Social minimum survey for islands in preparation

THE HAGUE–What is the social minimum in the Caribbean Netherlands and how do the incomes relate to the as yet to be established social minimum? These are the two main research questions that will be answered in the pending survey of the social minimum in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

Caretaker State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Jetta Klijnsma recently provided an update to the Dutch Parliament on the intended approach of the objective research project into the social minimum for the islands. The approach was coordinated with the Public Entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. According to the State Secretary, the islands were mostly positive.

The research is the result of pressure by the Dutch Parliament. Both the Second and the First Chamber see the setting of a social minimum as an important tool in the eradication of poverty on the islands and to guarantee an acceptable standard of living for the people there.

According to Klijnsma, it concerns an objective study, to be carried out by an independent external party or research firm, into the cost of living, or the bare essentials, including items such as food, clothing, housing and transport. The study will be differentiated per island to take the distinctive situation into account.

The Caribbean Netherlands doesn’t have a social minimum, only a legal minimum wage which is established annually by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour on the basis of the consumer’s price index. The social welfare allowances are linked to the legal minimum wage and vary between 40 to 100 per cent of the minimum wage depending on the circumstances and life situation of the involved person.

Because the legal minimum wage is considered to be too low compared to the cost of living, the islands and the Dutch Parliament want a social minimum set for the Caribbean Netherlands that is based on the actual cost of living. A social minimum will be set per island.

The survey will be carried out in two parts. The first part will focus on the establishing of a social minimum based on the cost of the bare essentials that persons need to sustain themselves. The second part will focus on the income on the islands and how these incomes relate to the cost of living.

The cost of the various items resorting under the bare essentials will be determined, but the researchers will also acquire data of the income and income development on the islands in order to get an overall view of whether the income of the people suffices to sustain themselves.

Based on the results of the survey, the researchers, together with the ministry and the public entities, can look at ways to reduce the necessary expenses related to the price of living, stated Klijnsma in her letter to the Dutch Parliament.

The Ministry has started talks with possible candidates to execute the survey. A “sounding board group” will be established with representatives of the Ministry and the three public entities. The results of the survey will be made public, as is customary. The political decision-taking on how to go about the results of the survey will take place after the study has been completed. Decisions will be taken by the next Dutch Government.

Klijnsma cautioned that the, to be established social minimum will not be immediately on the level of the legal minimum wage and the social welfare allowances. “The set social minimum will function as a dot on the horizon toward which we will work and function as a point of reference for possible specific measures. Measures can also be focused on further, specific income support, but also to reduce the cost of living.”

Source: The Daily Herald