The job market at a standstill because of regulations on self-employed workers

To properly organise self-employed workers and the job market, ‘everything should change’.

It was the leitmotiv of master lobbyist Niek Jan van Kesteren of the employers’ association VNO-NCW: ‘Everything should change, so nothing will change’. This week I was reminded of this adage by Minister Koolmees’ proposals for self-employed workers.

To properly organise self-employed workers and the job market, ‘everything should change’. Read: The Dutch social system would have to be overturned completely. But first we have to wait for the findings of the Borstlap committee. It will take years before all reforms are done, and until then ‘nothing will change’.

This week it became clear that both politicians and the public are divided over Koolmees’ current proposals. The regulations on self-employed workers have brought the job market to a standstill.

A standstill that is a disaster for the job market, as assigners experience on a daily basis. Their clients shamelessly ask if temporary workers can be ‘converted into’ self-employed workers. Clients contact temporary workers directly, telling them that working as self-employed workers is much more advantageous. And that includes order prickers, cloackroom attendants or security guards.

It has little or no relevance to being self-employed or entrepreneurship. It is simply all about cheap, cheaper, cheapest. The client and the worker each gain a few euros, but at the expense of the social system.

The proposed minimum rate of 16 Euros is absolutely insufficient to stem the tide. What’s more: It will be counterproductive and accelerate the fall downward, all-in a legitimate way. The unions ask for EUR 25, which sounds a lot more realistic.

The standstill and ineffective enforcement have turned the basis of the job market into the Wild West. We would like that to change. But the government does not seem keen on taking action. Koolmees’ proposals at any rate do not offer any solace and enforcement does not appear to be a priority.

Maybe the job market needs a ruling like in the Urgenda climate case to make the government see reason. The standstill is not something we can afford.