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Olaf van Vliet in NRC on shaping labour migration

In Dutch the public arena, there’s talk of curbing labour migration. Which options do the Dutch have? Olaf van Vliet, Professor of Economics at Leiden University, discusses this issue in Dutch daily newspaper NRC.

The Netherlands is a member of the European Union, which means there is free movement of persons. If the Netherlands wants to shape intra-EU labour mobility, then influencing migration policy is not necessarily the most effective way to do it. Instead, it should consider policies with a more indirect influence on the demand for migrant workers.

Municipalities could, for example, decide to stop issuing permits to distribution centres. That land could be used for companies that invest in research into technological innovation, which would contribute to a high-quality knowledge-based economy. This is far reaching,’ Van Vliet acknowledges, ‘because we’re not used to managing the economy like that in the Netherlands. But it’s unavoidable if we want to curb labour migration.’

Another option is the introduction of fiscal measures to help slow labour migration. Van Vliet mentions the Westland, an area in the western Netherlands with a high population of migrant workers working in greenhouses. For many years, horticultural companies received discounts on the tax they paid for their CO2 emissions. This served as a government incentive. Van Vliet says that either the discount can be phased out at an accelerated pace or the companies can be made to pay more tax. This would increase the costs for horticultural companies and therefore reduce the number of labour migrants they are able to employ.

As a result of these measures, the Dutch would have to pay more for their tomatoes and cucumbers and parcel deliveries.

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The above quotations are a short excerpt from a larger article in the Dutch media entitled 'Wie arbeidsmigratie wil inperken, moet aan de economie sleutelen', meaning, 'To curb labour migration, you have to tweak the economy'. To read the full article (in Dutch), visit the NRC website.

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