Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (1694)

Dutch back compulsory vaccinations but parents have doubts

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – While 70% of the Dutch think childhood vaccinations should be made compulsory, 36% of young parents say they don’t trust information about them provided by the public health institute RIVM, according to a new survey of 32,000 people.

The survey, undertaken by television current affairs show EenVandaag and women’s magazine Linda, found that 82% of the population in general think daycare centres should be able to ban children who are not vaccinated and 55% would support cutting the child benefits of anti-vaxxers.

At the same time, 12% of young parents said they ‘did not really’ trust RIVM information and 24% said they did not trust it at all. ‘They don’t mention the disadvantages of vaccinations and people who claim they do cause damage are dismissed as nut jobs,’ one respondent said.


Almost a quarter said they agreed with the statement ‘I think that vaccines included in the state vaccination programme cause autism’. And 34% of young parents agreed with the statement: ‘A childhood disease like measles is something natural, and you should not vaccinate against them.’

The head of the national vaccination programme told the AD that a bit of mistrust is ‘no bad thing’. ‘We recommend people discuss the issue with their doctor or a paediatrician,’ Hans van Vliet said.

Some seven in 10 people now support a compulsory vaccination programme, up from 57% last year when EenVandaag previously researched the issue. But young parents are less keen – just 49% support compulsory vaccinations for all children.

At the moment 90% of Dutch children are vaccinated against potentially serious illnesses such as measles, polio and whooping cough. This is below the level of 95% the World Health Organisation considers safe.



Dutch dads would like to spend more time with their kids, but don’t

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Working fathers would like to be more involved with the care of their children but still make relatively little use of paternity leave schemes, according to a new report on fatherhood in the Netherlands.

Just one in 10 dads take advantage of the government scheme allowing them to take unpaid leave over a period of months in the first eight years of a child’s life. By contrast, 23% of mothers take unpaid maternity leave.

According to the Rutgers centre which carried out the research, fathers are often told by their employers that leave is too complicated to arrange or does not fit into the company culture.

In addition, some dads are afraid to ask for time off to care for their children because of the reaction it might generate. Positive role models – men in leadership positions who take paternity leave – are also in short supply, the researchers note.

The researchers say there needs to be a cultural shift in both the care and education sectors so that mothers are not always assumed to be the primary carer. There is a lack of support and encouragement by friends and colleagues, schools and care organisations focus on mothers and the Netherlands has a strong motherhood ideology, the organisation said.

‘In the Netherlands, the mother is seen as the primary raiser of children and the role of the father is secondary,’ the report said. This is reflected in the view that women are better carers by nature, even though research shows that fathers who spend more time with their children also undergo neurological and hormonal changes, the report notes.

Paid leave

Since January 1 this year, fathers in the Netherlands have had the right to five rather than two days paid leave. From 2020, fathers will have the right to a further five weeks of leave at 70% of their regular salary – but employers are free to make this up to 100%.

Parental leave, which is open to men and women, is unpaid. Parents are allowed to request 26 times the number of hours they work a week in leave, which can be spread out over weeks or months.

Some companies have already set up their own, wider schemes, such as Microsoft, which pays fathers their full salary for six weeks. ING Nederland gives dads a month’s paid paternity leave and the right to three months unpaid leave.

Volvo, Mastercard Nederland and The Hague city council also operate more generous paternity leave schemes than defined by law.



More job shortages loom as Eastern Europeans go home: ABN Amro

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Many eastern Europeans in the Netherlands will leave because the economies in their home countries are growing and wages there are rising, according to a new report by ABN Amro economists.

Currently some 250,000 people from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria work in the Netherlands, often doing poorly paid work on short term contracts. Now eastern European economies are growing, and populations are shrinking, wages are likely to rise, encouraging more people to return home.

‘Countries like the Netherlands, which are further away from eastern Europe, are likely to feel most impact,’ economist Nora Neuteboom said. The departure of eastern European workers will have a further impact on the already tight Dutch labour market, the report by the bank’s economic bureau said.

In particular, the farming sector, manufacturing, construction and transport will be hit because companies in these sectors are already feeling the impact of the shortage of workers.

However, Britain’s departure from the EU has made the country less attractive for eastern Europeans and the Netherlands could benefit from this, the report said.

Low wages

The Dutch statistics agency CBS said earlier this year that workers from Poland, Romania and other eastern and central European countries earn the lowest wages of all immigrant groups.

Some 80% of the 180,000 Polish nationals working in the Netherlands earn less than €15 per hour and 18% of them earn less than €10, the CBS said. And research published a year ago by government think-tank SCP said some 75% of Polish nationals living in the Netherlands have a job but they are much more likely than the Dutch to have temporary or flexible contracts, work long hours and do basic manual labour.

