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Working and living in the Netherlands

In the last couple of days, I get lots of questions about working and living in the Netherlands. Many people in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa think the Netherlands is a piece of heaven money-wise. Let me give you some inside information on how daily life is and on the subject of poverty in the Netherlands. Not a pretty topic, I know, but a realistic one. For there is no such thing as a heaven on earth, especially not within the boundaries of the Eurozone.

Unemployment is growing every year

living in the netherlands

Due to the western economic crisis and the European Union (EU) forcing down new financial rules on its members, the Netherlands is economical under a lot of strain. The EU is asking for huge financial reserves and contributions and with the Dutch annual figures only adding up in the minus there is no other way to raise more money than inflicting unpopular tax raises and cutting back on social security, salaries, and governmental surcharges.

There is a lot of unemployment lately, in January 2015 the stats showed 645.000 unemployed Dutch people, which is 7.2% of the entire working community.
In the entire EU zone, 18.8 million people are unemployed, and Spain has the largest number of unemployed people. 1.7 million people in the Netherlands do get social benefits. A monthly government payment with an average between € 668 up to € 2700 depending on the payment source and your situation.

Cost of living in the Netherlands

Although lots of people do get governmental support for housing and health insurance, also more and more people have to get their food from what we call the food bank. The food bank distributes donated food from supermarkets to those who are in desperate need of food and can’t buy it themselves. That might sound like heaven, but believe me: it’s not. If you are getting your food from the food bank you are poorer than the poor and all your money is spent on housing, electricity bills, and water. And you are probably over your ears in debts.

Let’s say you are not on welfare and you have a reasonably paid job, the average income in the Netherlands is € 2695 before tax and € 1945 after tax. Note how much governmental tax is being taken!
That’s only the governmental taxes, the city council taxes drop on your doormat every year and in my case, as a house owner, they swallow up almost a month’s salary per year, city council taxes include garbage and sewer costs, housing taxes, water management taxes, environmental taxes and if you own a car also road taxes. And then there is insurance you will need in the Netherlands like housing insurance, fire insurance, liability and healthcare insurance, car insurance, etc.

Some average prices: prices of living in the netherlands

  • 1 room apartment average € 700
  • 3 room apartment average € 1000
  • Utility bill for a small apartment around € 162
  • Internet/TV average € 30
  • McDonald’s Meal is around € 7
  • Regular cappuccino € 2.45
  • Bread average € 1.50
  • Eggs (12) € 1.94
  • Boneless chicken breast (skinless) per kilo € 6.70
  • Water 1.5 liter € 0.85
  • Cigarettes (Marlboro) € 6.00

Working in the Netherlands

So you still think that’s a lot of money and cheap living, and you still want to come here. Let me tell you how it goes upon arrival.
You most likely will need a visa. And I advise you to click on that link and read the government page on that.
On a short-term visa, you are not allowed to work. You will need a work permit unless you are an EU citizen, which most likely you are not. And the same thing here: I’m getting into those details, there is enough information on the internet, you do your own homework.

In order to get a work permit, you will need to find a job first, before being able to come to work here. Or you might take the risk and come on a short-term visa, apply for a job and apply for a work permit.
If you can find a job you are most likely a very skilled person with a specialism rarely found in the Netherlands, or you will end up behind the counter of a fast-food chain.
And if you do end up behind the counter of that fast-food chain you will only earn as much as € 1200 max and if you are over 30 years of age they probably won’t even hire you.

So let’s get back to the living costs, please?

Calculating you in a 1 bedroom apartment you are left with € 300 euro for food and clothing. O no I forgot about insurance!
You need insurance. “No I don’t”, you think, and I reply: “yes you do!”
Health care and liability insurance are legal compulsories in the Netherlands, They will cost around € 100 per month for basic health insurance (the first € 375 expenses on healthcare are for your own risk) and about 10 euros for the liability part. That leaves you with what? € 190 for living expenses. You could make that. You really could, you can eat dry bread every day, drink tap water which is a safe thing to do in the Netherlands, and live your life in Kingdom Heaven. But you cannot buy yourself clothing or go out every weekend or afford it to see a movie or visit all those great places in the Netherlands.

food and drinks netherlands

  • Nike running shoes will start at € 69
  • Pair of jeans at a department store € 50
  • Summer dress at Zara or H&M € 35
  • Cinema ticket € 10
  • Average groceries for 1 person 1 day € 6

And in order to get on a bus you will need an OV-card (public transport chip card) with a minimum of € 4 and if you want to travel by train the minimum credit on the card is € 20. Now you might think: I go to the food bank for free food. It doesn’t work that way, you have a job, so you can’t go to the food bank, they most likely turn you down due to a shortage of food, money on their side, or simply because you do not match the criteria.

Work is all about age

The younger you are the less they have to pay you for a job. Although we have legal minimum wages they will work around that by giving you fewer hours to work, Employers don’t think people wise they think money-wise. And it’s getting more and more common in the Netherlands that you will have to put in more work in fewer hours and find yourself underpaid.
And due to the economic crisis, wages have dropped drastically. Could I easily earn up to € 3000 euro per month because of my specialism, nowadays when finding myself a job in social services it would not pay up to more than 2500, and I am 54 years of age and have loads of expertise. For people over 50, there is a huge challenge when being laid off. Since companies prefer young fresh starters in their staff over goldie oldies with loads of experience, we are way too expensive. it’s hard to find a job when over 50. Even so hard the government has a special program to get them back in the process again.

It isn’t bad in the Netherlands but it isn’t heaven either

With the government cutbacks and increasing living costs and more of that to come over the next few years, the huge increase of elderly people, The Netherlands is facing challenges when it comes to labor, healthcare, and most finance. With a spoilt population that was promised a golden future now in a financial crisis, the government is not able to live up to the predicted expectations, and the gap between rich and poor is increasing every month.

Some facts on poverty in the Netherland:

poverty in the netherlands

  • people 65 years of age buy clothes in a second-hand store or get them at the Salvation Army because of high housing costs and less pension payment, they worked all their lives to live in poverty now.
  • people sometimes eat the same meal over and over again because they only can effort discount prices
  • 1.2 million people in the Netherlands live in great poverty and 94.000 families are getting food from the food bank
  • 12.000 people who rented or owned a home were evicted last year because of rental and mortgage debts
  • in January 2015 the Central Bureau of Statistics stated that 512.000 Dutch people are in serious debt