The Dutch are increasingly reporting sick at work. Absenteeism due to illness was 5.6 percent in the past quarter. That is the highest percentage since 2000.
Absenteeism has been rising since 2016, says the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Care reigned again. Absenteeism there was 8 percent in the last quarter of last year. Especially in nursing, care and home care, many people dropped out due to illness.
Other sectors where workers’ health is in poor health include water utilities and waste management, transport and storage, industry, public administration and education.
According to Peter Hein van Mulligen, chief economist at CBS, there are several reasons for the increase. “Last autumn there was a flu wave in the Netherlands. And corona was not completely gone either. In addition, it cannot be ruled out that the high workload led to more absenteeism.
This pressure of work plays a role in healthcare, for example. In this sector, which also includes childcare, this pressure leads to high absenteeism due to illness. Due to chronic staff shortages, employees have to work many shifts and taking time off can be a problem. And the more employees fall ill, the higher the workload becomes for the others. This in turn leads to more absenteeism.
It is common for absenteeism to be higher in autumn and winter. Flu and colds are still the main cause of absenteeism. But psychological complaints are also a major culprit.
The high workload also plays a role in other sectors. There is still more demand for personnel in the Netherlands than supply of people. Manufacturing companies, transporters or education; everywhere they scream for people.
Sickness absence is also a major economic loss. Insurer NN calculated that in 2021 absenteeism will cost 18 billion euros. Absenteeism was then lower than last year.
In some sectors, however, absenteeism went uphill. Absenteeism declined in agriculture and fisheries. Fewer employees reported sick in the catering industry as well. This is striking, because absenteeism in that sector rose sharply in the preceding quarters. In youth care, too, things went in the right direction with absenteeism.
Statistics Netherlands has been tracking absenteeism since 1996. Only in the fourth quarter of 2000 were more people sick at home than in the last quarter of last year. “But then legislation was introduced to tackle absenteeism. And that has worked. After 2002, absenteeism due to illness started to fall,” says Van Mulligen.
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