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?

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28 responses to “Dikes & Dating Services

  1. What about the single guys that can’t find work and are on welfare? Will they be trying to hook them up with a well-off woman?

  2. It all sounds a little strange to me but must be normal for them. Lots of things are done for families here in France too and you’ve got to love that six weeks of vacation a year as well.

  3. Odd. I just came in here after watching Girl With A Pearl Earring. And I was thinking about the Dutch while I was watching it. They seem to be pretty progressive overall – and I thank them for lending the U.S. money back in the very beginning of becoming a nation – but my own personal experience was not so good. On my first trip to New Orleans back in the day, we stayed at an old style European type inn and there were Dutch guys next to us and they made a lot of really gross noises. And they were even loud talking. Maybe Cajun food just didn’t agree with their bread and cheese bellies.

  4. I think this is a rather clever idea! The make-over part is the key, not the dating site thing. If you get a whole new look you feel better about yourself & more confident, both of which are keys to having a good job interview. And hey, if you find a significant other in the process, is that so bad? Maybe they thought more people would be interested if they teamed it with the dating website? At least they are trying to do something to help people get out of the jobless & benefits rut.

  5. Dr. Monkey – How could you not love the country who brought you Ollie Bollen? (Translates into Oily Balls – google it)

    James – Yes, they will. It’s open to both sexes and completely voluntary.

    Linda – That’s the crazy thing about foreign countries, eh? They do so many strange things. Ha ha. However, I guess if there are guys out there looking for women and women struggling alone who would like to get married and a government that thinks the family unit is the most important thing…well?

    Geewits – Well, nobody said Dutch guys were particularly elegant and mature. I’m sure they have their share of jerks and regular guys like everyone else. Although, I must say with all the Dutch boys I grew up with I was never tempted to date any of them. Hmmmm.

    Kimberly – Oddly enough, so far there hasn’t been a lot of people signing up for this. If it were me, I would probably go for the make-over anyway. That can never hurt, right? One of the programs we have for unemployed people here is a Dress for Success type thing where women can go and get an outfit or two to go to job interviews with. Seems like something of the same premise, except without the husband.

    Friar – Like I said – up to 52%. But if you add up all our taxes we come pretty close to that and don’t get nearly the same benefits. We do, however, get a kick-ass G-20 summit. The Dutch don’t have one of those, do they? Hah!!

  6. I think its a fabulous idea! I think the life coach is the key to this “scheme” and the dating site is sort of a carrot.

    The biggest thing you can do for someone who is on welfare is remind them they still matter, and that having goals and dreams outside basic survival is A Good Thing. The dutch have the basic needs covered through their social services, making sure these people feel valuable can only do them good, regardless of whether or not they find love, a job, or some other personal goals.

  7. @XUP

    True… Our “tax Freedom Day” is pushing well into June.

    The Dutch can afford their lifestyle, because they don’t spend their money on things like $2 billion gun registries, $1 Billion E-health scandals, and $57,000 fake-lakes for reporters in downtown Toronto.

    I’d have moved there, if the place wasn’t so crowded. (Not to much wilderness canoe-camping over there…)

  8. Hey, whatever works… I’d like to see how it panned out in a couple of years. You will revisit this, won’t you?

  9. the dutch and scandinavians are so progressive. i think it’s odd and great all at the same time. i’m surprised that the take up is so small. why wouldn’t you do this? what are the down falls? stigma perhaps?

  10. I just don’t get it. If they are arranging makeovers and dating sites for the unemployed and welfare recipients where is the punishment part. Surely those godless socialists aren’t thinking of trying to help people without punishing them. I can’t see how this could ever work.
    If you just keep imprisoning anyone who doesn’t fit with the “normal” society programme eventually everyone will get in line and the world will be a better place.
    If it doesn’t seem to be working it’s because you aren’t punishing enough.

  11. @Dave1949
    If someone gave me a $1800 makeover and put me on a dating site with a 75% probability of success and I still couldn’t score, I assure you that I’d feel punished enough. 😉

  12. any idea how many people are on social assistance? just curious if it is low or not.
    i’d love to live somewhere where the goal is happiness. I would love to see it as an agenda item at the G-20 (Ladies, gentlemen, let’s kick this meeting off with a survey of who is genuinely happy – Stephen? Let’s start with you….)

  13. I guess this is called “social engineering”. Singapore has something similar including dating classes at University with the aim of having more intelligent children. They even have Love Boat cruises. If you get married as a result, the love cruise is free.

  14. Friar – Well maybe once that nasty wilderness is all nicely groomed with Walmarts and Costcos and Home Depots, you’ll be more tempted to move

    Jazz – There’s a lot of international outcry about this so I’m thinking they’re going to can the entire project.

    Smothermother – Most of the media are making this look like a very, very bad thing so people might be reluctant to get involved. I think one municipality has already pulled out of the project altogether.

    Dave1949 – Maybe you didn’t read the part about how they want them to get husbands. If that isn’t punishment, I don’t know what is.

    Meanie – The unemployment rate at 3.2% is the lowest in the EU (Canada’s is 8.1%.) The poverty rate in the Netherlands is 4.7%, which the second lowest in the EU Canada’s is 10.8% and we seem to be pretty happy with that since we’re not really doing anything at all about it.

    LGS – Love Cruises – do you have to stay married for any particular length of time or can you just cruise get married, get divorced, get married, get divorced and keep cruising for free?

  15. If they tried this in Canada, it would never work.

    The granola-grunchers, CBC do-gooders, G20-Protesters, Toronto star and Chronic Welfare Abusers would all hold candle-light vigils and scream “Human Rights”.

