Work and care require more than a quick fix

A full-time bonus is a wrongful solution to a labor market problem. Rather than individual measures, more groundwork is needed to entice people to work longer hours.

Photo: Norbert Walbor Photography

Aging and a lack of youth lead to a narrow labor market. Due to staff shortages, for example, fewer trains are running, waiting lists are created in healthcare and climate goals are achieved more easily or less quickly. So it makes sense to consider how to address the tightness of the labor market. One of the most common solutions is to work more. The average workweek is almost unchanged at 31 hours for ten years. So the government is working on cheaper childcare and the House of Representatives is asking for a full-time bonus. I immediately see parents who usually pick up their kids from school on Friday afternoons, but thanks to the bonus and the efforts of employer associations, can stay for a Friday afternoon snack. Or mothers who want to use free or cheaper childcare to work less because they spend less money on it. This fear is not unrealistic if we look at the way we work and care about it now. Rather than individual measures, more groundwork is needed.

Part-time champion

According to the SCP, more than 75 percent of women had paid work in 2019, compared to more than 86 percent of men. Average weekly working hours for women are 28.5 hours and for men are 39 hours. On the other hand, women spend one and a half times as much time on unpaid care tasks. This makes us a fan of part-time work in the Netherlands.

Women are often or willing to become caregivers. In health care, a sector where many women work part-time, one in four working women is also a caregiver. The number of available informal caregivers for older people who need help is now one in 14 and one in six in 2040. With more older people living at home, the demand for informal care will double in the coming years, while it will decrease ​The number of available informal caregivers is acute.

The demand for health care is rising

One in six Dutch people currently works in healthcare. According to the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), this figure should become one in three in less than forty years and if policy remains unchanged. In short: the demand for care is increasing and the number of workers is not.

80% of the Dutch believe that women with young children should work no more than three days a week. Only 35 percent think the same about fathers. After seven years of motherhood, a woman’s income is down 46 percent, and half of Dutch women are not financially independent.


We live in an aging society, which means that there is a shortage in the labor market and, as a result, more care responsibilities are being placed on people’s shoulders. A society that has very “classical” ideas about the position of women in the labor market. A full-time bonus or 40-hour workweek are not answers to the aging and emancipation issues we face. The average working time in vvt is 25 hours. The jump to full-time work is unrealistically large due to the (informal) practical, financial, social, and cultural aspects of care. With a full-time bonus or 40-hour workweek, you might be hitting the wrong set altogether.

tough questions

The problems of aging facing us as a society will reach their peak between 2025 and 2040. The shortages in the labor market will persist, as will the increasing demand for care. This requires a more substantial look at the questions involved. We cannot take care of children, work full time, do volunteer work, and do informal care tasks. So we have to answer the tough questions about the care we collectively organize, how to stimulate interest in society and how to increase women’s financial independence.

First step wardrobe

For health care, the first step for government should be to provide an opportunity to reward health care workers in line with the market, make more work structurally rewarding, stimulate informal care leave, and start a discussion in the community about what we expect from health care. . Otherwise, we’ll soon get rewarded for Friday afternoon drinks and free childcare used to work less, but we won’t have an answer to issues of aging and emancipation.

During: Anki Westerlakenpresident of ActiZ, the trade association for healthcare organizations

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