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Dutch citizens in favour of generous welfare but with job-seeking obligation

Dutch citizens are not opposed to additional earnings and financial gifts for people on welfare, but believe it is important that there should also be an obligation to look for a job. This was the outcome of a research project on the opinions of Dutch people regarding the implementation of welfare policies.

In 2021, a woman made headlines when she was ordered to repay 7,000 euros in welfare because her parents had paid for her groceries. This resulted in nationwide outrage: the human dimension should be reinstated in welfare policies to prevent similar situations from happening in the future. 

To find out more about this human dimension, a group of researchers investigated what a representative group of 2,000 Dutch citizens thinks about future welfare policies. The research was conducted by Marion Collewet, Kim Fairley, Olaf Vliet (Leiden University), Marike Knoef (Leiden University/Tilburg University), and Roselinde Kessels (Maastricht University) and was published in the Dutch economics journal ‘Economisch Statistische Berichten’. 

The respondents were supplied with additional information on the current welfare policy. Then they were given eight sets of two policy packages. The participants were asked to divide a hundred points over the two packages based on how desirable they felt the policies were. 

On average, the packages that included a job-seeking obligation received more points than identical packages without that obligation. Scenarios in which welfare recipients were required to provide a contribution were more popular than packages without that requirement. The respondents also believed it was desirable for welfare recipients to be allowed to receive gifts and have some additional earnings. 

Open to higher welfare payments
Finally, Dutch citizens are open to a higher disposable income for welfare recipients. But they were against the idea that Dutch households should pay more taxes to compensate for this. When it comes to the job-seeking obligation, the Dutch were prepared to pay for the execution costs. 

Researchers concluded that the Dutch prefer a Scandinavian model: a high disposable income with a policy of stimulation. This preference aligns closely with the current welfare policy and the government resolution to make more room for gifts and additional earnings. However, there is an important exception. The Dutch do not agree with a legal sanction of 100 percent should a welfare recipient fail to comply with the obligations. According to the researchers, this is cause to revise the ‘Participatie wet’ on this point. 

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