KRALENDIJK – Over a third of the 30,000 residents of Bonaire, Saba, and Sint-Eustatius live below the poverty line, even though they are employed. This is according to a report from the Commission for the social minimum of the Caribbean Netherlands, which urges for a just Social Minimum for these islands. Minister Carola Schouten and State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen received the report today.
The commission argues that minimum incomes must be significantly increased to achieve parity with the European part of the Netherlands, and calls for a just social minimum that is reassessed every four years.
The Dutch Nibud, which has investigated the costs for households on the islands, finds that income lags significantly behind expenditures, partly because necessities like housing and transportation are expensive on the islands.
The chairman of the commission, Glenn Thodé, emphasizes that the existence of a large group below the poverty line has led to social problems and a rising poverty line.
Compared to the current situation, the study shows that a single person in Bonaire needs over 1,500 dollars a month, while welfare is only a thousand dollars. The legal Minimum Wage is slightly over 1,200 dollars. Additionally, there is a shortage of social rental homes, which means many are reliant on the more expensive private market.
The cabinet has committed to allocate thirty million euros next year to improve the financial situation for the residents of these islands. This money will be used to increase the benefits in 2024. In addition to the benefits, there should also be a focus on raising the legal minimum wage and income-dependent allowances to address the poverty situation on the islands.
Thodé believes there is ample room for a just Social Minimum. He stresses that various ministries, including Social Affairs, Kingdom Relations, Finance, and Housing, need to collaborate to improve the situation, and urgent action is required.