Polands ambassador to the Netherlands also recently sounded the alarm about dodgy staffing agencies and the abuse of Dutch labour laws to exploit migrant workers.

‘People are being brought to the Netherlands under false pretences and have to work here in poor conditions, while being excluded from Dutch society,’ he told the AD.



The Hague to bring on income limits to rental housing under €1,000

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Hague city council is to impose income limits on who can live in housing with a rent of between €720 and €1,000 a month.

The housing falls outside the rent-controlled sector but is in such short supply the council has decided to give priority to people earning less than twice the average monthly gross wage of €2,778.

The aim, officials say, is to make sure the city remains affordable for teachers and nursing staff. ‘If someone finds a job at a school, they should be able to live there,’ housing alderman Boudewijn Revis told Radio 1 news.

‘Police officers on night shift should be able to go home to a house in the city when they have finished work.’ Revis said the measure is an emergency step and will be scrapped as soon as enough new homes have been built.

The plan still has to be approved by a full meeting of the council.

In May Amsterdam published its plans for getting to grips with the housing shortage. These include a quota for bed and breakfasts and giving priority for social housing to youngsters, nurses and teachers.

Up to 800 housing corporation homes will be earmarked for young Amsterdammers, who find it impossible to get a foot on the housing ladder. People working in education and the care sector will also get priority as will people on low to middle incomes.



Transport alliance calls for €56bn effort to stop NL grinding to a halt

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands needs to spend €56bn on the roads, public transport, cycling and road safety to stop the country seizing up by 2040, according to a report by 25 transport lobby groups and organisations.

The Mobility Alliance, which includes the motoring organisation ANWB as well as the Dutch national railway company and transport sector lobby group TLN, says in its 70-page report, that without action the Netherlands will grind to a halt.

On Tuesday it emerged that the plan includes the introduction of road pricing to reduce car traffic – money which, the organisation says, would be used to fund a string of major transport-related developments.

These other proposals include extending the Amsterdam metro system to Schiphol airport, bringing in new light rail systems to the other big cities and developing a fast bus line between Breda and Utrecht along the A2 motorway.

People should also be encouraged to become more flexible in the methods of transport they use, with the development of out-of-town hubs where they can switch from car or train to bike.

The group also propose experimenting with allowing residents to trade parking rights, varying the tax paid by company car drivers and allowing motorists to buy the right to travel at peak periods.


‘Let us be clear, mobility has to be improved,’ said NS chief Roger van Boxtel. ‘This is crucial for our competitive position, for durability and for the happiness of our people. Successive cabinets will have to work on this.

There is no time to wait.’ Transport minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen has told the Telegraaf she will not cooperate with any initiatives to bring in road pricing or higher charges for driving at peak periods.

The idea, she said, is ‘a horror’. ‘I am not going to start on that,’ the minister said.



Age, the age gap and education all impact divorce rates: CBS

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Couples with an age gap of five years or more are much more likely to get divorced than couples of similar ages, according to new research by the national statistics office CBS.

Of couples who moved in together or got married in 2003, 25% of those with a two-year age gap were divorced within 12 years. But if the age gap is over 10 years, the divorce rate rises to 35%, the CBS said.

Relationships with a large age gap, in which the man is older than a female partner, tend to be slightly more stable than those in which women are oldest. In addition, the younger the couple when they set up home together, the more likely they are to separate.

Almost half of couples in which the woman was 18 to 20 have broken up within 12 years, but when the woman is over the age of 25 the break-up rate is 25%, the CBS said.

Educational level also has an impact on the divorce rate. One in five couples in which both partners have a college or university degree will break up within 12 years.

But the divorce rate among people without academic qualifications is 31%, the CBS said. Research published by the CBS in 2016 showed gay women are more likely to get married than men and their marriages are more likely to break down.

One reason for this could be that gay men tend to marry when older, the CBS said.



Three in four foreign students miss contacts with the Dutch

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Many foreign students do not feel at home in the Netherlands and over 75% miss having contact with their Dutch counterparts, according to a survey by three student networks – LSVB, ISO and the Erasmus Student Network.

‘Foreign students are being actively recruited but once they are in the Netherlands they are confronted with the lack of affordable housing, they don’t get Dutch lessons and they find it hard to make contact with their Dutch peers,’ said Carline van Breugel of the LSVB.

It is the second time the three organisations have carried out a survey of foreign students and this year 1,002 took part, of whom two-thirds came from another EU country.

While three quarters miss having contact with the Dutch, 74% struggle with housing and 44% experience stress, the survey showed. At the same time, 62% said they were happy, or very happy, with their social lives.

‘I have met a lot of Dutch students, but I find it very hard to become close to them or how to actually make friends with them. Almost my entire study is with Dutch students, yet I barely speak to them,’ one student is quoted as saying.

The Netherlands is keen to ensure foreign students remain in the Netherlands after graduating, but research published by Elsevier magazine last week showed that 61% of master’s graduates leave within six months.

