» Posts tagged: ‘netherlands

imagesStudy support on the workfloor: an innovative approach to combining learning and working or a new novel strategy to expand market shares.

Since the summer of 2013, the Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn has regularly featured in Dutch national news for the apparently novel introduction of study support for its largely young and school-going work workforce (see HERE, HERE and HERE).

What’s happening here? Since September 2013 some Amsterdam based supermarkets have been offering free study support to their young school-going workers. The support is offered by university students (not trained teachers) on the workfloor (before and/or after work), and to this end a computer and WIFI have been made available to the young workers.

In line with Dutch labour regulations, Albert Heijn, like other Dutch retailers, employs teenagers starting from 15 years of age. Dutch minimum wages are age-based; the younger the worker the lower the minimum age till the age of 23 is reached. Young workers are further attractive for the flexible nature that characterises the comtemporary organisation of labour in the Dutch retail sector.

According to acclaimed supermarket expert Gerard Rutte, the introduction of study support to the workfloor might have less to do with a concern on part of Albert Heijn with the study performance of their young workers, and more with expanding the market share in the highly competitive Dutch retail sector. By offering study support, Albert Heijn hopes to increase the loyalty among its young workers as well as its quality. Albert Heijn thus expands the boundaries of competitiveness beyond the branding and pricing of its products to include the service quality of its young workforce.

Whether this will positively affect Albert Heijn’s market share will be hard to tell. At any rate however, this novel strategy generated some free, nationwide publicity for the supermarket chain (and yes, this blog posting contributes to this too…)

posted by Roy Huijsmans


Children & Money

Category: Uncategorized

22 Aug 2013

downloadNIBUD reports on a study about money among Dutch primary school children and finds, to its ‘surprise’, that nearly half the children in the age 5 cohort receive pocket money.

NIBUD, the Dutch National Institute for Family Finance Information, just (August 2013) released a report entitled Nibud Kinderonderzoek: Onderzoek naar basisschool leerlingen en hun geldzaken (Nibud Children’s Study: Study of primary school students and their financial affairs). The title is somewhat misleading; no children’s were interviewed for the research. The findings are based on interviews with parents about financial affairs concerning their children aged 5-12 years (n=1622).

The report covers various dimenions, including ‘pocket money’, ‘other sources of income’, ‘children’s banking practices’, ‘spending behaviour’, ‘saving’, ‘children’s awareness of the value of money’, and ‘dealing with money’. Yet, the Dutch press picked on one particular finding: 45% of the surveyed children in the 5 years cohort receive pocket money. In a context in which the giving of ‘pocket money’ to children is generally seen as ‘good’, this particular finding is seen as ‘surprising’ and perhaps even worrisome. In fact, Nibud which is a strong advocate of giving children pocket money on a structural and regular basis notes in its press release that it is ‘surprised’ by this finding as it advises parents to start giving children pocket money only when they are ‘around six years of age’, because by that time they will also have learnt about money and counting in school.

The Table below presents the report’s findings about children’s pocket money. It shows that receiving pocket money is a majority experience for children in the Netherlands and that this is often given on a structural and regular basis. Interestingly, the share of those receiving pocket money on an incidental basis is highest in both the youngest (5 years) and older (9 and above) cohorts. Also, this table illustrates that, perhaps, the Dutch public is in for more surprises. Parents were not asked about children aged 4 or younger so whether the very young also receive pocket money remains an open question.

Lastly, this report is the first time Nibud presents a study on children and money covering the full (Dutch) primary school age-range (5-12 years). Interestingly, despite its claim that its activities are solely funded by the Dutch government (30%) and through income generated through Nibud products and services (70%), this particularly study is financed by the bank ING (p14).



posted by Roy Huijsmans


What do monarchies, breakfasts and sports have to do with one another?

The answer is partly revealed by this little post-it above, which presents the timetable of the ‘King’s games’ which is part of the ‘rituals’ created for the upcoming abdication of the Dutch queen and the passing on of the crown to her oldest son. The day starts with  a ‘King’s breakfast’ at schools across the kingdom, followed by a live-broadcast of the ‘kick-off’ of the games by the royal couple, and then the ‘games’ start.

According to a Dutch press release more than 7,500 schools will participate, involving more than 1.5 million children across the kingdom (including Carribean parts of the kingdom). Free and healthy breakfasts, a day full of sports and festive activities for school-children. Who can disagree with this? And perhaps that’s not the point. What makes this event interesting is the scale at which the performance of Dutch nationalism is staged. It is indeed the weaving together of these healthy and fun activities involving children with the Dutch monarchy, which obfuscates the larger issue of Dutch nationalism that is performed here.

posted by Roy Huijsmans

posted by Roy Huijsmans

Are these really ‘problem immigrant youth’?

The site Africa is a country features an excellent piece entitled ‘The Dutch Media Drama‘ by Martijn Kleppe, a post-doctoral researcher at Erasmus University Rotterdam. The piece traces the remarkable journey of the above picture in various Dutch media. Kleppe shows that the very same picture is used as an illustration accompanying a wide range of publications on ‘problem youth’, ‘migrant youth’, and ‘Morroccans in the Netherlands’, and shows further that this is, in fact, in stark contrast with the actual origin of the photo…


posted by Roy Huijsmans

Drawing on a 2012 SCP publication on poverty in the Netherlands, the Dutch ‘Children’s Ombudsman’ has now launched an online platform inviting children (especially) and adults to share their experiences of poverty in the Netherlands by answering a list of questions.

