Dikes & Dating Services

Ah, the Dutch! If they’re not the most practical people on earth, I’ll eat my klumpen  (if I had any).

I grew up with a lot of Dutch people. They all had at least half a dozen kids; everyone in the family from youngest to oldest worked – around the house, on the farm, outside the home, whatever. Nobody sat around….until the weekend and then nothing would entice them to lift a finger that wasn’t for recreational purposes.

The main thing that always impressed me about the Dutch is that they manage their time and money so nothing is ever wasted.

Policymakers in the Netherlands believe that if a problem, like drugs or prostitution, have proven to be unsolvable, it’s better to try controlling it, instead of continuing to try enforcing expensive, time-wasting laws that have little or no effect. So, they’ve decriminalized sales of sex and soft drugs, regulated and taxed the industries to try and make them as safe as possible, and still maintain some control over things.

Of course it’s not all sunshine and roses, as anyone who’s ever visited Amsterdam can attest, but it’s probably the most practical solution.

So now the Dutch have turned their little practical noggins to the problem of the unemployed and those on welfare. Their solution, as usual,  is causing something of a hue and cry in other countries and within the Netherlands themselves.

It seems a group of northern Dutch city councils have joined together to help get people off welfare by offering them free makeovers and a profile on an exclusive dating site.

The makeover package, which is costing the councils about $1800 per client, includes a new hairstyle, a new outfit and a session with a life coach with tips on how to present themselves and how to attract a spouse. They also get a professional photo for their profile on the Dutch dating site Mens & Relatie (People and Relationships) which has a 75% matchmaking success rate.

The Dutch say the makeover and skills learned don’t have to be used exclusively to find a mate.

If you go for a job interview or on an interview for a new partner, it is almost the same thing. You must be sure you look good, you take care of your body and your face and you say the right things.

The media, of course, is focusing on the notion that this is a scheme to marry off women on welfare to nice, solvent husbands. The Dutch are not exactly denying this. And so what?

To the Dutch, nothing is better for a person than to be part of a good, stable (preferably large) family. But no one is being forced into marriage. Nobody’s benefits are going to be cut off if they don’t find a husband. The women are free to use their new spruced up images to find jobs instead.

The Dutch are practical enough that they can be both a capitalist and a socialist country at the same time. They pretty much invented the multinational corporation and continue to be one of the world’s major economic powers. On the other hand, taxes are very high – up to 52% of income — and they have an excellent universal health care system and a very generous social security scheme.

Their goal is to “make people happy”. Happiness, to them means financial security, ample leisure time, productive work time and being part of a family. Many of their social benefits are geared toward families.

UNICEF places the Netherlands at the top of their list of countries who best provide for the well-being of their children. For instance, when a couple has a baby, the state pays for someone to come in 5 hours per day for a full week to do their housework, cooking, cleaning and help them look after the infant.

All parents receive significant quarterly payments to help with the cost of child-rearing. They get extra money annually to pay for school fees and materials. Daycare is reimbursed up to 70%. Everyone gets a bonus every year just before summer vacation of 8% of their annual salary for vacation expenses – this is on top of the salary you will continue to receive while you’re on your minimum 4-week vacation. The unemployed also get vacation money so they can have a little break to put them in better spirits for job hunting.

So, given this mindset, is it really so bizarre to try and marry-off single women and single men (perhaps even single parents) to ensure a happier, more secure lifestyle for them – and incidentally get them off social benefits?