Science - September 15, 2005

Q&A / Working in the Netherlands

Many students look for a job to make some extra money while they are studying. Unfortunately, a round of several employment agencies in Wageningen made it clear that it is not easy to get a part-time job if you are a student from abroad.

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‘The fact that they don’t speak Dutch doesn’t help,’ explains Fenneke Deinema from the employment agency TempoTeam. But it is the legislation in particular that makes it difficult for foreign students to find a job. Students from outside the EU need a work permit and this takes a long time to obtain. ‘By that time, most vacancies have already been filled by others,’ says Deinema. Even for students from inside the EU, who don’t need a work permit, it is difficult. Most companies are just not keen on offering international students a job, as it is much easier for them to hire Dutch people.

So is it not even worth trying? Well, Indian student Sharadkumar Donga (doing an MSc in Management, Economics and Consumer Behaviour) proved that it is not impossible to find a job. ‘But you have to be really determined,’ he says. He got a job at a supermarket purely through his own persistence. ‘I looked for ages. Whenever I went to buy groceries I asked if I could work there, and finally the manager said yes.’

Although he sees advantages to working – he has learned more about Dutch culture and speaks a bit of the language – he would discourage others from doing the same. ‘It takes at least five to six months to get all the paperwork sorted out. First you need to have your residence permit, then you have to get a tax number and a work permit. And then a few months later your residence permit expires and you have to start the procedure all over again,’ Donga explains.

Students from outside the EU are not allowed to work for more than ten hours a week. According to Donga the amount of money you can earn in this time is not worth the effort, but more importantly he says you should not forget that it can affect your study. First, looking for a job takes a lot of time, but once you have got a job your whole time is taken up with just studying and working. That doesn’t leave much time for other activities. ‘I think it’s better to finish your study as early as possible and then try to work for the remaining time you have in the Netherlands,’ suggests Donga, who is now facing delays in his study as a result of his job.

But, if you are really set on finding a job, take a look at www.wau.nl/msc/jobs/index.html. Here you can find practical tips as well as the official rules set out by the Dutch government for international students wanting to work in the Netherlands. Next, despite only slim chances, go and pay a visit to the employment agencies. You never know. On the other hand you stand the best chance of finding a job by searching yourself. Contact companies in person, and get to know Dutch people. ‘It helped a lot that I lived on a corridor with Dutch people. You get connections, which may turn out to be useful in your search and it’s a good way to learn some basic Dutch. That at least helps you to decipher notes in shop windows which are advertising a vacancy for an employee (medewerker),’ says Donga. ‘Most important is don’t give up. Keep looking and you will succeed.’

Laurien Holtjer

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