Poverty on the rise as austerity measures take hold in the Netherlands


A new report for the Dutch government has warned that austerity measures are feeding into steadily increasing poverty, with almost one household in 10 expected to be living below the poverty line next year.

The report by the national statistics bureau, CBS, and the socio-cultural advisory group SCP, shows that – despite retaining its AAA international credit rating – stagnant economic growth, worsening unemployment and public sector budget cuts due to continue until 2014 are eroding the country’s affluent yet caring image.

The figures show that while 6 per cent of households did not have enough to live on in 2010, that figure increased to 7.5 percent last year and to 8.7 per cent this year.

Taking inflation into account, it is due to rise to 9.4 per cent in 2013.

The report will make uncomfortable reading for the coalition government of prime minister Mark Rutte but particularly for its new junior partners, Labour, who will have to preside over some of the toughest cuts to healthcare and other services since the second World War with the aim of generating new growth.

The report also shows a surprise change in the demographics of those who now make up the poorest pockets of Dutch society.

Despite a drop in their spending power as a result of government cuts, pensioners are no longer among the poorest. Single-parent families, single people under 65, non-Western immigrants, and those living on social welfare benefits tend to be the worst off.

Child poverty

Another significant change is that the number of householders with a long-term income below the poverty line rose slightly from 2.4 to 2.5 per cent, bringing to an end a downward trend since 2000.

Child poverty is also on the rise.

“The child poverty rate in 2011 was 10.6 percent, equivalent to 359,000 children up to age 17,” says the report. “That figure is expected to rise faster in 2012 than in other age groups, to reach 377,000 or 11.2 percent.”

The report was published as 36 of the Netherlands’ largest municipalities signed a letter to parliament warning that the combination of cuts and public sector “reforms” was leading to an “unworkable situation”, especially when it came to non-medical care for the elderly, the long-term sick and the disabled.