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Now is the time for a structural change in the labor market

Tips Corine Schouten

The labor market is regaining momentum now the lockdown measures are gradually eased, but it’s creaking and groaning. Some sectors feel the pinch, others are growing, and there are imbalances between the supply and demand in labor. There are projects everywhere in the Netherlands to help people get a job, but is it enough?

We asked Professors Irmgard Borghouts and Charissa Freese how the job market can come out of the crisis stronger than before. Together they hold the endowed chair of HRM and Social Security, established by Instituut Gak. With their research, Borghouts and Freese hope to find solutions to imbalances in the labor market. They focus on social security and labor market policy as well as on organizations’ HRM policies, to organize both job and social security for all those employed, irrespective of the type of employment relationship.


The house is on fire but the help we get to fight it is temporary

Irmgard Borghouts

Borghouts: “Just like in the last economic crisis, the government is committed to supporting people who lose their jobs, this time via so-called Regional Mobility Teams.[1] But this help, too, is only temporary in nature. And the house was already on fire.

What we need is a comprehensive system in the Netherlands to support workers threatened with dismissal in a timely fashion, regardless of the type of contract and whether they work for a large or small company. The Regional Mobility Teams should therefore be a prelude to new forms of collaboration and a new structural, sustainable infrastructure.”

Charissa Freese

We need to guide people to other work at an earlier stage, involving all stakeholders

Charissa Freese

All parties must do their bit

To achieve this, all parties in the labor market must do their bit, according to the professors.

Freese: “The positive thing about the corona crisis is that initiatives are emerging to convert lessons learned during the crisis (such as the necessity of a safety net for all working people) into structural, better service provision to help people find other work at an earlier stage, whereby all stakeholders are involved. The Netherlands has a very complicated system with many different kinds of social security for working people and the corresponding services they are entitled to in trying to find different work. One step in the right direction is that everyone is now prepared to collaborate to help all working people and job seekers find work as quickly as possible, including employers, an essential precondition for early unemployment prevention.”


In north-eastern Brabant, a pilot project was conducted for contract catering in which this intervention was tried out. Here are some important tips, partly based on experience from the pilot.

To the government:

  • Create permanent places where people and companies, large and small, can go as soon as there is a threat of layoffs or loss of flexible work;
  • Create a social security system that provides every worker with adequate job and income security, regardless of the form of the contract;
  • Make agreements in the region with partners to more widely advertise vacancies.

To employers:

  • Advertise vacancies more widely to recruiters, matchers, and job hunters;
  • Seek collaboration with organizations for the exchange of personnel, from a different sector, with the same competencies;
  • Look wider and be open to people from different professions or sectors;
  • Work on an inclusive HR policy in which there is room for people with a greater distance to the job market;
  • Take tasks and skills as points of departure rather than diplomas, professions, and sectors.

To workers:

  • Continue to work on your competencies throughout your working life;
  • Have an interview with your employer every year on your ambitions and what you need to achieve them;
  • Consider in a timely fashion whether you want to do this job for ever and what could be an alternative that you are excited about. Take steps to develop your competencies in that direction.

To job seekers:

  • Formulate your résumé based on skills and competencies;
  • Look wider and be open to other professions and sectors;
  • Always continue to work on your skills and competencies.

The 'New Common'

The corona crisis has compounded major societal challenges. Tilburg University shares knowledge and insights to reshape our society. We are happy to discuss this New Common.

Date of publication: 15 June 2021