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Tackling Poverty in the Netherlands Is Urgent

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