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Dutch News
Learn Dutch or face welfare benefit cuts, minister says 1/26/2014

People who do not speak Dutch will have to learn the language in order to continue claiming welfare benefits, if a proposal from junior social affairs minister Jetta Klijnsma becomes law. Ministers are due to discuss the plan on Friday, the Volkskrant says. The Dutch language requirement will apply to everyone, including Dutch and EU nationals. People who fail to attend lessons and do not pass the exams will have their benefits cut temporarily, the Volkskrant says. The paper does not say who will pay for the classes. Coalition Making speaking Dutch one of the conditions for claiming welfare benefits (bijstand) has been mooted for several years and was included in the coalition agreement. Welfare is paid to people who do not, or no longer, qualify for unemployment (ww) or incapacity (wao) benefits. The right-left VVD-PvdA cabinet originally planned to make speaking the language one of the conditions for claiming bijstand but was forced to water the proposal down because it conflicted with international law. Opponents also say the measure is unnecessary because claimants already have to prove they are doing all they can to get a job, and that includes learning the language. Get tough The plan is the latest in a string of measures to get tough on welfare claimants. People will also have to move home or commute for up to three hours a day for a job and ensure they look presentable. They will also be required to perform some sort of community tasks in return for benefits. Right-wing MPs also want benefit claimants to be forced to take on seasonal jobs or face sanctions, Nos television reported. The Dutch horticultural sector employs large numbers of seasonal workers from eastern Europe because of the shortage of local people willing to do the jobs. During a debate with Klijnsma on Wednesday evening, MPs from the two Liberal parties and the Eurosceptic PVV said local councils should do more to make welfare claimants take on temporary work in the farming sector.

More people are falling behind on paying their bills

Some 740,000 people are registered as having debt repayment problems at the credit registration agency BKR, following a 20,000 increase over the past six months.‘Divorce and unemployment in particular have boosted the number of consumers with problems paying their bills,’ director Peter van den Bosch said in a statement. The BKR registers loans provided by banks and other credit firms. Of the 8.6 million people in the register, 8.6% are at least two months behind in their payments.

Nursing degrees rise in popularity

College courses for nursing have become so popular that 15 out of 17 hbo colleges offering the degrees have frozen the number of students who can take the course, Trouw reports on Friday. Over 5,000 students started nursing degrees in September and there are fears they will not be able to find enough work experience places, the paper says. The number of applicants was up 29% on a year ago.

Shops are secretly monitoring consumers via their mobile phones

At least three Dutch retail chains are secretly monitoring the behaviour of consumers by using wifi to track them via their mobile phones as they move about the shops. Technology website Tweakers says the Bas Group, which operates the Dixons, Mycom and iCentre stores, has admitted using the tracking technology and this week has rolled it out in all 160 shops. Other companies have also looked at wifi tracking, Tweakers says. ProRail has used it in the past, to monitor how passengers use Groningen railway station. And supermarket group Jumbo, which admits looking into wifi tracking last summer, would not say if it had taken the plunge. Privacy According to the Dutch privacy watchdog CBP, shops should always inform customers if they are being tracked. The Bas Group does not consider this necessary because ‘all shops use systems to count customers’, Tweakers said. The system takes advantage of the wifi cards which all smart phones are equipped with and which look constantly for networks to join. Shops use special equipment to pick up each phone’s wifi card, learning its unique ID number and then using this to follow the phone as people move through the shop. The information is not personalised but shops can use it to cross reference with other data and build up a detailed picture of their customers, Tweakers says.

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