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Arco Timmermans on Dutch Parliament understaffing

Dutch Parliament members are reluctant to discuss their urgent need for more support staff. They are afraid to be labelled as “greedy” or profiteers if they were to put in a request for more assistance. But times seem to be changing.

Every member of the Dutch parliament is entitled to 1.5 FTE in support staff: one full-time and one part-time employee to provide assistance. Unfortunately, this appears to be insufficient. 70-to-80-hour workweeks are not uncommon and put a lot of pressure on the private lives of members of parliament.


Arco Timmermans, Professor by special appointment of Public Affairs at the Institute of Public Administration at Leiden University finds the situation worrying. In order to adequately manage the political agenda, members of parliament simply need more support staff available to provide much needed assistance. If things do not change soon, Dutch parliament will not be able to keep up with the workload provided by the ministries and it will also become obvious to the general public that parliament members do not have enough time available to properly address citizens’ petitions and initiatives.

Parliament members will also have to dependent more on third party organisations when the understaffing is not addressed. Citizens today have higher expectations and the number of lobbyists  has also risen. Apart from this, large amounts of knowledge are continuously being generated and while ministries and ministers can rely on a  pool of available staff from various departments to filter and organise this information, members of parliament do not have the same resources at their disposal.

How do other Countries handle Things

Timmermans believes that the Netherlands would do well to look at how other countries are handling things and learn from their experiences. For instance, how have information flows been structured in other countries?  Comparative research should be able to provide an answer to this and other questions.

You can read more about the understaffing problems of Dutch parliament members on the websites of Vrij Nederland and NPO Radio 1 (both in Dutch).

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