    Then the Govt. woudl budget $5 million for a feasibility study. But the cost would balloon to $1 Billion.

    That’s my prediction, anyway.

  16. I think this is a great idea!! Some people end up on welfare by no choice of their own and just need some help getting back on their feet. Like Mudmama said, “people need to feel like they matter” and that they are not forgotten, and that someone really does care. I know where I come from… if you are in the “system” you are just a number. You are treated awful and made to feel unworthy of anything you receive. Maybe if we had a program like this (or similar-maybe not even the dating part, just the life-coaching or incentives) more people would try to succeed and not “abuse” the benefits they are given.

  17. I’ve always been impressed by the progressive thinking in the Netherlands. The unemployment & poverty stats are telling and goverment self improvement/dating service is…unique. I wonder if hairstylists in training are doing the make-over or fancier salons? Bad hair could have negative effect on the program I think.

  18. Maybe if we had a program like this (or similar-maybe not even the dating part, just the life-coaching or incentives) more people would try to succeed and not “abuse” the benefits they are given.

    Personally, I’d just settle for benefits that actually help me to succeed. Like, let’s say, not having to look up to barely see minimum wage. Makeovers, dating services, what have you–those are all nice to have, don’t get me wrong, but sadly, good looks and a fancy new suit plus a low rental apartment that’s still well over half your monthly income is worth the low rental apartment. Just my $.02.

  19. James brings up an excellent point.

    Give people a decent JOB with a decent wage, that’s the best step towards building up their self-esteem.

    Get these people back on their feet first…THEN worry about the touchy-feely stuff like Life Coaching and and make-overs and group hugs.

    Good Lord…if immigrants and refugees from war-torn third-world countries can overcome their adversity and manage to earn a living, surely those of us who are born in Western Countries can do the same.

  20. Finola – Yup, it’s creative alright. Not a lot of people are happy about it though, so it may get cancelled.

    Friar – Not just Canada. There are some pretty negative media reports coming out about this from the UK and the US, too. I don’t really know what business it is of theirs, but there you go.

    Gayle – I don’t understand what you mean by “abuse the benefits” or how a make-over or a life-coach would prevent that?? I figure the people who are scamming the system aren’t going to be interested in anything like this anyway, are they?

    MM – Well, the dating service is first-class and the money they’re spending on the makeovers is pretty significant, so I will assume the Dutch are going to go first (or at least middle) class all the way. No First Choice.

    James – From what I’ve read, the Netherlands are pretty generous with their social assistance and everyone gets vacation money and all the extras for their kids. I don’t understand how our government comes up with the figures they come up with when they decide a person can live on social assistance. Maybe they find the town with the lowest cost of living in the entire country and base the benefits on that. It’s pathetic. So you’d better keep that 2 cents.

    Friar – In order for them to get a job, though they need to apply for jobs and go to job interviews. Showing up in their thrift store jeans and their First Choice hair cut doesn’t leave the same impression as showing up in a good suit and haircut. The Dutch have done a pretty damn good job of getting their people jobs with an unemployment rate of only 3.2% Perhaps those last few are somehow unemployable or chronically unemployed, which is why they want to marry them off.

  21. You know, your comment section is usually just as entertaining as your posts. This is probably the only blog where I return several times just to see what’s going on in the comments. All those visits from Montreal? That would probably be me.

  22. I am not saying that people on welfare don’t deserve to have a better life and a good relationship… NOOO… I mean that if the government is trying to pull them out from welfare, it is because most of them have been for so many years… am I right?? … some of them couldn’t have luck to find a job or an opportunity, but some of them are just lazy… so… chances are the dating system won’t work as planned…

    I was just thinking that who (an average successful, working one) will like to date with someone who is on welfare? It sounds a little weird for me… if I have been working, paying taxes and making my best effort to improve my quality of life, why I would like to date with someone that have been in welfare for long time. …

  23. Jazz – I don’t ever check to see where everyone is coming from anyway, but it’s nice to know people come back to follow the dialogue in the comments. I think the comments are usually the best part of the post, too. There’s a nice range of perspectives represented almost all the time which makes it interesting — not just a whole bunch of people agreeing with each other.

    Nathalia – Well, people on welfare aren’t diseased or anything — why wouldn’t they make good spouses for someone? There are all sorts of reasons someone might be on social assistance or might be unemployed. That doesn’t preclude them from being a good wife/mother or husband/father. Not everyone judges people by how much money they make or what they do for a living. Some people are just looking for a kind, loving person to be their life partner and companion and they don’t mind supporting that person financially for a while or even forever. Once upon a time women stayed home and looked after the household and children and men worked and supported them. Now, a woman who doesn’t have a career and isn’t contributing financially to the household is somehow a lesser human being.

  24. I can see where Nathalia’s coming from.

    Some people are temporarily on welfare, because they’re running through a difficult stretch in their life and need a little help. I have no problem with that.

    But there are also multi-generational families, able-bodied people, who abuse the system, for who welfare’s become a way of LIFE.

    And I’m sorry, I’m not interested in dating someone who comes from that background.

    I’m not trying to be a jerk. But those kind of values and beliefs just would not be compatible with mine.

  25. Friar – And I can understand why you wouldn’t be interested. But hey, some guys go to the Phillipines and pay big money to get a wife who speaks no English and who they know absolutely nothing about just to have a companion. Half the time the women take off as soon as they’re legal citizens and take most of the guy’s stuff with them. At least in the Netherlands, they have a better chance at actually having a real marriage.