Dutch idea to give jobs to French youths backfires

The Dutch social affairs minister has been criticised across the political spectrum for suggesting young jobless people from depressed French suburbs could take up jobs in the Netherlands.

Karien van Gennip was trying to address shortages in the Dutch labour market and added that “work also helps people get on the right track”.

Political figures quickly pointed out a million Dutch people were out of work.

The minister quickly backtracked, saying the French idea was not a plan.

Ms Van Gennip stressed that she was merely responding to a European Commission plan to bring in migrant workers from outside the EU, which she said was “skipping a few steps”, as there were plenty of young Europeans available to do the jobs.

“In France, they really have high youth unemployment, especially in the banlieue, far higher than we have here. I could imagine investing in the French or also for example in Spanish school-leavers, to let them work here in catering or horticulture,” she told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In April, the European Commission proposed an EU talent pool to help employers find workers and make legal migration into the 27-country union more straightforward.

While the Dutch minister felt great responsibility for the one million Dutch people who had no job despite labour shortages, she said: “If we want to function as a single Europe, then we should also be concerned about youth unemployment in other European countries.”

Unemployment in the Netherlands was 3.2% in April, but in France it is as high as 7.2%. A 2021 study found that 13.5% of 15 to 29-year-olds in metropolitan France were not in employment, education or training.

Joblessness is particularly acute in the high-immigrant suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis in northern Paris and northern districts of Marseille in the south.

The centre-right Dutch employment minister’s interview prompted criticism from left and right. “The Dutch labour market is no re-education programme for foreign youths with problems,” said liberal MP Zohair El Yassini.

Far-right leader Geert Wilders complained that Dutch farmers were going out of business and the government wanted to import North African immigrants from France.

Union leader Piet Fortuin said two-thirds of people over 55 were having a tough time finding work and a million people had been left on the sidelines.

Ms van Gennip agreed that the first priority was to help the million Dutch people out of work, as well as part-time workers, “and we currently have around 800,000 migrant workers already in the Netherlands, and we don’t treat them all that decently”.

While there was no plan to import French youths, she said she was trying to make the point that there were alternatives that should be explored before the EU brought in non-European workers.