It is our social system that is off balance, not the employment market.


The coronacrisis teaches us that it would be wise to increase emphasis on flexible, and not on permanent jobs. Mathijs Bouman is convinced that flexible jobs did not worsen the crisis, but rather saved the economy.
In these times of corona, the temptation is strong to advocate the accelerated phaseout of the flexible component of the employment market. But Mathijs Bouman, economist, has reached a different conclusion. Flexible jobs are precisely what make the economy more manoeuvrable, he said at an online meeting in the series ‘Arbeidsmarkt van Morgen’ [Tomorrow’s Employment Market], organised by the Dutch Association of Intermediary Organizations and Temporary Employment Agencies (NBBU).

Bouman summed it up as follows: In this crisis, Dutch economy is faring much better than that of all surrounding countries. It is true that unemployment rates among flex workers have risen steeply, but these are mostly young people still living with their parents. Independent contractors without employees turn out to have adequate buffers. Flexible jobs did not worsen the crisis, but rather saved the economy. “The employment market is well balanced. It is social security that is off balance”, concluded Bouman from the figures he presented.

A reactionary response to the crisis

Bouman believes it is a bad idea to put a focus on permanent jobs, as argued by the Socio-Economic Council (‘SER’) and the Borstlap Committee. The Committee, for instance, would prefer workers in employment to become the standard for all ‘regular jobs’, on slightly more relaxed conditions.
An extremely conservative view, so Bouman holds. “We all got our homework cut out for us. Reread the Borstlap report carefully. But with a critical eye. Part of the analysis is meagre and definitely not confirmed by the coronavirus crisis. So politicians, please do not copy everything one-on-one in your programmes.”

The retraining paradox

In its crisis package, the government bets heavily on retraining. Bouman advises betting on the right jobs instead. These are not the jobs needed now, but jobs for the future. The economist explained that everything points to scarcity on the employment market coming back with a vengeance after the coronavirus crisis. And in part the jobs will be affected that have been hit hard by this crisis, like chefs. After Bouman, Rosanne Hertzberger, columnist and microbiologist, took the stage. She pointed out that in Dutch economy there are ever more sub-sub-specialists. ‘Expertise comes with status. Learning something new is to start at the bottom of the ladder again. Which in our society apparently stands for a loss of status.’

A shame, in Hertzberger’s view. Learning new things is not just useful (and makes you more resilient when jobs disappear) but fun as well. “We need more stories about people who learn and evolve along a parkour course.”
To get young people back to work, counselling people from job to job. It is grist to the mill for employment agencies. Marco Bastian, director of NBBU: “We should be proud of people taking part in lateral entry programs’, he commented on Hertzberger’s appeal. ‘It is a brilliant insight, and a brilliant mission for us.”

(Bron: ZIPconomy/econoom & journalist Mathijs Bouman/columnist & microbiologist Rosanne Hertzberger)