International organisations

The globalisation of politics and the economy requires constant monitoring of international developments. This is also of great importance with regard to those areas of policy pursued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW). The mission of the Ministry is to promote employment, modern labour relations and an activating social security system. The Ministry pursues this mission internationally as well as nationally.

European Union

In the EU context, the balance between economic growth and social protection has been the main theme of ministerial policy through the years. As Europe becomes more closely integrated, EU policy is becoming an increasingly important element of national policy. Important policy issues such as working conditions, unemployment, social inclusion and pensions are not the exclusive domain of national policy anymore, but are high on the European agenda as well. As a result of the enlargement of the Union, national social policies have to be viewed in an expanding European context.

Migration and enlargement

The Netherlands adheres to the principle of selective labour migration, the aim of which is to protect the Dutch labour market against (cheap) workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). This is regulated by the Dutch Act on the Employment of Foreigners. Labour supplies from the EEA are given priority. Employers may employ workers from outside the EEA only if there are no suitable workers within the EEA, in which case employers can obtain work permits.

European Employment Strategy (EES)

The European Employment Strategy (EES) has played a central role in coordinating the EU's policies in order to create more and better jobs. In line with the Europe 2020 strategy, the European Employment Strategy seeks to create more and better jobs throughout the EU.
To reach these objectives, the EES encourages measures to meet three headline targets by 2020:

  • 75% of people aged 20-64 in work
  • school drop-out rates below 10%, and at least 40% of 30-34–year-olds completing third level education
  • at least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

Europe 2020

Europe 2020 is the EU's growth strategy for the coming decade.
In a changing world, the EU wants to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. These three mutually reinforcing priorities should help the EU and the Member States deliver high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion.

Concretely, the Union has set five ambitious objectives - on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy - to be reached by 2020. Each Member State has adopted its own national targets in each of these areas. Concrete actions at EU and national levels underpin the strategy. More can be found at

International Labour Organisation

The Minister of Social Affairs and Employment is responsible for the issues dealt with by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the only tripartite U.N. agency with government, employer, and worker representatives. The ILO formulates international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations setting minimum standards of basic labour rights. The Netherlands has ratified 105 ILO Conventions, making it a leader among the ratifying nations. The ILO has a unique tripartite structure with workers and employers participating as equal partners with governments in the work of its governing organs.
To ensure the promotion of decent work for all, the ILO has formulated the following strategic objectives (the Decent Work Agenda):

  1. Promote and realize standards and fundamental principles and rights at work (see below);
  2. Create greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment and income;
  3. Enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all;
  4. Strengthen tripartism and social dialogue.

Fundamental labour standards

The promotion of compliance with fundamental labour standards is a topic of debate in numerous international forums, particularly when it is relevant to international trade issues. It has been debated by the ILO, the EU, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations.
In 1998 the ILO adopted the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This Declaration reconfirms the basic principle of the ILO: promotion of social justice and internationally recognised human and labour rights. These fundamental labour standards are covered by eight fundamental ILO Conventions: Conventions 87 and 98 (freedom of association), Conventions 29 and 105 (elimination of forced labour), Conventions 100 and 111 (elimination of discrimination in the workplace) and Conventions 138 and 182 (abolition of child labour). The Follow-up of the Declaration consists of several actions: the Annual Review gives an overview of reports on countries that have not ratified fundamental Conventions; the annual Global Report describes the actual situation with respect to the fundamental labour standards. The ILO also initiates projects of technical co-operation with member states to help them maintaining fundamental labour standards.

Child labour

The Netherlands is deeply involved in one of the core labour standards namely the prohibition of child labour (laid down in ILO Convention 138 on minimum age and Convention182 against the worst forms of child labour). Convention 182 provides that each member that ratifies the Convention must create and implement a Programme of Action for measures to combat the worst forms of child labour. The Dutch Programme of Action is not so much directed at eliminating the worst forms of child labour by means of regulatory measures, but will concentrate on preventing children ending up in some form of child labour, and on the enforcement of the existing legislation, which already prohibits the worst forms of child labour. This means that the projects mentioned in the Programme of Action are aimed primarily at prevention, education and supervision. In  2010, 10 years after the coming into force of ILO Convention 182 efforts must be stepped up if we are to deliver the commitment of a world free of the worst forms of child labour by 2016. In order to meet that challenge, the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, in close collaboration with the ILO (and in cooperation with UNICEF and the World Bank), organized a global conference on child labour to be held in The Hague (The Netherlands).

ILO Conventions – The Dutch viewpoint

The Netherlands strongly adheres to the fundamental ILO Conventions. Denouncing them is fully out of the question. Technical Conventions, however, should, in the opinion of the Dutch government, where possible be consolidated and modernised. The Netherlands favours Conventions with minimum standards and basic rights in general terms, instead of overly detailed Conventions which are not flexible and are less likely to be ratified. A good process has been the consolidation and modernisation of the maritime conventions. This resulted in the Maritime Labour Convention that was adopted on in 2006 and consolidates and updates more than 65 international labour standards related to seafarers adopted over the last 80 years. One example of existing technical Conventions that could be modernized are the social security Conventions.