduce the number of refugees and improve the quality of life for the global poor.

The Netherlands leads the world in advocacy for gender equality and sexual health through funding for international organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund, UNAIDS and the Global Financing Facility. These organizations work to prevent infant and maternal mortality, end HIV/AIDS and end child marriage and female genital mutilation in developing countries. For example, the Global Financing Facility provides high-quality affordable health care to women and children focused on ending infant and maternal mortality and providing necessary health services to children and teenagers. Since its founding in 2015, GFF has made significant strides in advancing health care in its partner countries. Tanzania improved from an average of 35.8% of pregnant women receiving antenatal care visits in 2014 to 64.1% in 2018.

COVID-19 Relief in the Netherlands

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Netherlands’ foreign aid is important in protecting global health in vulnerable regions. The Netherlands has taken the initiative to allocate pandemic relief aid to the world’s poorest countries, joining other E.U. states to contribute $459 million USD to COVAX, which helps ensure universal access to the COVID-19 vaccine. COVAX aims to distribute two billion COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries by the end of 2021, ensuring global protection against the virus. The country also donated $590 million to global COVID-19 relief efforts in 2020 and plans to contribute a further $548 million from its budget for the upcoming years.

In January 2021, the Netherlands announced it would donate a further €25 million to COVID-19 relief following an appeal by the World Health Organization (WHO). Together, the WHO and its global partners will earmark $5 billion to ensure the distribution of 1.3 billion vaccines in countries with limited or insufficient funds. Development minister Sigrid Kaag emphasized the responsibility of the Netherlands to help more vulnerable countries by providing vaccines, diagnostic tests and medicine, which will also help to protect Dutch interests. The €25 million will come from the development cooperation budget and will cover five million vaccine doses.

The Netherlands uses its global platform to advocate for marginalized communities, particularly at-risk populations in North and West Africa and the Middle East. Foreign aid is a cornerstone of Dutch foreign policy that has grown the wealthy country’s reputation for philanthropy. By welcoming refugees, advocating for human rights and funding global efforts to combat COVID-19, the Netherlands affirms its commitment to foreign aid and funds solutions for some of the most pressing global problems.

– Eliza Browning
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Women’s Rights in the Netherlands
Gender-based discrimination takes on many masks around the world. However, in recent years, activists and legislatures have made strides for the advancement of women’s rights in the Netherlands.

Advancing Women’s Rights in the Netherlands and the World

Women’s rights in the Netherlands are a central focus of local politics as people work for the betterment of women not only in the Netherlands but around the world. Through lobbying and the passage of legislation, the Netherlands is ahead of many countries around the world in terms of the betterment of women, and women’s rights. Betterment of women includes, but is not limited to:

  • Eliminating child brides
  • Educating young girls
  • Combating intimate partner violence and violence against women
  • Enforcing the necessity of women in negotiating peace talks in U.N. Resolution 1325
  • Promoting a woman’s involvement in the economy and politics

The Nuclear Family and Poverty

It is true that for many years, the Netherlands trailed behind much of the world in women’s rights and advancements. Women received encouragement to stay home with house and child and occasionally hold small jobs, with no opportunity for advancement in the profession or in Dutch society. As of 2013, 24.2% of women with children lived below the poverty line in comparison to 0% of men with children.

The nuclear family model around the world has been promoting the idea that the male in the family has to be the one to provide for the family, while the mother stays at home to take care of the children and the house. This frequently leaves women in a financially unstable position without the ability to provide for themselves and creating a gendered financial disparity.

Dismantling Gender Roles

The Netherlands has spent time working to dismantle the gender roles that people associate with the nuclear family. By better incorporating Dutch women into the labor market and government positions, women are finally finding ways to support themselves and their families. Organizations like the McKinsey Project work to advance women’s participation in the labor market through lobbying and creating opportunities for the betterment of women.

Beginning with the Work and Care Act implemented in 2001, part of supporting families for Dutch women include up to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave in which they were entitled to 100% of their median earnings as calculated over the previous year. Meanwhile, their partners can take one week with pay, and up to five partially-paid weeks.

Parent leave is another beneficial measure that a parent can take up until a child’s 8th birthday. Parental leave is when parents can take up to 26 times their working hours. Take, for example, if a parent works 40 hours per week, they have 1,040 working hours to take for the sake of their child in the event they need to take time for/with their child. Additionally, they can spread the time out however they may need.

The implementation of programs like the Work and Care Act, and work with organizations like the McKinsey Project are just a few of the ways the Netherlands has been making strides in promoting the economic, political and social advancement of its women over the last several years. It is important to acknowledge that while gender-based oppression still exists around the world, the Netherlands included, the strides the country has made is admirable.

