Child Labour in the Netherlands


Dutch Socialist Party Chairman Jan Marijnissen looks at child labour in the Netherlands.

Say “child labour” and you tend to think of India, the Philippines and Vietnam. Children who work in dirty, dangerous conditions in order to earn a little to help support their families. In my own country, the Netherlands, things are not so extreme nevertheless, child labour is visibly on the rise. Because the recently introduced labour law states that children from the age of 13 can do light, non-industrial work, and those over 14 all kinds of light work, I predicted that we would, fairly shortly, no longer need to go to the Far East to witness children working. I was right. For the last couple of years members from our party from the North Limburg region have been sending me ‘situations vacant’ ads from the local papers, ads in which children from 13 years upwards are solicited for work on farms and in horticulture. Moreover, recent reports from, amongst others, the labour inspectorate and the trade union confederation (FNV) indicate that 50% of school children have a job, including (illegally) a quarter of all 12 year olds. 14 year olds are employed to run machinery, whilst many youngsters spend their evenings working in supermarkets. Two of three firms employed children and labour protection laws are routinely broken. The only conclusion which can be drawn from such reports is that, even here in the Netherlands, children’s labour has become an essential element of the economy.

Of course children enjoy having a bit of extra money. But, little by little, things are being allowed to go too far. Children have the right to be children, and to remain children for as long as possible. They should have the chance to play, take part in sports, to read, to surf the internet. Rules governing child labour should be reviewed. Labour inspectorate take note: it's your job to protect children from this exploitation.