News from The Netherlands, one of the smaller but richer countries in the EU and the world, and my commentary may still speak to people who don’t live there or even wouldn’t know where in Europe it is situated — though they may have heard of its capital, Amsterdam.
The Low Countries, as the land reclaimed from the sea is also called, that in past centuries sailed the oceans and colonized big swats of the world, has by now ‘lost’ most oversea territories, but has safeguarded its international financial interests there and everywhere – don’t worry.
An elderly nurse from Indonesia, who settled in The Netherlands after WW II, once told me at the old-age home that we both worked: “When we lived there, we imagined that at least the people in Holland would have a good life from all that was taken from there. My heart broke when I learned from ordinary people, like the ones who are housed here, that their lives too were full of financial hardship all along.”
The Netherlands knows poverty and unemployment, but it typically tries to hide them and give people who got to know Capitalism as no-one else “social benefits” so that the economy can continue to profit from their contributions, and so that marginalized groups feel too grateful to revolt. People without any money do not help the economy and make for ‘social unrest.’ Unrest is the idea most hated by the Dutch. They love ‘calm.’
A few weeks ago, I heard on the news that the average blue-color worker in The Netherlands on average stays healthy until the age of 58 (or something) and the richer workers until 70+. That means that manual laborers generally do not enjoy their pension years as much as the white-color workers who enjoyed fancier training.
The suggestion was to maybe lower their retiring age. This was rejected – as too expensive. Another idea was suggested that did find support between the parties that advise on societal developments. To give workers the option to cut out the Wednesday. Then they would work Monday and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, thus having a chance to recover physically after two days of beautiful but damaging labor, without losing too much income.
A few days ago the workers in the construction industry sector went collectively on vacation for three weeks. It’s called the bouwvak, a unique Dutch word that combines build [bouw] with vac(ation). Building stops all over the country, while workers with their families take a yearly break. Many travel to vacation destinies, the roads are packed and the airport stuffed silly. However, the national news readers reported a problem. What was it?
How unfortunate, they suggested, that the economy is improving drastically, construction is up a lot, there is plenty of work, the weather is fantastic but the workers go on vacation. And, worse even, in a few months time, building will need to stop again, then because of the weather. (Concrete can’t settle below a certain temperature. Heavy rain, hail, snow, frost may each cause problems, in transportation, for instance.) Can’t we move the bouwvak to winter, whenever construction must be interrupted anyway?
I don’t know if these news editors are so unknowledgeable or shortsighted, or really so shamelessly insensitive and curt.
Laborers not only hurt their health when doing their work properly, have lower incomes to enjoy less of life’s possibilities, are more often sick and die earlier, but they now also need to go on vacation when terrible weather blocks roads and when their kids are in school? And when the weather is its nicest and the kids are home from school, they should work and forget about taking a few weeks off? Really?
This suggestion will never be implemented, but the nerve of even suggesting this on prime-time TV is scandalous. For the record.