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|Key Words||Economic Growth, Productivity, Labor Shortage|
The Netherlands is one of the European Union's fastest growing economies and it has the lowest unemployment of the 12 Euro nations. As a consequence of its rapid and sustained growth, the Netherlands faces a labor shortage. Help wanted signs appear all over the city and firms actively recruit workers in other countries. The scarcity of workers in virtually every category has prompted firms and government employers to adopt extraordinary measures to attract labor and increase productivity. Labor costs, however, are rising and this is partly responsible for the Netherlands having the highest rate of inflation among the Euro nations.
What strategies have Dutch firms used to attract prospective workers? Firms are offering bounties to any worker who brings a friend into the firm. Companies are offering trips to Paris or bright yellow scooters to students who sign with them. A shortage of nurses has led hospitals to raise nurses' wages by 12 percent. They have also tried, without much success, importing nurses from South Africa. The Dutch have changed some laws to attract more spouses into the labor force. A new tax law lowered the tax rate on spousal income. The Dutch government has also been reconsidering some of its immigration laws and Dutch companies have started training programs for immigrants.
The Netherlands depends heavily on exports to fuel its economic growth.
The slowdown in the U.S. and German economies has slowed Dutch growth.
The Dutch slowdown has not, however, eased the country's labor shortage.
Instead, Dutch firms find wages rising and productivity falling; both
factors threaten to erase the Dutch cost advantage. The Netherlands does
not have control of its money supply and therefore cannot slow its economy
by monetary measures. The European Central Bank, the agency responsible
for determining monetary policy for the European Union, must contend with
an unemployment rate of 10 percent in parts of Germany, a slowdown in
the German economy and inflation in the Netherlands. Faced with these
conflicting needs, it is difficult for the Bank to develop a monetary
policy that is appropriate for all EU member nations.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
|Source||Edmund L. Andrews, "Robust Economy Short of Workers," The New York Times, August 9, 2001.|
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