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          The ageing workforce: the Netherlands
1. Measures

1) Statutory measures

In the Netherlands statutory measures to combat age discrimination exist in a concept draft for a
law, prohibiting the making of distinctions in employment on the ground of age. The law covers
issues such as recruitment and selection, training and promotion. As of the summer of 2000 this
law is still under discussion in the Second Chamber. (Tweede Kamer, vergaderjaar 1999-2000,
26 880, nrs 4-7, Verbod tot het maken van onderscheid op grond van leeftijd bij werving,
selectie, scholing en bevordering bij de arbeid, 7 december 1999, 3 februari 2000, 19 mei 2000,
14 juni 2000 (Wet op verbod leeftijdsdiscriminatie bij de arbeid.)

Beneficial tax measures for employers who accepts older employees are under consideration by
the government, having recently been advised by the Social Economic Board, an advisory board
of the government (SER, Sociaal Economische Raad, Ontwerpadvies Bevordering arbeidsde-
elname ouderen, december 1999).

2) Non-statutory government measures

The law in making prohibiting age discrimination will be accompanied by publicity campaigns,
while the Committee on Equal Treatment (Commissie Gelijke Behandeling, CGH) will judge

3) The attitude of trade union and employer organisations to these measures

Although employers' organisations endorse the aim of the law - the abolishment of undesirable
distinction with respect to selection, promotion and training - they disagree with the instrument of
legislation. Although they want the labour participation of older people to rise, in their view 'age' is
essentially different criteria to gender or ethnicity; everybody is young and gets older. In addition,
distinction based on age is accepted in economic life: in higher pay with age, in specific
secondary labour conditions or with redundancy, social plans.

The largest union, the FNV, approves the law in making. With the National Bureau on Age
Discrimination (Landelijk Bureau tegen Leeftijdsdiscriminatie, LBL) they criticise one of the
exceptions in the law in which age discrimination is acceptable: the age distribution of employees
in an organisation. In practice this often means that older employees are excluded (see question
4). The union' activities are primarily directed to the development of good practice or good perso-
nnel management in general.

In 1998 the central Labour Organization, the Stichting van de Arbeid (STAR), consisting of
employers' and employee representatives, actualised its standpoint out of 1993 on equal
treatment in the labour market. The social partners endorse article 1 of the constitution, concern-
ing equal treatment and non-discrimination (Stichting van de Arbeid, Verklaring Gelijke Behande-
ling op de Arbeidsmarkt, 1998). Although age is not explicitly mentioned in 1998 the social
partners believe that unjust distinction on the basis of age is contrary to the constitution. The
social partners refer here to the STAR advice on Age and Labour brought out in 1997 (see

2. Strictly taken, age discrimination - in contrast to the general article on non-discrimination - has
not been included in collective labour agreements (at interprofessional, sectoral or at company
level). But policy on older employees is often a part of collective labour agreements, in social
plans, redundancy measurements and in pre-pension schemes.

Official statements or initiatives social partners promoting good practices:

Although the social partners differ on the existing measures which protect older employees - for
instance prohibiting night work, additional free days - they agree on a policy that stimulates a
more lasting labour participation. In the STAR both parties advocate a stimulating policy on older
employees: in favour of a full-fledged labour participation, the increase of their employability and
combating undesired age distinction. In short, an age-conscious social and personnel policy.
Issues such as selection, promotion, training, labour conditions and retirement measures and
redundancies are been put in perspective of the optimal use of and fair chances for older
employees (Stichting van de Arbeid, Leeftijd en arbeid. Nadere overwegingen en aanbevelingen
ten behoeve van een participatiebevorderend ouderenbeleid, Den Haag 1997)

The union FNV is content with this statement of the STAR and also with the recent advice of the
Social Economic Board (the SER), a government advisory body in which the unions participate,
on the promotion of the labour participation by older employees (see question 1.2). In two publi-
cations the union FNV works out the proposals of the SER and the STAR at a practical level.
The standpoint of the union is that older employees are by their experience valuable employees.
Investment therefor in their employability - such as training and career counceling - are worth the
effort, though for the union a healthy balance between work and private life, and the possibility to
retire when one wishes to are also of importance. In addition, the medium of pre-pension sch-
emes should be part of personnel management and collective labour agreements (FNV, Prettig
werken na je veertigste. Beleidsnota over het verbeteren van de arbeidspositie van veertig
plussers, Amsterdam 2000; FNV, Doorlopende Banen. Over de verantwoordelijkheid van werk-
gever en werknemer voor een interessante en gezonde loopbaan, Amsterdam 1999).

