Dutch 'work 7 weeks less than EU average'

15th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

15 February 2005, AMSTERDAM — The average Dutch employee works seven weeks fewer per year than other European Union nationals and therefore must work longer hours, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Monday.

15 February 2005

AMSTERDAM — The average Dutch employee works seven weeks fewer per year than other European Union nationals and therefore must work longer hours, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Monday.

Speaking at a meeting of the young public servants network Futur, the prime minister admitted that there are lots of Dutch people with a very busy job and who cannot work any longer.

But as the average amount of work hours for Dutch employees is far below that of the EU average, Balkenende said a lot of people could be working longer, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.

The Christian Democrat CDA leader said the Netherlands should do everything possible to secure its socio-economic future, in which solidarity between rich and poor, healthy and ill, young and old, native Dutch and immigrant is guaranteed.

"Without this solidarity the bond of our society will be lost," Balkenende said.

He said further that economic efficiency is necessary to ensure that prosperity is maintained at its present level, allowing investment in good health, inspiring education, a clean environment and "all the things that are so highly necessary".

The Netherlands must not become too expensive on an international basis and the nation should work in a clever way and employ more people. Continued wage moderation is crucial and working longer could also be of great value to the economy, Balkenende said.

To this end, the Dutch government signed an accord last year with unions and employers. The agreement paved the way for wage moderation this year in exchange for concessions on planned cuts to WW unemployment benefits and the WAO worker disability scheme.

Nevertheless, the cabinet pushed through an unpopular abolition of tax cuts on early retirement schemes and has proposed extending pension age from 65 to 67. Discussions are also ongoing about extending the working week.

Meanwhile, Balkenende criticised opponents who claim that the cabinet's budget cut policies are anti-social. "Real social policy is policy that ensures that in the future we will still have a sturdy social security net and good healthcare for the people who need it," he said.

Faced with a struggling economy, the government has embarked on a massive cost-cutting scheme in the past couple of years. And the economy is starting to improve, registering 1.3 percent growth last year compared to a 0.9 percent fall in 2003.

The prime minister also said the situation in the Netherlands should not be dramatised, asserting that a large percentage of the population has a standard of life of which their grandparents could only dream of.

"The Netherlands is a country which not only feels very strongly about the ideal of equality, but where that ideal has largely been realised," he said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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