Huge shortage in the labor market: wages up or something else?

Our economy is already bigger than before the corona crisis and you notice that in the labor market: there is a lot of demand for employees, so much that there are shortages. There are 126 vacancies for every 100 unemployed.

This shortage of hands is bad for the economy, it ultimately slows down economic growth, says Peter Hein van Mulligen, chief economist at Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

Just think: if you have to wait a long time for your drink in the hospitality industry, then such a café probably generates less turnover than it could have done. And due to the shortage of construction workers, fewer houses can be built than should have been added.

Higher wages

Can’t we do something about this shortage in the labor market? “Very simple, increase wages,” says RTL Z exchange commentator Hans de Geus. There are many jobs that, in his eyes, add little, ‘nonsense jobs’, such as speed camera delivery.

“If people are paid more, they will work in jobs where they add more value,” says De Geus.

With higher wages, companies will also automate more, which naturally reduces the demand for personnel, he continues. Furthermore, if they are paid better, the Dutch will probably work more hours, according to De Geus. It would make a difference if wage tax were lowered, so that it really makes sense to work more, he thinks.

‘Not a quick fix’

But Ton Wilthagen, professor of the labor market at Tilburg University, disagrees. “If you raise wages, you will pull people away from other companies or sectors. Not only does the wage count for workers, but also the working conditions, among other things.”

“Are you going to switch to the IC because you might be paid more now that you hear all the stories about the work pressure there?”

He has no good news for those who think that the shortage on the labor market can be solved quickly. “We’ll have it for another 30 years,” Wilthagen fears. After all, there are relatively more elderly people who do not work and fewer young people who are able to do the work.

Ten measures

Still, we can do something to limit the shortage, thinks Wilthagen. For example, he has drawn up a top 10 with measures, but they do take some time.

At the top of the list is: migration of employees to the Netherlands. But there are snags to it. For example, the debate about this in the Netherlands is difficult and many people do not want to go to the Netherlands in the first place, they prefer to go to, for example, Germany or the UK, says Wilthagen.

People on the side

Another solution he sees is helping Dutch people who are on the sidelines to find work. There are more than 1 million people in the Netherlands and the majority of them want to work, but they are at a distance from the labor market, says Wilthagen.

The problem is that it is not known exactly who it is and what exactly is wrong with them not being involved, he says.


The UWV and the municipalities are responsible, but they have little contact with the people who are now standing on the sidelines, says Wilthagen.

The government will have to invest in training to match their skills with the demands of employers.


Retraining, so that you can switch from one sector to another, is in any case one of the solutions he sees. But the disadvantage is that the shortage in the labor market is now so wide that you will then fill one gap in the labor market with another, he says.

Society then has to make choices, and that also applies if you want to make certain studies more financially attractive for young people, says Wilthagen.

‘less part-time’

Another solution that is at the top of his list is to try to ensure that the Dutch work more hours. “We are a part-time country par excellence, if we would work a few more hours, it would make a huge difference.”

But in fact, all the solutions of his ten-point plan must be implemented at the same time, says Wilthagen. This also includes continuing to work after retirement and investing more in robots.

‘Want to maintain welfare level’

You can say that the shortage of people depresses economic growth and as a result there will be less demand for labour, so that the problem will solve itself.

“But we have a high level of prosperity in the Netherlands. We do want to be helped in the hospital within a certain period of time and that our children go to school not four, but five days a week, because otherwise they would only have four-fifths of their education. to get.”

If we have to settle for less, then society will become more austere. You can already see that, says Wilthagen. There are waiting lists for childcare, for example, he gives a very simple example.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button