Good practice with regard to the employment of older employees exists in the Netherlands in
few, still exceptional labour organisations. Some organisations explicitly pay no attention at all to
age in their personnel management. If a problem in a certain age group arises above average -
for instance less mobility - the HRM-staff conduct research to find the 'real' cause of the problem.
Another good practice comes from the inland revenue and tax office: its HRM-management
gives explicit attention to the different life phases employees go through and the special wishes
and needs they then have. Siemens, the electronics company, received a commendation for its
personnel management, having conducted good personnel management for all ages. (Quispel,
Y. Leeftijd en Arbeid. Leeftijdsgrenzen op de arbeidsmarkt, LBL, Utrecht 2000)

3. View government and social partners of the proposed Directive

With the above mentioned recent national legislation, which has been under discussion for
several years, the Dutch government is ahead of the framework for equal treatment in
employment and occupation the EU has developed in Article 13. The Directive has a wider
scope (including redundancy and labour conditions) and has an open formulation of the excep-
tions, while the Dutch system is closed and explicitly mentions all the possible exceptions
(limitative). The Dutch government has already stated that it will adopt the scope of the European
Directive, and will reconsider the question of the exceptions (Tweede Kamer, vergaderjaar 1999-
2000, 26 880, nr 7, Verbod tot het maken van onderscheid op grond van leeftijd bij werving,
selectie, scholing en bevordering bij de arbeid, 14 juni 2000: 3 (Wet op verbod le-
eftijdsdiscriminatie bij de arbeid).

With regard to the social partners, representatives of the employers endorse the scope of the
European Directive (including labour conditions), although they disagree on principal with any
regulation. The union FNV is in favour of the Dutch regulation, because it excludes labour
conditions and is explicit about the possible exceptions.

So the impact of the proposed Directive on the regulation of age discrimination will concern the
scope of the Dutch law and under discussion will be the open systematics of the European
proposal (as opposed to the comparatively closed Dutch system with its limited exceptions).

4. Research findings

In 1997 of the people older than 55 a little more than 40% participates in the labour force; only
14% of the women older than 55 work, and only 28% of the men. Since the mid nineties these
figures have slowly risen (FNV, Prettig werken na je veertigste, Amsterdam 2000). Nevertheless,
age discrimination is still a common feature in the labour market, especially with respect to
recruitment, as is demonstrated by research (Quispel, Y. Leeftijd en Arbeid. Leeftijdsgrenzen
op de arbeidsmarkt, LBL, Utrecht 2000). A nationwide call-in day in 1996 showed that of the
2500 complaints about discrimination more than 70% concerned age discrimination, mainly with
respect to recruitment and training. Half of the reports came from employees older than forty, a
third came from people older than fifty (Quispel, Y., Leeftijd en Arbeid: naar een duurzame
inzetbaarheid van werknemers van alle leeftijden, Utrecht 1999). These results correspond with
those collected by the Labour Inspectorate of the Ministry of Social Affairs: failed job applications
with rejections on the basis of age were most frequently mentioned - in one third of the cases. In
1996 research by the Labour Inspectorate under labour organisations showed that 25% of
organisations had maximum age criteria, most predominantly 35 year. In 1998, two years later, a
third of the labour organisations had maximum age criteria, and now 30 was the most common
age (Quispel 1999). With respect to training, research done in 1997 showed that employees
younger than 45 years attend training courses twice as frequently as employees above 45; older
women and older employees out of ethnic minorities attended training courses even less
frequently (H. Maassen van den Brink, W. Groot, Bedrijfsgerelateerde scholing en
arbeidsmarktflexibiliteit oudere werknemers, cited in Quispel 2000). The existing prejudices is
that older employees are more often absent from work because of illness, are less productive
and are behind in knowledge.

On the other hand research shows that lasting employability is determines by health, insight into
security risks and wellbeing: although in general older employees are in the course of time less
healthy, they do have more insight into safety risks, and wellbeing appears to be dependent of
the absence of life crises resulting from divorces or mid-life crises (M. Ziekemeyer, Leeftijd v-
erhoogt motivatie en zelfvertrouwen werknemer, TNO-Arbeid, cited in Quispel 1999). See for
good practices question 2.
5. Assessment of effectiveness regulation etc. in the light of the proposed

The European Directive and the Dutch draft law on age discrimination on age set a norm, which
research results show has not yet been achieved in the Netherlands. However the political and
cultural climate with regard to older employees has become to change dramatically under the
influence of the tight labour market and changing demographic structure of the Dutch population
- more older people, less youngsters. These social facts are the reality which faces employers'
and employees organisations and they have resulted in measures to restrict the policy of the
collectively financed early retirement of older employees. Both employers and employees have to
pay a much higher price for early retirement. In addition, a more positive attitude and activating
policy towards older employees is growing. Given these social facts and changing political and
cultural climate towards older employees, the legislation on age discrimination will set a norm
that corresponds to and reinforces these development (see NL1175NL).


Mrs Y. Quispel (Bureau Leeftijdsdiscriminatie)

Mrs L. M. van Hoogstraten - van Embden (Employers' Organisation VNO-NCW)

Mr C.C.H.J. Driessen (Union FNV)

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