In 2001, that figure was just 45%. Learning Dutch is key to ensuring foreign students can integrate well, the student bodies say. Almost 37% of respondents said they were unhappy at the options offered for learning the language.

Some 90,000 foreign students attended courses at Dutch universities or hbo colleges last year and they now account for 11.5% of the student population.



Security services make progress on privacy but more needs to be done

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch civilian and military security services are still breaking the new laws on electronic surveillance, the CTIVD watchdog said on Tuesday.

The new legislation, nicknamed the dragnet or Big Brother law, was introduced a year ago and gives the AIVD and MIVD security services much wider powers to place telephone and internet taps and to hack into computer systems.

In particular the MIVD military security service is still failing to meet the requirements on privacy, partly down to IT problems, the CTIVD said. Nevertheless, advances have been made since the CTIVD’s first report, which was highly critical of both services, the agency said.

‘Most of the high-risk items identified in the first report have been reduced to low or average risk since December 2018,’ the watchdog said. ‘The AIVD and MIVD are not there yet, and still have a lot to do in the coming period.’



Wilders calls for inquiry after claims of trial political interference

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – PVV leader Geert Wilders is calling for a parliamentary inquiry into possible political interference in his trial for discrimination and inciting hatred against people with a Moroccan background.

Broadcaster RTL Nieuws and the Telegraaf newspaper have both reported that there was contact between the then-justice minister Ivo Opstelten and the head of the public prosecution department about the case in 2014.

They also say that Opstelten was keen to see Wilders prosecuted for leading the anti-Moroccan chant at a pre-election meeting. However, current justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus is refusing to send documents detailing the meetings –which had been officially denied – to parliament, saying there are ‘no (formal) indications’ of interference by Opstelten.


The documents, prepared as briefings for the minister, will remain secret because of the confidential information they contain, the minister told MPs.

The ‘fewer Moroccans’ case dates back to 2014 when Wilders asked a roomful of supporters if they wanted to have ‘more or fewer’ Moroccans in the country. When the crowd shouted back: ‘Fewer, fewer,’ Wilders responded: ‘We’ll take care of that.’


In December 2016, Wilders was found guilty of inciting discrimination and the panel of three judges said Wilders’s comments were ‘demeaning and insulting to the Moroccan population’.

However, the court decided not to fine or sentence Wilders on the basis that a criminal conviction was sufficient punishment in itself. The original appeal began in May last year, but Wilders’ legal team successfully applied for the judges to be removed after alleging bias.

The appeal is due to resume later this month and both Opstelten and former prosecution chief Herman Bolhaar may be on the witness list.



What does the new pension agreement really mean?

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Agreement on reforming the Dutch pension system has been 10 years in the making, and still needs fleshing out in detail – a process which is likely to take several more years at least.

Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees has said the plan for the transition to a new pensions system should be completed by the end of 2020 and that the cabinet aims to complete the legal framework for system reform by the start of 2022.

However, there are still several hurdles to be overcome before then, starting with the vote by FNV trade union members. Yet ministers are adamant that the deal on the table will not be tinkered with anymore. ‘There is no plan B,’ said prime minister Mark Rutte on Friday.

Three pillars

The Dutch pension system is currently based on three pillars – the state pension AOW, compulsory corporate pension schemes – either sector-wide or company based – and individual or private pension schemes.

The reform talks agreed on several issues. Firstly, the state pension age will rise less quickly than originally planned, and there will be an early retirement option, aimed at people doing hard physical work.

Secondly, the reforms aim to spread the burden of paying for pensions more fairly across the generations. Corporate pensions will no longer be on based average (wage related) contributions but on everyone paying the same.


The under 40s will profit most from the decision to scrap average contributions and weaken the link between life expectancy and the state pension age – because they will have the most time to build up a full pension and their retirement date will be slightly earlier.

People in the 40s and 50s, however, will face a bigger challenge. The pension contributions they have made in the past have benefited the older generation and they are likely to be faced with less pension than expected because of the shift away from average earnings. It is unclear at present how this shortfall will be erased, but one suggestion is that the buffers built up by pension funds could be used to plug the gap.

Ministers, employers and unions have agreed to create a dedicated steering group to work out how the current average pensions accrual method will be replaced.

Early retirement

People in their 60s will benefit most from the changes and will be able to retire up to three years early without it costing their employers too much in fines for lost premium and tax income.

The agreement will also make it easier for freelancers and the self-employed to join a pension fund in the sector they work in, experts say. However, they will also have to take out invalidity insurance to replace income if they become unable to work through ill health.


The details of how that will work still have to be thrashed out and freelancer lobby groups are furious at the idea. The government has said the plan should not cost the treasury any money but has also indicated that the insurance should be administered by a public sector body.


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