The rights and duties for beneficiaries with regard to employment are included in the Aliens Labour Act. This law is based on international and European legislation. In the Netherlands, refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries with a residence permit have free access to the Dutch labour market as soon as they receive their residence permit. The identification card (W-document) must contain a notification stating: “free access to the labour market, no work permit required” (arbeid vrij toegestaan, tewerkstellingsvergunning niet vereist). Free access means in this context: free access to employment, the right to entrepreneurship, to follow an internship or to do voluntary work. There is no work permit or a so-called “volunteer’s declaration” required. Dutch law makes no distinction between refugees or subsidiary protection beneficiaries.
According to several studies, the position of beneficiaries on the Dutch labour market is very vulnerable and only little improving. Although legal access to labour participation is granted, the effective access is limited as they face practical obstacles, such as psychological and physical distress, lack of documentation proving qualifications, lack of a social network, low educational levels, lack of language proficiency, etc. Therefore, beneficiaries are in a more disadvantageous position than other immigrants or Dutch nationals.
The Dutch government applies a hybrid approach to employment-related support measures, by combining generic measures for migrants with specific tailored measures to beneficiaries. Examples are integration courses, assistance in obtaining recognition of professional qualifications and housing assistance. Employment services find their legal basis in the Participation Act (Participatiewet). For asylum seekers the government also tends to improve the labour participation by focussing on participation at an earlier stage, i.e. while people are still in an AZC.
An example of this is the so-called ‘screening and matching’ process, during which the COA conducts a screening of labour skills and finds a matching municipality for housing in order to increase job opportunities. Furthermore, COA provides language classes for asylum seekers who are likely to receive international protection (at this moment only for Syrians, Eritreans and stateless persons). Another example is that the government simplified the procedure to acquire a volunteering permit. Nowadays, an asylum seeker can start its voluntary work as soon as the Employee Insurance Agency confirmed the application for a volunteering permit done by the employer.
For many job opportunities, professional qualifications are required. In order to obtain recognition of these qualifications, the Cooperation Organisation for Vocational Education, Training and the Labour Market (Stichting Samenwerking Beroepsonderwijs Bedrijfsleven) jointly compare foreign diplomas with the Dutch educational system. In case a refugee follows obligatory a Dutch integration course this is provided for free. The main obstacle is that many refugees lack any credible documents to prove their qualifications. Also, a low educational level form impede access to language courses or vocational educational training.
Aliens Labour Act.
See Articles 17, 18, 19 and 24 Refugee Convention, Article 6 ICESCR, Article 26(1) recast Qualification Directive, Article 14 Family Reunification Directive, Article 1 European Social Charter, etc.
See e.g. Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), Geen tijd te verliezen: van opvang naar integratie van asielmigranten, December 2015 and CBS, Uit de startblokken, April 2018; SER, Integratie door werk. Meer kansen op werk voor nieuwkomers, May 2019, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/2RZQwH9
European Migration Network (EMN), The integration of beneficiaries of international / humanitarian protection into the Dutch labour market: Policies and good practices, February 2016, available at: https://bit.ly/39mwEUj, 3.
Wet van 9 oktober 2003, houdende vaststelling van een wet inzake ondersteuning bij arbeidsinschakeling en verlening van bijstand door gemeenten (Wet werk en bijstand), available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/2t8pSP6.
[7Annex I, para 7bis Aliens Act Implementing Regulation.
EMN, The integration of beneficiaries of international / humanitarian protection into the Dutch labour market: Policies and good practices, February 2016, 4.