The aim of this initiative is to learn more about child poverty in the Netherlands since 2011 statistics show that nearly one in ten children (0-17 years) in the Netherlands live in poverty, and that the total number of children living in poverty has grown with 57,000 children (to a total of 359,000) from 2010 to 2011. Importantly, the statistics use the household as the unit of analysis which excludes the possibility of ‘child poverty’ in households above the income thresshold. This thresshold is Euro 960 per month for a single adult, which is adjusted for household composition (a distinction is made between a two-parent and single-parent households and between childless and households with children (up to three)). It also assumes that ‘poverty’ is shared equally among all members of the household – something which, of course, has long been contested in development studies.

Despite the valid concern about an apparent rise in poverty in the Netherlands, figures are still below 1994 when 8.6% of the Dutch population was considered poor (7.6% in 2011). The 2011 figures show, however, interesting generational variation:

Children are overrepresented in poverty statistics, people in their fifties are underrepresented, and those over 65 have the lowest risk of poverty.

When it comes to children (0-17) specifically some important patterns are identified:

One third of the children living in poverty are from ‘non-Dutch decent’. Poverty is considerably higher in single-parent households than in two-parent households and also more prominent in households with three or more children than in households with fewer children. Furthermore, children aged 8-10 are at greater risk of living in poverty than older or younger children. This said to be so since single-parent households are more common when children are 8-10 than at a younger age.

The online questionnaires launched by the Children’s Ombudsman pay particular attention to children’s subjective experiences of poverty as it includes questions like ‘how do you notice there is little money in your family?’ Attention to children’s subjective experiences of poverty has become quite common in development studies (see for example HERE), yet remains rare in the so-called developed world. Despite this useful innovation it remains to be seen of course whether children living in poverty (especially!) will actually be in a position to access this online survey and/or will know about it before it closes again in three weeks from now…



posted by Roy Huijsmans

Surveys among Dutch school-going teenagers (12-18 years) have long shown that combining full time education with part-time work is for many Dutch teenagers the norm.

The Dutch Central Office for Statistics (CBS) has now released findings concerning school-going youth (15-25 years), showing similar patterns. Between 2001 and 2011 the school-going population aged 15-25 has grown from 1.2 million to 1.5 million. In 2001 62% of the school-going youth were in paid work for at least 1 hour per week. In 2011 this has dropped to 57%. Interestingly, the decrease is found among school-going youth who were working 1-12 hours per week (from 37% of the school-going youth in 2001 to 33% in 2011) and among those working more than 35 hours per week (from 9% down to 6%). Between 2001 and 2011 the shares have actually slightly increased for school-going youth working 12-20 hours per week (up from 9 to 10%) and those working 20-35 hours per week (up from 8 to 9%).

It is further worth noting that between 2001 and 2011 a shift can be observed from the majority of school-going youth employed on the basis of ‘permanent contracts’ (2001) to the majority of youth employed on the basis of flexible arrangements (2011). Self-employment has grown among school-going youth but remains very small.

posted by Roy Huijsmans

Despite all the concern about youth unemployment in the Netherlands, a probable mass lay-off of young part-time workers by a major Dutch retailer is met with silence.

Part-time employment during term-time is widespread among Dutch school-going teenagers. A NIBUD report found that 42% of the Dutch school-going teenagers in the age group 12-18 worked during term-time. However, this figure has come down from 48% in 2008, which NIBUD suggests is due to the Global financial and economic crisis which seems to be affecting employment opportunities for teenagers too.

Working in a supermarket is the third most common job, 7% of the Dutch school-going youth aged 12-18 is involved in this work (after baby-sitting (10%) and newspaper rounds (13%)). However, supermarkets typically only employ teenagers of at least 15 years of age (although employment is technically permitted under certain conditions from age 14 onwards), which means that the overall ranking of supermarket employment among Dutch teenagers is kept down due to child labour regulations. This is illustrated by looking at age-disaggregated figures. Among the 15 and 16 year olds, 14% is working in supermarkets, and among 17 and 18 years olds this is 23%.

One of the largest retailers, Albert Heijn, has a market share of about 30% in the Netherlands and is a major employer of Dutch teenagers. The majority of these teenagers work on a part-time basis as shelf-stockers and it is their jobs that are at risk following the announcement of Albert Heijn to introduce ‘shelf ready packaging‘ as a measure to cut costs and increase revenue.

Interestingly, the discussion about these plans have hardly addressed the labour dimension and Dutch labour unions, who are usually quick to jump on cases of mass redundancy, have met this case with massive silence. How shall this be understood? As a missed opportunity on part of the unions to demonstrate their lasting relevance to a new generation of workers? Or, as a confirmation that Dutch unions appear far more concerned with keeping youngsters from working than protecting their employment?

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