According to figures released this week by Statistics Netherlands, the percentage of people claiming income support has risen by most in municipalities in the north of the Netherlands. These are often areas where the population is diminishing. In areas at the edges of the country, where population numbers are also decreasing, relatively many people claim disability benefits.
The population decreased by 4 percent or more in 31 municipalities between 2004 and 2014. In these shrinking municipalities, the share of 15-64-year-olds claiming income support or a disability benefit was higher than elsewhere in the Netherlands. Moreover, the differences between these municipalities and the rest of the Netherlands has increased in recent years. In 2004, the share of income support claimants in the main shrinking municipalities hardly differed from the Dutch average of 4 percent . By 2014 the share of income support claimants in these municipalities had risen to an average 5 percent, while it remained 4 percent on average in other Dutch municipalities. Benefits paid for illness and disability are also claimed relatively more often than in 2004 in shrinking municipalities than elsewhere. Dependence on these benefits fell to below 7 percent in the Netherlands between 2004 and 2014, while in the shrinking municipalities it hardly fell at all, and was on average still above 10 percent in 2014.
The geographical pattern of the number of 15-64-year-olds claiming income support has changed in the last ten years. Relatively many people in the four large cities claim income support, although the share is smaller than in 2004. The share of people claiming income support has increased in the perimeter municipalities, and especially in the northern provinces. The percentage of people with an income support benefit rose by 2 points in Pekela and Oldambt. In many other municipalities in the north of the country, too, the share of people claiming income support rose by 1.5 percentage points or more. The city of Groningen was an exception: the number of income support claimants is lower than in 2004.
15-64-year-olds claiming income support, change between 2004 and 2014 (%)
Relatively also many 15-64-year-olds living in areas around the edges of the country receive a benefit for a disability or illness. In May 2014, nearly 7 percent of the potential labour force in the Netherlands claimed such a benefit. In five municipalities in southern Limburg these shares are between 11.6 and 13.2 percent. In many municipalities in Groningen and Drenthe, too, the percentages of illness and disability benefit claimants are relatively high.
15-64-year-olds claiming a benefit for illness or disability, May 2014 (%)
Deteriorated economic situation and selective migration
The increase in benefit dependence in shrinking regions is related to the worsened economic situation there. Employment, for example, fell by more than average and it has become more difficult to find a job nearby.
In addition, so-called selective migration is also a factor in this respect. People with good career prospects move to the cities in the west of the country. This interregional migration mainly concerns young adults and people of family-formation ages. Net negative migration in these regions is therefore often accompanied by faster population ageing. And an older labour force means higher risks of sickness absence and disability.
Relative population development per municipality between May 2004 and May 2014