Jessica Raskauskas
Photo: Flickr

Artificial pollinators
More than 570 million farms exist in the world today. Notably, 45% of the world’s population lives in rural areas; a number that is equivalent to 3.4 billion people. However, today, 2 billion people sustain themselves through agriculture. While the entirety of human-kind depends on agriculture for sustenance, only 33% of the population depends on agriculture to survive, economically. In this same vein, farmers’ livelihoods have been threatened by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a leading cause in the decline of bees. With a decrease in natural pollinators, researchers are creating artificial pollinators to sustain our ecosystem.

The Birds & Bees Falling Short

Birds, bees and other insects are the world’s crop pollinators and cross-pollinators. Bees can pollinate more than $15 billion of crops every year in the U.S. alone. In 2016, however, seven species of Hawaiian bees were declared endangered, as well as a bee that is native to the East Coast and Midwest of the U.S. Researchers are now looking to artificial pollinators and robotics as a substitute to help fulfill the world’s agricultural needs.

Robotic Dragonflies and Miniature Drones

In the Netherlands, a group at the Technical University of Delft is creating drones — robotic dragonflies — that will recognize, land on, and pollinate flowers. Assistant professor Guido de Croon said that they “use robot dragonflies which mimic insects flying by flapping their wings… this will be beneficial once miniaturization of these drones has taken place. They’ll be able to fly longer without recharging.” The drones can also communicate with each other to avoid contact and possible damage to themselves. In the future, these robotic dragonflies will work in greenhouses to aid in plant health, i.e., watering and safe pesticide use.

Soap Bubble Pollination

An associate professor at the Japan Institute of Science and Technology, Eijiro Miyako, has used soap bubbles carried by drones to pollinate a pear orchard. Inspired by blowing bubbles with his son, Miyako notes that “soap bubbles have innovative potentiality and unique properties, such as effective and convenient delivery of pollen grains to targeted flowers and high flexibility to avoid damaging them.” Miyako’s team used GPS-controlled drones to direct soap bubbles, carrying pollen grain, at fake lilies from two meters away and had a 90% success rate.

This is by far a cheaper source for pollination and according to Miyako, more efficient than other artificial pollinators. Instead of using human labor, Miyako hopes to continue to advance this eccentric, bubble pollinator. Previously, Miyako used a two-centimeter long drone to pollinate but found that the flowers were getting harmed in the process. This pollinating technique is “flower-friendly” in Miyako’s experience, far safer for the fruit or flower.

More Innovative Technologies

Other researchers have created robot bees and dragonflies and one group has created a backpack to attach to real dragonflies to assist in the pollination process. In any case, these insects are crucial to our ecosystem. While technology should never fully replace the natural process — it is useful to have these innovations to assist. Those who live in rural areas depend on the ecosystem and environment around them — including crops and agriculture. Although these technologies remain unperfected, solutions like these artificial pollinators are working to protect livelihoods.

Hannah Kaufman
Photo: Pikist

Poverty Eradication in the NetherlandsThe Netherlands had the fifth lowest poverty rate in the world in 2019 at 13%, with an excepted decrease down to only 7% by the end of 2020. The Dutch maintain a high standard of living. They also maintain a low unemployment rate with the sixth largest economy in the European Union. There is a relatively high standard of living and a low poverty rate. However, the Dutch continue to face hurdles of social exclusion in efforts to combat poverty. Poverty rates are lower in the Netherlands than in many surrounding nations. Nonetheless, well over one million Dutch citizens are still living below the poverty line. The National Reform Programme, discussed below, outlines some of the ways the Dutch have worked toward poverty eradication in the Netherlands.

Tax Breaks to Benefit Education and Innovation

Each year, the Netherlands releases a National Reform Programme that reports on the state of the economy, the budget, future changes and reforms. Included in the 2019 program is the plan to reduce tax burden on citizens and small businesses while increasing taxes on large corporations. All of this is in addition to creating additional investments in the public sector. This plan intends to strengthen households and the Dutch economy as a whole with specific attention to fostering innovation and promoting entrepreneurship. In addition to tax cuts for citizens, the program proposes an increased investment in research of €400 million. The investment works to expand innovation, strengthen the economy and move toward poverty eradication in the Netherlands. Much of the investment will benefit research specifically through the education system.

