Welfare reform, Dutch style

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Meet permanently unemployed Dutch guy Gertjan van Beijnum (from today’s Volkskrant, translation mine):

The ex art school student stands in the middle of his room in a former squatters’ dwelling, an old hospital in the center of Den Bosch. Since he broke off his studies in 1979, he’s been unemployed. For 28 years now he’s been receiving a government check of 800 euros a month. “It’s not that I can’t work, it’s that I don’t want to. I’m against paid work,” he says.

Apparently there used to be lots of people like Van Beijnum in Holland. According to the article, back in the early 1980s an organization called the Dutch Federation Against the Work Ethic was “taken seriously by politicians, labor leaders, social scientists and journalists.” Not any more: The tone of the piece in the left-leaning Volkskrant is gently mocking, and a law passed by the Dutch parliament in 2004 is making it almost impossible to stay on welfare and not look for work. (“Repression,” Van Beijnum says.) Last week the number of people on welfare dropped to 300,000–the lowest level in 25 years.

Any commentary on this would just be shooting fish in a barrel, of course. But I thought it would be nice to share.

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