Working at Public Places, Just to Avoid Higher Bills

A News Article by Quinty Veenman

The Netherlands is affected by the highest inflation since 1976. With an average 13,6% price raise, people have to find other solutions to fight their financial struggles. Minister Sigrid Kaag of Finances made a bold statement saying: ‘’We have to realize that we, as a collective, will all become a little bit poorer.’’

What does this mean for the people who have less income than average? The war between Russia and Ukraine, the very recent corona crisis, the shortage of housing, and many other problems are causing a troubling prospect for everyone.

Sterre (24), a student from Amsterdam, says her monthly gas prices went up by 50 euro and is scared of even higher bills. Her container apartment is badly isolated ‘’I try not to work from home. You’ll find me at school or a library. There, I don’t need to put on the heather.’’ She notices her friends also try to save on their expenses. Rent and bills are not the only issues, supermarkets like Lidl are not always affordable anymore. ‘’Some students even skip meals to save money,’’ Sterre says.

Buurtteams in Amsterdam tries to help people with all sorts of problems. Over 50% of the questions they got in 2021 were about finances. Nel van der Laan (64) has worked as a ‘multi problem’ worker for 10 years in Buurtteam Amsterdam South-East. ‘’Today’s walk-in hour we got 30 people concerned about their finances. It’s a huge problem.’’

With 17 billion euro help package 2023, the government wants to make sure families in need get help. Nel is doubtful that this will be enough. ‘’Most people we see are between 40 and 70 and don’t know the Dutch language very well. They’re usually a little older, don’t always understand the technology, and are overwhelmed. Some people don’t even realize they are eligible for surcharges or food banks. We are starting to see more young people, they have jobs and understand everything but are just confused and need help.’’

Prince (52) had a hard time earning money during corona, he works in the catering industry without a permanent contract. He doesn’t speak Dutch and had a hard time finding a job. Prince now works in the kitchen of restaurant Loetje in Amsterdam East. He notices the rapidly changing prices. ‘’Everything is expensive now. In the supermarkets, oil prices went up from 1.50 euros to almost 4 euros. Things are very difficult. There’s nothing we can do about it, only the government can,’’ he says.

Prince was never too focused on his expenses, but he feels like he has to now. ‘’Electricity and gas have increased so much that if I’m at home, I can’t even live normally. I never turn on the lights, I try to not watch as much tv, shower too long, or put on my heater. I have times set for everything to keep the prices as low as I can. ’’He doesn’t think the solution is accepting becoming poor, his solution is peace, but he is afraid that will take a long time.