Frank van Gool: Politicians must eventually stop to spotlight the downsides only
It is high time to finally see the positive contribution of the labour migrants instead of focussing solely on the negative excesses and coverage – advocates Frank van Gool, CEO of the biggest Dutch international employment agency OTTO Work Force. We still dwell too much on stories of exploitation, social dumping and fraudulent temporary work arrangements, while politicians depict the present policy towards migrants as paving the way to undercutting labour standards. And this is undeserved given that most labour migrants regularly pay their insurance premiums and taxes in the Netherlands, receive wages in line with the local standards and, by doing so, they contribute enormously to the Dutch treasury and economy.
The PvdA front-runner, Lodewijk Asscher, stated lately that labour migration has become a business model for exacting low wages which leads to undercutting labour standards and tax evasion. Nonsense – claims Frank van Gool, the CEO of OTTO Work Force. “Labour migrants actually make up an important part of our economy. More than 90 percent of the hundreds of thousands labour migrants pays premiums and taxes in the Netherlands. On the contrary, labour migrants relatively rarely claim our social benefits due to a high employment rate, for example 80 percent of Poles in the Netherlands is employed or self-employed, and because of higher return migration as more than half of the migrants leave after ten years. This way, the average labour migrant contributes 1.800 Euro a year to the Dutch treasury which translates into the total amount of at least 400 million Euro in 2017.”
According to van Gool we cannot talk about “social dumping” either. “Labour migrants are hired mainly to do jobs for which we cannot directly find the Dutch employees. They are a hit because of their work mind-set; they are less discouraged by irregular working hours, they come here to work and do not necessarily need to have a day off on any nice summer day. They also often possess
a higher level of education than the local people who would take up this sort of job. The results of the research conducted by the SEO Amsterdam Economics (Stichting voor economisch onderzoek der Universiteit van Amsterdam – SEO) also show that there is hardly any “social dumping” in the sectors where the share of labour migrants grows the most.”
For this reason van Gool passionately opposes the notion that labour migrants are chiefly hired to do temporary jobs against low wages. “At present, almost one-fourth of the labour migrants has a permanent job and additional 10 percent is self-employed. Being a temporary work agency we are also in the position to offer stability. The employees of OTTO are treated equally and are paid the same money for the same job regardless their country of origin. We also provide flex employees with guidance to settle down in our country. We offer them long-term employment agreements – not for one week or month. We do not provide agreements with the agency clause in which ‘end of work’ or ‘sickness’ equal the end of the contract.”
Focussing constantly on the seeming drawbacks of the advent of labour migrants we do not make our country any more attractive to them, and this happens just when we need them so much – pleads van Gool. “Due to the improving economy and demographic developments we will experience workforce shortages within a few years. 25 percent of the population of Europe already reached the age of 65 years or more and this ratio will exceed 40% in 2035. We already begin to witness the effects of these factors around us – it is enough to take a look at Germany where the labour deficit will run up to 3,5 million in 2025. We need labour migrants badly to balance the undersupply in our labour market, yet we do not even rank among the 5 most popular destination countries for labour migrants. Therefore, we need to make a mental shift in our attitude very quickly and concentrate more on positive aspects. The Netherlands will have to make a major effort to win the battle over labour migrants.”