DZB “successfully” bullies the unemployed


If you read the annual reports and other stories by the reintegration company DZB in Leiden you regularly come across the word “success”, often without any explanation of what is actually meant by this. So what is success in the reintegration industry, according to DZB and according to us?

The original text in Dutch
Translated by Jet

As a naive reader you might think that success means the DZB has “helped” someone to find a paid job. In part this is indeed what the DZB means by “success”. For example, we can read in their final report of 2014 that 633 people have been sent to the DZB forced labour centre (the “Participation centre” as they call it) and 230 of them were assisted in finding a job or training through “mediation” (approximately 36 percent). The question that is not being asked here is: would these people not have found a job anyway?

Leiden forced labour report 2016
1. Many welfare claimants again referred to forced labour for periods longer than six weeks
2. DZB “successfully” bullies the unemployed
3. Observation? Be honest, counsellor Damen: forced labour is really about deterring, disciplining and exploiting!
4. Paper reality of councillor Damen is contradicted by the bottom-up reality
5. Why Leiden municipality is pouring loads of money into reintegration programmes (and only gets back a little bit)
6. About the psychological games the Leiden municipality plays with the jobless
7. Forced labourers in Leiden continuously threatened with benefit cuts

A major study from 2008 questions the value of reintegration programmes in general. “The meta-analysis of 93 evaluation studies on activating labour market policies resulted in some big question marks regarding the effectiveness of these policies in Europe.” This means reintegration programmes often do not help at all in finding paid work and regularly are counterproductive. Without these programmes people would have found paid work anyway. If the DZB or the municipality want to claim that their forced labour centre is a success they first need to prove their claim that indeed more people find jobs through the work of the centre than without it.

Our prediction: the Participation centre does not help people find jobs. Most of the people who end up in the Participation centre have only just requested unemployment benefits. When looking at the national figures we see that forty percent of these people get out of benefits within six months. This means they are the easiest target group to get into paid jobs. The forty and thirtysix percent mentioned above may not be entirely the same but they at least suggest that the Participation centre does not make a real difference as far as finding paid work, and it may even work to the contrary.


Another snag is that “assistance in finding a job” paints a far too positive picture of the harsh reality. In reality this often means: “either accept a shitty job or lose your benefits”. Jobless people have to accept any job that is offered to them, and that means the most unattractive work for the lowest possible pay, for a couple of hours a week at impossible hours, with flexible and temporary contracts. After these temporary contracts end most of them return to receiving benefits just as before. The conversations we have had in the past years with the forced labourers at the DZB show that this is not something we make up. We have talked to several people who have moved between temporary paid work and benefits, and in this circulation have ended up at the Participation centre various times.

Let’s have a look at the abovementioned Participation centre success story of thirtysix percent benefit recipients “outflow” from a different perspective. If thirtysix percent get out of benefits this means that sixtyfour percent still have not achieved this. They have followed useless job application trainings for nothing. They have packed screws or have been forced to work several months as “apprentice” or done other forms of forced labour without any result. On top of that, most of the thirtysix percent probably would have found paid work themselves, and the remaining percentage ended up in underpaid temporary jobs. How much misery and exploitation is involved in this so-called success story of the DZB?

It is also an illusion to think that this will solve even the smallest bit of the “problem” of unemployment. If one person finds this underpaid little job through the DZB it means someone else does not get it and that person ends up on unemployment benefits. It means the DZB is not a success at all looking at the wider perspective, because employment opportunities do not increase and the total unemployment does not decrease. In the end it comes down to nothing more than circulating jobless people.

Harassing people out of benefits

The reality is even more unpleasant. For the DZB “success” is not: helping people find a job. Its definition is far broader as we can read from the “Implementation plan Participation regulations DZB”. One of the targets mentioned is: “the percentage of jobseekers as inflow into the Participation process at DZB that flows out towards work or training, or goes without benefits, is forty percent”. Let me translate this euphemistical language into ordinary people language: the target is to get forty percent of the people who apply for unemployment benefits out of the benefits system in whatever way possible. A benefit recipient will cost the municipality money, so the less benefits the less Leiden municipality has to pay. When people find a job they no longer get unemployment benefits from Leiden municipality, but this is also the case when they move, start living together with someone with sufficient income, find a part-time job, are pensioned off, or simply are harassed out of benefits. Looking at it from this perspective the target is to make life as difficult as possible for benefit recipients.

This is quite explicitly described in the second quarter report 2012 of the DZB: “The intended result is to have four hunderd people less in the WWB per year. This can be achieved through paid work but also through outflow towards education (with study grants) and as a result of the so-called deterrent effect”. We find this back in the “Implementation plan Participation regulation”. This states that the obligation to register at the forced labour centre has a “gatekeeper function”. The statistics that are provided as illustration state: “In 2013 for example, thirtyseven of the 706 people in Leiden who were referred decided not to apply for unemployment benefits (a savings of over 500,000 euro on a yearly basis).” This means the municipality saves a huge amount of money. Looking at the registrations at the Participation centre between 2012 and 2014 five percent of these (115 people) have been harassed out of their benefits, amongst others by the Participation centre. In addition there were 187 people who did not qualify for benefits after all, which means they did forced labour for nothing, not even to safeguard their benefits.

These are just the ones who renounce benefits because of the threat of forced labour in the Participation centre. If we look at the figures of Leiden municipality that we obtained via a WOB-request (Government Information Act) we see that for example over a quarter of the benefits applicants have their application rejected or withdrawn. Who knows how many people have been harassed out of their benefits because of cuts or other types of forced labour? And who knows what happens to these people? The DZB and municipality do not care: these people no longer cost money. Hundreds of people have their basic rights taken away from them in this way.

Our success

For Leiden municipality and the DZB “success” means: getting and keeping as many people as possible out of benefits. What would we consider to be a “success”? The reintegration industry with all its people pressuring and force cannot per definition be successful in our opinion. We do not want a more efficient reintegration industry: we do not want any reintegration industry at all. We want to see everyone who is being harassed out of benefits be returned their benefits entitlements. We want more benefits, not less. We want people to decide themselves if and how much they want to work, what kind of training or education they want to follow, and what kind of paid or unpaid work they want to do. This puts our struggle diametrically opposed to any “successful” forced labour centre.

All figures used in this article have been taken from public documents of the municipality and the DZB or from documents that we obtained through a WOB-procedure.

Joris Hanse