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Welfare payments to be cut for claimants who fail to learn Dutch

Welfare claimants face having their benefits suspended if they fail to acquire a basic grasp of Dutch.

The rule will apply to all welfare claimants, including Dutch natives.The cabinet is introducing a law that would require all non-Dutch speakers to learn the language and pass an exam if they want to receive the basic level of state support (bijstandsuitkering).

The measure is a watered-down version of earlier plans to make language skills a condition of qualifying for welfare support. That proposal was seen as incompatible with international laws on discrimination.


Junior social affairs minister Jetta Klijnsma hopes it will make it easier for people living on state support to find work and integrate into society.

The requirement applies to Dutch citizens as well as migrants from within the European Union and beyond.

It follows a series of other measures aimed at improving employability, some of which have been controversial.

One new rule states that people seeking work must not harm their prospects through their “clothing, lack of personal care or behaviour”. Job applicants who are turned down because they wear non-western clothes such as a burkha risk losing their entitlement to welfare payments.

Since last year migrants have also been required to pay for their own language classes. Refugee agency VluchtelingenWerk Nederland criticise the move at the time for making it harder for the poorest immigrants to integrate.