The Dutch Government’s Benefits Scandal Is Rooted in Stigma Against Welfare Recipients

Last Friday, the Dutch government had to resign in scandal, after thousands of parents were wrongly accused of making fraudulent childcare benefit claims. The affair was driven by racist demonization of welfare recipients deeply rooted in the country’s politics.

This article was published on Jacobin.com on January 23, 2021

Foto: Pieter Musterd / Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND)

At least 26,000 families on the verge of bankruptcy, in more debt than they could repay in their entire lives. Countless people losing their homes, jobs, or partners. And one parent committing suicide after they were ordered to repay tens of thousands of euros. These were the effects of an extremely strict anti-fraud policy carried out by the Dutch tax administration for years — sparking a scandal over which the government led by Mark Rutte resigned last Friday.

The scandal was gradually uncovered by investigative journalists from early 2019 onward, and it revolves around fraud investigations into recipients of childcare allowances. In the Netherlands, parents who both work, as well as single parents, are eligible for a state contribution toward the costs of day care. For those with low incomes, this can add up to 90 percent of the actual costs. These contributions are often directly transferred to childcare providers, but parents are responsible for them — and have to pay back thousands of euros per year if the tax administration decides the allowance was wrongfully paid out.

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Kevyn Levie (they/them) is a freelance journalist currently living in Berlin. | Recent publications and contact info: https://kevyn.eu