Tackling Poverty in the NetherlandsOn June 9, 2023, Dutch opposition parties took urgent action to address poverty in the Netherlands, demanding significant changes before the summer. The leader of the Socialist Party, Lilian Marijnissen, emphasized that hundreds of thousands of people in the country are living in poverty, with an increasing number relying on food banks. The cabinet also expressed its commitment to reducing poverty. Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag clarified that they are carefully considering all aspects related to tackling poverty in the Netherlands. In March, the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis warned that projections indicated a rise in poverty from 4.7% in 2023 to 5.8% of the population in 2024.

Statistics Show Poverty Remains an Issue

Poverty affects nearly a million citizens in the Netherlands (6% of the population), with children, migrants and the elderly being the most vulnerable groups. To combat this issue, the government plans to reduce poverty through measures like high-income taxes, which could potentially decrease poverty by 60%. Increasing the minimum income support is also likely to be a significant step toward alleviating poverty.

At the end of 2022, the at-risk-of-poverty rate in the Netherlands stood at 14.5%, as reported by EUROSTAT. A 2022 European Commission report highlighted the Netherlands as the only EU state with a social safety net that prevents people from falling into poverty; the country’s minimum income ensures citizens are not left in destitution.

According to CBS, the Netherlands has made progress in reducing the percentage of the poor. However, not all statistics indicate success, as wages have increased, but those at the bottom of the income ladder have become poorer.

Children Living in Poverty in the Netherlands

According to data from 2022, 6.6% of Dutch children live in low-income households. The Netherlands is one of the world’s richest countries; however, 10% of the population lives below the poverty line, which makes education and health care financially unreachable for children growing up in poorer families.

Another issue in the Netherlands is the punishment of children physically at home and school. Violence against children is still an existing problem in the culture. Many of the refugees are held in centers for a longer period, and children seeking asylum do have uninsured rights.

Advancements Toward Battling Poverty in the Netherlands

The National Plan concerning policy on child poverty has declared that every child has access to health care, and local authorities have the accountability to make sure children can get health services since 2022.

Child homelessness is almost nonexistent in the Netherlands, but exact information on children living on the streets is not available. The country does not have a program that focuses on supporting homeless children. They sometimes end up living in child-friendly women’s shelters for a maximum of three months.

The number of children at risk of poverty in the long term has shrunk every year since 2015. The National Plan shares the same view with the government to tackle child poverty. The cabinet is planning on establishing the improvement of the process.

Ongoing Efforts

The Dutch government is working to help those living in extreme poverty who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine by cooperating with organizations aiming to create food security. The Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN) initiated action against poverty this year. It plans to collect products for the food bank to stop poverty from expanding. This year the Dutch government decided to cut 3.4 billion euros from the budget for development cooperation and humanitarian assistance in the next few years as it intends to turn those funds inward and provide housing for asylum seekers within the country’s borders.

An association of more than 100 Dutch development organizations considers it ill-advised that the Dutch government cut back on tackling the root causes of conflict, climate change, poverty and humanitarian assistance. The Netherlands received €413 million from the European Social Fund in 2022 to resist growing poverty. The country became the first that used money from the EU to ensure people have enough to survive. This means that almost €16 million has been rearranged for essential support, food, books for children and hygienic products for girls. The funding for the European Social Fund runs up to 2027.

What is Next?

The Netherlands employs various methods to combat poverty, boasting one of the lowest at-risk-of-poverty rates at 5.4%, in contrast to the EU average of 21.7%. Marjolijn van Gerven, the National Sustainable Development Goals coordinator, highlighted the diverse approaches for addressing poverty in the country and emphasized the importance of scientific and methodological access in this endeavor. The efforts to tackle and prevent the spread of poverty are underway, as evident in Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag’s statement: “The government really wants to prevent more people from falling into poverty. But we weigh everything, and we do that in August.”

– Klaudia Laura Sebestyen
Photo: Flickr

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