Labour shortages can be solved if we start taking part-time workers seriously

OPINION By Eduard Schaepman, Founder and CEO of Tribes

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In numerous sectors, a shortage of labour has long caused major problems such as backlogs, poor service and overworked employees.

A recent report by De Nederlandsche Bank now shows that an important part of the labour potential, the part-time workers, is underused. Part-time workers are willing to work more if they are asked to do so, but there must be money in return. Working from home should also be easier.

Yet the most important driver for part-time workers to work more - as also mentioned in the report - is as obvious as it is underexposed: fun. And that is exactly where the shoe pinches. The Netherlands is a champion of part-time working. We have a population of 13.3 million people between the ages of 15 and 65, of which 10.1 million people can be counted in the labour force. Of the 9.7 million people who work there, an incredible 4.7 million work part-time, or 48%.


Speaking of unused labour potential. There are currently 400,000 unfilled vacancies in the Netherlands. With 4.7 million part-time workers, a large part of whom would like to work more in principle, these should be able to be filled without any problems.

An interesting fact is that the largest number of part-time workers can be found in the healthcare sector. No fewer than 86% of nurses work part-time. Among specialised nurses this is 76% and the same applies to 56% of lab technicians. There is no doubt that a significant proportion of these healthcare professionals want to work more, but do not do so due to a lack of job satisfaction.

A frequently heard complaint is still that healthcare workers increasingly have to do work for which they have not been trained and for which they are not interested in. Administrative tasks, excessively simple work, routine, repetition and too much physical strain. It not only makes the work hard, but above all much less fun.

Two insights

In short, the aforementioned report exposes two insights. The first is that there is an enormous but unnecessarily untapped labour potential. The second - and this is more fundamental - is that we don't take a large group of highly employable people seriously.

Let's therefore turn the principle of 'you work to live' around and use it on 'you live to work'. This implies an emphatic assignment to employers to ensure that people enjoy themselves, feel valued and are allowed to do what they do best.

Of course, this also includes a decent salary, but that should not be the primary reason why people work in a specific position and at a specific organisation.

Enjoyment at work

Let's take people seriously again by determining for each individual what 'enjoyment at work' means and also give substance to it. Deploying people where they do best, based on individual preferences rather than the preferences or assumptions of the organisation.

If that were the starting point within organisations, many part-time workers would undoubtedly become full-time workers.

Published in De Gooi-en Eemlander

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