Widespread shortage of staff, absenteeism also affecting government services

Implementing government organizations such as the Tax Authority, UWV Benefit Agency and the DJI Custodian Institutions Department are struggling to fill vacancies like many other sectors in the Netherlands. This leads to long waiting times and, for example, affects inmate day programs, LIT reports after speaking to ten government departments.

With the exception of the Academy Inspectorate and the Health and Youth Inspectorate, all departments said they were struggling with a record labor market. They are also struggling with an absenteeism rate of between 5% and 8.4% – higher than the average for sick leave before the coronavirus pandemic.

The tax administration has the most vacancies, in particular because it needs additional people to compensate citizens who have paid too much tax on their savings and who have been victims of the allowance scandal. It also expects many of its workers to retire in the coming years. The problems are most evident at the tax information line, where callers sometimes have to wait an hour for someone to pick up.

Customs, the Rijkswaterstaat and the labor inspectorate said they found it particularly difficult to fill positions with a specific profile – specifically specialized legal, digital and financial functions.

The UWV is struggling with a shortage of medical examiners and IT staff. The service must give priority in some cases, which can cause delays in others.

The DJI is trying to fill the gaps in the staff roster by tackling the high absenteeism rate and hiring external workers. But that doesn’t completely solve the problems, a spokesperson told NOS. The high workload places particular pressure on inmate day programs.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) said it was doing its best to hire new people, but some projects are under pressure. For example, many Ukrainians struggled to get a residency stamp in their passport before their visa-free period expired. Waiting times for asylum seekers are also increasing.

The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) said employees are overloaded with extra work because they cannot find more staff to take on the job. “As a result, employees have less recovery time, which increases the risk of dropping out. There is also less room for social connection, which can lead to less involvement and therefore higher staff turnover,” a spokesperson told the broadcaster. NVWA tries to use digitization where it cannot find workers, such as using surveillance cameras or drones for inspections.

Ashley C. Reynolds