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Number of working poor rising

22 November 2007 - Within days after cleaners started their campaign for a living wage, the municipality has published a report indicating that the number of working poor is rising. Amsterdam is relatively successful at reaching these people to offer them income support.

The exact number of working poor is unknown. The Poverty Monitor published yesterday reveals that the number of poor households with ‘other sources of income’ - no social assistance and no old age pension - has risen from 17,390 in 2003 to 25,325 in 2006. A substantial number of them are thought to be employees and self-employed people.

Municipality spokesperson Arthur Zielhorst said that the exact cause of this growth is unknown, although it is likely that the number of part-time workers has grown, as well as the number of small business owners who sometimes even have an income below social assistance level.

Many municipalities have difficulties reaching the working poor to offer them income supplements, because they are unknown to the welfare agency. Amsterdam is quite successful at tracking low income residents by combining data from different registrations.

As a result, over 3,000 people who do not receive social assistance applied for affordable health insurance in 2006. Further, Amsterdam is the most successful city at reaching people who do not receive social assistance with its income supplement for the long-term poor.

Amsterdam hopes to reach another 2 to 3,000 low income households by adding the Tax Administration to the registrations it uses to reach low income households.

Even when people know of income supplements, they may be hesitant to apply. “My own neighbour is a small business owner who could hardly make ends meet. I really had to convince him to apply to the welfare agency”, Zielhorst said.

Zielhorst could not say whether Amsterdam would consider including living wage clauses in its contracts with subcontractors such as cleaning companies. In London and many American cities, this has been a successful means to reduce the number of working poor.

Poverty Monitor (in Dutch), Cleaners’ campaign, London living wage


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