Minister Schouten visited the Caribbean Netherlands this week. The main reason was to get to know Saba, St. Eustatius, and Bonaire better. But she also announced several measures aimed at securing livelihoods, which she will start working on immediately.
The possibilities for everyone to participate in the labor market and the approach to poverty were topics of discussion during the visit of Minister Carola Schouten (Poverty Policy, Participation, and Pensions) to the Caribbean Netherlands. She witnessed and heard from up close how many people on the islands have to deal with financial challenges. The minister, announces that from her end, she is prepared to take the necessary steps on the income side so that the social minimum benchmark can be realized in 2025. She puts her money where her mouth is by immediately announcing that she will increase the social relief for people living on their own and for those entitled to social relief who live in a joint household, as well as the child benefit.
Minister Schouten: “The number of people living in poverty is alarming and we must all do something about it together. I am going to talk to the Public Entities and social partners about raising the legal minimum wage. Ahead of those discussions, I am taking the step that I can in my role: raising some benefits to increase social and economic security. It is important that people experience some short-term relief in their pockets.”
Single persons living on their own receive as of the 1st of July this year an increase of $78 per month on Bonaire, $95 per month on Sint Eustatius, and $93 per month on Saba. For two people living together the social relief will be increased additionally to $86 per month on Bonaire, $106 per month on Sint Eustatius, and $104 per month on Saba. So couples then receive a total increase of $164 per month on Bonaire, $201 per month on Sint Eustatius, and $197 per month on Saba.
As of the 1st of July, the child benefit will be increased by $10 per child per month. As of January 2023, another $10 per month will be added. Earlier, the double child benefit for parents and children with intensive care needs was announced. Because this scheme can only be realized as of July 2023, these parents can qualify for an extra contribution already this year.
Modernizing social security and strengthening the labor market
Minister Schouten is also looking at modernizing the social security system. “Currently, there is no stable income provision available for the unemployed. We are changing this by introducing an unemployment benefit. This scheme takes time, but the commitment is to arrange it during this parliamentary period.”
Also during the visit, there were many discussions about broad participation in the labor market. In order to actually give everyone a chance, also those who need extra support, there will be a pilot on St. Eustatius for a first social workplace and on Saba for a second social workplace. Minister Schouten is also structurally setting aside 1 million Euros extra per year to strengthen the labor market on all three islands. This extra money will be used for, among other things, work-to-work guidance, training, and for the guidance of young people and people with a distance to the labor market. The exact details will be discussed with the islands in the short term.