Employment in Amsterdam
The Netherlands may be one of the smallest countries in Europe but it is certainly among the richest on the continent. In so far as the domestic market is concerned, the country is very dependent on trade. The main industries in Holland are food processing, chemicals, gas and oil and its most important sectors are retail, property, transport, communications and the financial services. Today, excellent tax conditions have attracted some 5000 foreign investors to the Netherlands and many multinationals and household names such as Nike and Canon have made the lowlands the home for their headquarters. Furthermore, the unemployment rate stands at 3.5%, which is low in comparison to other neighbouring countries.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch but at least 90% of Dutch people have a good command of English and over 50% can speak two languages. Applicants that do not speak Dutch are welcomed in the marketplace but a basic working knowledge of Dutch is likely to enhance a job seeker's chances of success.
According to Dutch law, employees are permitted to work a maximum of 9 hours per day and 40-45 hours per week. The average working week is 5 days and Sunday is actually treated as a day of rest! If an employee works longer hours in the week, they may be entitled to a day off with the consent of their employer. The number of days paid statutory annual leave is usually 20 days and some employers may grant an extra five days off on top of that. All workers are paid as normal during leave and receive a bonus equivalent to 8% of annual earnings. If there is a 13th month in the year, employees will receive this at the end of the year.
If you are an EU national from a state that already belonged to the EU prior May 2004, you are free to work in the Netherlands and your employer does not need a work permit. Jobseekers are entitled to find work in the Netherlands for up to 3 months upon arrival without restrictions. However, if you intend staying longer than 3 months, you will require a residence permit, which can be obtained from the Foreign Police (Vreemdelingenpolitie). Contact the National FP office on 0900 8844 (0.28E per min.) or go down to the local office in Amsterdam at Johan Huizingalaan 757, 1066 VH Amsterdam (+31-(0)20 559 63 00), open 9-1. For all other offices, consult the Gouden Gids (the Dutch yellow pages). From the 1st of May 2007 people from any of the other EU states including Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia may work in the Netherlands and no permit is required.
All EEA nationals working in the Netherlands and in possession of a valid residence permit are entitled to the same rights as Dutch nationals regarding working conditions, social security, trade union membership, housing, vocational training and old-age pensions. Families and dependants are entitled to join those working in the Netherlands and also have access to similar rights. Some restrictions may still apply to nationals from countries that have recently joined the EU. To find out about restrictions, contact the embassy of your country.
Dutch social security system
All employees are covered by national insurance schemes (volksverzekeringen), which encompass areas such as child benefit, old age, illness, disability and unemployment. Although subject to assessment, employees also have the right to claim supplementary benefits (sociale bijstand). For your reference, see below a list of the key Dutch insurance schemes:
- Old Age Pension (Algemene Ouderdomswet)
- Widows / widowers Pension (Algemene Nabestaandenwet)
- Disability benefit (Algemene Arbeidsongeschiktheidswet)
- Child Benefit (Algemene Kinderbijslagwet)
- Special Medical Expenses (Algemene Wet Bijzondere Ziektekosten)
- Unemployment benefit (Werkloosheidswet)
- Statutory sick pay (Ziektewet)
Social security number
In order to claim social security and be identified in the Dutch tax and social security system, you must first register with the local municipality and obtain a residence permit (Verblifsvergunning) from the Foreign Police. You must then apply at your local tax office (Belastingdienst) for your tax number (SOFI-nummer). The local office in Amsterdam is near Sloterdijk station, Kingsfordweg 1, 1043 GN Amsterdam, (0206877777).
EU citizens only need a passport to receive their number but non-EU nationals will have to present several documents, namely a passport, residence permit identification card (or proof of registration with the Foreign Police) and proof of registration with the local municipality (Bevolkingsregister). Application procedures may be laborious, complicated and lengthy therefore it is advised to apply as early as possible
Registering with the Foreign Police
Within 8 days of arrival, all EEA nationals must register with the Foreign Police. If you do not possess a work contract but you are seeking employment, take your passport to the Foreign Police Registration Office. If your contract is non-temporary, you will need to have your passport, two passport photographs, your work contract and the relevant fee. If the work contract is temporary, you may have to renew your permit. Other documents that may be required: your SOFI number, a copy of your birth certificate and proof of a permanent address.
Finding a job is no easy task and it is advisable to start your job search before coming to the Netherlands. Whether you are a qualified professional or a labourer, the same position in another country may not be what you are used to (e.g. working conditions, pay etc) and in some cases, you may not find work in your field of expertise, at least in the short term. There are many job opportunities for Dutch people and expats alike but the general rule when looking for work abroad is to be prepared to settle for less if your preferred job is not available. To give you a head start, it is worth noting that most people in the Netherlands find work either by word-of-mouth, through a contact such as a friend, partner or colleague, by networking and by sending applications. But, of course, there are also the more conventional ways of finding work, see below:
In person or by phone
Put yourself out there and be seen - there is nothing worse than letting your skills go stale by not overcoming fear of rejection. Also, contact prospective employers to enquire if there are any vacancies. You may have a skill, or even ten, that are highly desirable in the Dutch market.
CWI (Centrum voor Werk & Inkomen)
Pop into one of the many Dutch equivalents of the job centre - the Centrum voor Werk & Inkomen. This public employment service, which is part of EURES, offers advice, tips and information to jobseekers in the Netherlands and if you are an EU national, you are able to access all CWI services free of charge. For job centres within the European Union, see the EURES (European Employment services) section of www.europa.eu.int.
Temping agencies (Uitzendbureaus)
Temp jobs are common and are a very good way of getting your foot on the career ladder. In the Netherlands, temporary contracts are not regarded as a mere stopgap - many employers attach great importance to such contracts as a means of gaining valuable work experience. There are several temping agencies that specialise in jobs that do not require knowledge of Dutch. 100's of jobs are in fact advertised on-line and the following agencies have an extensive database of both technical and non-technical vacancies:
Newspapers, magazines and books
Try the Guide to Working in the Netherlands, which can be ordered online at www.access-nl.org - comprehensive and extremely practical. Equally useful sources of information, also available on-line, are the Intermediair, Intermediair Jaarboek, the NRC Handelsblad, De Volkskrant, Algemeen Dagblad, De Telegraph and the Kompass Directories.
It is the most powerful tool when it comes to job-hunting, not only to register your CV with the countless agencies and companies on-line but also to keep up to date with new job postings and email prospective employers. All international organisations are on-line so if you fancy working on the government circuit, check out the web sites for the International Criminal Court, the European Patent Office, Europol, among many.
Making the right impression
If you remember your CV is your marketing tool, you are already half way to landing a job in the Netherlands. Once you have got all the formalities over and done with, the next step is tailoring your CV/résumé and letter of motivation. First of all, do your homework – find out what the company is about, what qualities they are looking for in a potential employee etc. Doing a bit of groundwork will help you adapt your experience and skills to their requirements.