“They start their life 0-3 behind”

By Ingrid Godager

Poverty among non-Western migrants in the Netherlands is going down, but for Syrians the poverty rate has increased.

A new report from The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) states that the number of non-Western migrants living in poverty has decreased by 18 percent since 2013. “The decrease in poverty is mostly due to economic growth, but also some policy measures like increasing social assistance benefit and increasing housing benefit”, Stella Hoff, Scientific Staff Member at SCP, says.

Yet the reduction in the poverty rate among non-Western migrants does not hold for all groups: “In the Syrian group, the poverty rate has increased from 40,5 percent in 2013 to 54,3 percent in 2017”, Hoff explains.

Annemiek Bots, Senior Press Officer at the Dutch Council for Refugees, believes that more focus on integration and more language options from the beginning in reception centres would prevent the poverty among non-Western migrants. “Diplomas are often not recognised here. They often have a long period without work because of their flight from home. They start their life 0-3 behind”, she says.

POVERTY: A person is considered to be poor if they earn less than €1,135 per month.

Integration takes time

Although the poverty has decreased, one out of five non-Western migrants are still living in poverty. Bots explains that a reason for this high poverty rate is that integration takes time. “All refugees start on social benefit after receiving their asylum permit. They have to learn the language, they have to find their way in the Netherlands and they might have traumatic experiences to overcome”, she says.

Hoff explains that the causes of poverty are very diverse: “It can be unemployment or working in a low paid job, low job intensity, living in debt or living in a large family”.

An important factor for poverty for non-Western migrants is the influx of refugees from countries like Syria or Eritrea. “Many of these people are depending on social assistance, which is a risk factor for poverty. In the ‘traditional’ non-Western groups the low employment rates are also a risk factor”, Hoff says.


Two budgets for measuring poverty

“A person is considered to be poor when he does not have the financial means to pay for the goods or services needed for a minimum acceptable standard of living”, Hoff says.

SCP has developed two reference budgets for measuring poverty rates. These indicate how much money a single person needs to cover unavoidable or highly desirable expenses. “The basic needs budget includes minimum amounts that an independent household needs to spend on unavoidable basic necessities such as food, clothing and housing. The modest but adequate budget also allows for a number of highly expenses, such as membership of a sports or hobby club or a short holiday”, Hoff explains.

The modest but adequate budget is their main indicator for poverty, and in 2017 this amounted to €1,135 per month for a single person.