Telework in the Netherlands Dr. Albert Benschop

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Telework in the Netherlands

Dr. Albert Benschop (University of Amsterdam)

Drs. Connie Menting (TeleDock)

1 How many teleworkers? 2

2 Motives to telework 4

3 Mobile work: nomadic workers 5

4 The European context 7

5 Policy of Dutch government 8

5.1 Frame agreement on telewerk 8

5.2 Law on labour conditions: ARBO 9

5.3 Shift in governmental policy 10

6 Telework in enterprises 10

7 Trade unions and telework 12

8 Telecentres in all forms and shapes 13

8.1 Satellite office: Telewerkcentrum Almere (ING) 14

8.2 Teleworkcentre Amsterdam (TWCA) 16

8.3 Cyburg: social initiative starting from needs of citizens 16

8.4 Sustainable telecentres? 17

9 Emancipation perspective 18

9.1 Participation of women: MoneyPenny 18

9.2 Work at home: Moroccan and Turkish women 19

9.3 Foundation TeleReturn: disabled workers 19

10 Social aspects of telework 20

10.1 Quality of life 20

10.2 Connectedness and Isolation 21

10.3 Working hours 21

10.4 Work-Life Balance 22

10.5 Health 23

10.6 Community 24

11 Digital and paper resources 26

August 18, 2016

1How many teleworkers?

This report describes the state of affairs in the Netherlands with regard to teleworking. Due to strong liberalization efforts in the turn of the century the telecommunications industry has rapidly grown and is increasingly competitive.1 Telecommunication prices have been lowered mainly due to the heavy competition in this market. Forecasts indicated a growth in the internet use from 1998 tot 2002 by 100% a year, and an average growth in mobile telephony of 60% a year. With regard to the quality, penetration and use of communications infrastructure the Netherlands now belong to the top group in the world.2 The Netherlands offer very good infrastructural prerequisites and preconditions for new forms of work, such as telework [Overmars 2000:3]. The Dutch government has invested in programmes that facilitate the diffusion and penetration of electronic commerce and telework.
The Netherlands have a successful trading economy with the highest proportion of employment in services of any EU economy. “With an overall high take up of ICTs and progressive labour market policies together with well-developed language skills, the country is among the best placed in Europe to gain from emergence of a global networked economy, so it is not surprising that the Netherlands is one of the European countries where telework is most widespread” [European Commission: Status Report on Telework, 1999].
Estimations of the percentage of teleworkers in the Dutch labour force do vary by the definitions that are used.
According to the 2nd European Survey on Working Conditions [1996], in which about a thousand employees were interviewed, 8.9% of the Dutch labour force belongs to the employed or independent teleworkers. Teleworkers were defined as groups that work at home for at least a quarter of their working hours and that work with a computer for at least a quarter of their working hours [Dhondt / Van den Heuvel 2000].
Roughly a third of the teleworkers is self-employed. Teleworkers have a relatively high level of education and are slightly older than the average employer. Although many people expected otherwise, telework does not –automatically or spontaneously– lead to a shift in the distribution of caring activities and of the household income.
In 1996 the international research centre IDC Benelux counted 137,400 formal teleworkers (workers who have an agreement with their employer and work at home a few days a week: 2.1 % of the labour force), and 400,000 mobile workers, who work on different locations using ICT.
In 1999 IDC counted 200,000 formal teleworkers; appr. 3% of the total work force. To illustrate the methodological problems of statistical data: according to the European Commission [1999 – Status Report on European Telework] there were 1,044,000 teleworkers in the broad sense of the word, or 14.5% of the work force.3

Forms of telework

Amount of workers

Total teleworkers in %

of work force

a. Home based telework4



b. Self-employed in SoHo5



c. Mobile telework



a-c (excluding overlaps)



d. Supplementary telework



a-d (excluding overlaps)6



Source: EcaTT study1999

This rapid growth is partly the effect of a broader definition, partly of a real growth of the number of teleworkers.

According to the forecasts of EcaTT [2000] the number of teleworkers as part of the total work force in the European Union will reach the 11 percent threshold in 2005.7 The Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands will be the front-runners, having a more than average distribution rate of telehomework and other forms of telework. It is expected that the total amount of teleworkers in the Netherlands will grow from 14.5 percent in 1999 to 25.2 percent in 2005. In the same period the amount of telehomeworkers in the Netherlands will increase from 4 percent to 9.7 percent.
Most analysts expect that in the coming years the amount of teleworkers will grow substantially.8 Not in the least because the need to telework is very strong among the employees.9 In 2002 Dutch employees who worked at least 12 hours per week were asked if they would like to telework. More than 43 percent of them gave a positive response to this question [Loonwijzer 2002].
There are, however, some problems and bottlenecks faced by the people working at home.10 Each category of teleworkers faces different problems, which asks for different approaches from management and trade unions.
There are more than 1 million e-workers in the Netherlands. The total potential of e-workers is estimated at 2 million.11 So there is one million to go before the point of saturation will be reached. Philip Todd, director of the Dutch TelewerkForum, expects that the next 1 million teleworkers will be reached within 4 years, due to the introduction of broadband, UMTS and mobile computing [Heijltjes 2004].

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