Housing Inequality

Despite relatively low poverty levels in the Netherlands, social exclusion pervades many Dutch communities since it excludes them from participating in various associations. Not only are these associations economic but they also have to do health, welfare and education. This phenomenon leads to a deficient citizenship when citizens are unable to fully enjoy the rights and privileges the majority of the country has access to. This issue pervades the housing market in the Netherlands as the wealthy country sees continuous rises in housing prices that alienate low-income populations.

In order to combat this, the National Reform Programme lays out measures to ensure accessible, affordable and stable housing. Creating equal housing opportunities is essential to poverty eradication in the Netherlands. This program is underlined by a mortgage debt repayment plan that aims to incentivize paying off mortgages through interest deductions of 3 percentage points per year. It begins this year and plans on reaching a maximum of 37%. Additionally, the government plans to incentivize the accelerated construction of new homes as the housing supply is scarce.

Refugee Crisis

Many of those living in poverty in the Netherlands are asylum seekers, often from the war-torn region of Syria. The Dutch government is working to support the refugee population in the Netherlands. They suffer from much higher levels of poverty than their nationals. In order to do this, it has committed to creating special programs. These programs will ensure the safe reception of asylum seekers as poverty eradication in the Netherlands stars abroad. Internationally, the Netherlands supports education programs for refugee children. It supports housing opportunities for refugees in countries in their region of origin. It supports other rights protection programs as well.

Additionally, the Netherlands encourages businesses to hire from refugee populations. It also offers additional support to startups that benefit asylum-seeking populations. Further plans for assisting refugees and other vulnerable populations within the nation are laid out in the National Reform Programme. Investment and individualized support will be offered through pathway guidance and job training to aid these populations in their participation in the labor market and to increase financial freedom.

Jazmin Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger in the NetherlandsAs one of the most substantial influencers in agricultural viability, as well as one of the foremost exporters of agricultural products throughout the globe, the Netherlands is not a country that the world would easily associate with hunger. Even with a lower rate of poverty and malnourishment than many other countries, the Netherlands must overcome the remaining barriers for those lingering in destitution. Fortunately, the country thinks big.

Poverty Within The Country

Since 2015, poverty has decreased in the Netherlands, while the country has experienced a growth period in its economy. Yet, those who still remain in poverty find themselves at a decrease in the ability to meet their basic needs over these recent years of prosperity. As of 2019, there were 169 food banks providing for the poor across the country. The ongoing issue is the access and awareness of this kind of assistance for families who find themselves in need of it most. Solving hunger in the Netherlands is only a portion of the country’s goals.

Eliminating Hunger On A Global Scale

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands has dedicated itself to resolving hunger following its driven Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country’s aims are to improve food intake, efficiency and international trade, as well as enhance resilience to the imbalance in the environment and economy and provide better care for renewable resources.

Planning For Change

Eleanor Roosevelt famously voiced, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” The Netherlands has chosen to put its energy into planning. The country’s SDGs have inspired certain procedures that are already seeing success in Burundi. The Dutch embassy has supported a project empowering almost 40,000 farmers with a plan of action for the present and a vision of how their investments will pay off in the future. The project Supporting Agricultural Productivity in Burundi (PAPAB) uses this Integrated Farm Planning (PIP) method to help farmers understand the fulfillment in their work with the hopes of engaging the community in improved practices. These farmers have significant increases in earnings, production and security with each plan, as well as major reductions in environmental impacts.

How 8,000 Students Will Feed The Hungry

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) located in Wageningen, Netherlands comprises food scientists capable of eradicating hunger in the Netherlands as well as the rest of the world. Professor Louise O. Fresco, the university president, is motivated by a unique history that encourages her to end global hunger. Fresco was born amongst the aftermath of the Dutch Hunger Winter.

This famine took place in the 1940s as Nazi troops obstructed the food supply to the Netherlands. Studies have proven that those born around the time of this famine are at a higher risk of adverse health and psychological conditions due to the stressful environment at the time. However, Fresco sees an enabling connection between her birth and her current work which has inspired her to lead an institution where people share her passions.

Many students at the university agree that the real barricade in solving world hunger is the overproduction of food that many deem necessary in Europe, yet a large percentage of that supply becomes wasted and its production ultimately hurts the environment. The real goals are to solve these problems with minimal impact on the environment in order to achieve sustainability and reach those who are malnourished.

Students are developing innovations to meet these overall necessities. The vertical farming method, for example, allows for the growth of additional food while avoiding the use of additional land. Another project that students at the university are working on is a method called forest farming revealing the eco-friendly benefits of small-scale farming over large-scale farming.

As the country leads with innovative and inspiring techniques, approaching hunger in the Netherlands has lead to fantastic possibilities for the rest of the world.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: Pixabay