Access to the labour market


Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 30/04/24


Dutch Council for Refugees Visit Website

The rights and duties for beneficiaries with regard to employment are included in the Aliens Labour Act.[1] This law is based on international and European legislation.[2] 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 of international protection on the Dutch labour market is very vulnerable, with limited improvements made through time.[3] 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.[4] The number of beneficiaries with paid employment increased in 2022 compared to the previous year. Among the beneficiaries who were granted residence permits in 2014, 45 percent had a job by mid-2022. Looking at the characteristics of the most recent jobs, the majority of beneficiaries have part-time employment (53 percent) and a temporary contract (79 percent). Among those employed, 5 percent work as self-employed individuals.[5] Furthermore, research demonstrates an upcoming trend where municipalities support beneficiaries in maintaining their jobs; one third of the municipalities continue their guidance after beneficiaries started a job.[6] The decrease in number of beneficiaries actively working during the pandemic seems to be resolved, this is mainly  because they also benefit from the high labour demand in the Netherlands at the moment.[7]

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 Dutch integration courses, assistance in obtaining recognition of professional qualifications and housing assistance.[8] Employment services find their legal basis in the Participation Act (Participatiewet).[9] 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 in the reception centres  who are likely to receive international protection (at this moment only for Syrians, Eritreans, Turks, Yemeni and stateless persons).[10]

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 BedrijfslevenSBB) jointly compare foreign diplomas with the Dutch educational system.[11] In case a refugee follows a compulsory Dutch integration course, this is provided for free. The main obstacle is that many refugees lack any credible documents to prove their qualifications. Furthermore, a low educational level form impede access to language courses or vocational educational training.[12]

Good practices

Part of the integration requirement for beneficiaries of protection is the MAP module (Training Module Labor Market and Participation). The purpose of the MAP is to familiarise and prepare those obliged to integrate with the Dutch labour market. A good practice is the MAP module developed and provided by the Dutch Council for Refugees (DCR) in close cooperation with the municipality of Hilversum and so called ‘employer service points’. Six weeks after housing in the municipality of Hilversum, refugees receive an intake, where their work and educational background, language level, family situation, motivation, interests and ambitions are discussed with an employee of the municipality and the DCR. After that, the person is placed in a group training MAP Start or MAP Deepening. In addition, refugees receive an individual employment coach; a carefully recruited and trained volunteer. This MAP module aims to contribute to the empowerment of the target group and offers  appropriate support for early participation and employment.




[1] Aliens Labour Act.

[2] 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.

[3] KIS and Divosa, KIS-Monitor 2023, Gemeentelijk beleid arbeidstoeleiding en inburgering statushouders en gezinsmigranten, September 2023.

[4] 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:, 3.

[5] CBS, Cohortonderzoek asielzoekers en statushouders, Asiel en integratie 2023, April 2023, see in Dutch :

[6] EMN, The integration of beneficiaries of international / humanitarian protection into the Dutch labour market: Policies and good practices, February 2016, available at:, 4.

[7] KIS and Divosa, Factsheet statushouders: rapportage werk, onderwijs en inburgering 2021, Octobre 2022.

[8] Ibid, 4.

[9] 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:

[10] Ministry of Social Affairs, KST 32 824, nr. 303, 4.

[11] See website of Internationale Diplomawaardering IDW, available in Dutch at:

[12] EMN, The integration of beneficiaries of international / humanitarian protection into the Dutch labour market: Policies and good practices, February 2016, available at:, 4.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation