Are labor migrants the solution to the shortage on the labor market? † NOW

Several sectors are faced with a serious shortage of personnel. As a result, the discussion about the use of more labor migrants in our country is more topical than ever.

For example, from the end of this year the European Commission wants to open the gates of the European Union under certain conditions to labor migrants from, among other places, North Africa.

Is the deployment of foreign forces the solution to tackle the staff shortage?

What does the group of labor migrants in the Netherlands look like?

There are currently 767,571 labor migrants in the Netherlands, excluding pupils and students. 374,200 of them work as temporary workers and 393,371 have a direct employment contract with the user company, according to research by temporary employment agencies ABU and NBBU.

The Polish workforce is the largest group with a share of almost 60 percent, followed by Romanians (13 percent), Bulgarians (7 percent), Hungarians (3 percent) and Lithuanians (2 percent).

The labor migrants are mainly active in logistics, horticulture, food industry, metal sector, agriculture and transport, but also in the many distribution centers.

What are the main reasons for using more migrant workers?

Employment agency NBBU says that labor migrants are of great importance to the Dutch economy, as various sectors are faced with a major shortage of personnel. “We are therefore certainly in favor of the arrival of labor migrants, provided that it is properly arranged and supply and demand cannot be brought together within the national borders,” says director Marco Bastian.

“It is also important to take a closer look at what is already available. This remains the most efficient way to deploy people sustainably, which benefits both employer and employee.”

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How great is the need?

Very high: shortages are increasing and experts warn that society is going into lockdown. The problems at Schiphol, the NS running fewer trains, the chaos around the Kethel tunnel and events that have to be canceled due to a shortage of security guards are just the tip of the iceberg.

The shortage in the labor market is expected to continue for some time to come.

Can migrant workers be deployed anywhere?

No, but in many cases yes. According to Ton Wilthagen, professor of the labor market at Tilburg University, labor migrants are only employable in a number of sectors.

“It is a difficult discussion and not everyone in society is in favor of it. But we have to see whether we can place these people properly,” emphasizes Wilthagen.

“It is necessary to press all the buttons to combat the staff shortage. You should not think that you will call the GP post and there will be a tape on the line. It is a matter of life and death here.”

What contradictions are there?

The Labor Inspectorate has identified many abuses and recently called for as few labor migrants as possible to be admitted.

Moreover, there are still rogue employment agencies that are not very careful with the laws and regulations and are guilty of exploiting migrant workers.

This concerns, for example, underpayment or abuses related to housing. Temporary employment agencies and clients are working hard on certification to prevent excesses.

Are there no other solutions than deploying more labor migrants?

We are European champions part-time working. Experts are therefore calling for employees to work more hours.

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Moreover, there are still many people on the side. “Behind the image of the extreme shortage, there is a wealth of people who can fill part of the open vacancies immediately or in the long term,” says Loes Waterreus, senior adviser on the labor market at the NBBU.

“Think of people who want to work more than they do now, people who don’t work now, but want to, people on benefits, you name it.”

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