People who have jobs and participate in society are generally healthier. This is why we support research that yields new insights into the relationships between work, income and health, to reduce socio-economic health disparities and to promote health and healthy behaviour at work.

Finding work and reducing personal debt

Knowledge that improves service levels at municipalities and the UWV

Municipalities offer support to residents in finding work and reducing personal debt. This principally concerns economically vulnerable residents and those who are disadvantaged on the labour market.

By developing innovative knowledge we strive towards an evidence-based practice: one in which professionals act on the basis of their own professional experience, of scientific knowledge, and of the needs and desires of clients. To this end we help municipalities and the UWV (the Netherlands Employee Insurance Agency) to deliver better services with regard to work and income. We also provide a knowledge infrastructure with which new and existing knowledge can be disseminated. Here is some of the knowledge being developed on re-integration, debt assistance, poverty reduction and guiding residence permit holders into work.

Debt and poverty

Debt and poverty are growing problems in the Netherlands. How can we tackle this poverty, and reduce the number of people with problematic debts? New working methods are being developed to give more effective help to those in debt, along three themes:
1. Living in poverty and social exclusion
2. Hidden poverty in various groups
3. Evaluation and effectiveness research into integrated, concurrent interventions

Economic independence and resilience women

In the Netherlands women still lag behind men in terms of economic and financial independence. Only 56% of women earn at least the minimum wage, compared to almost 77% of men, according to the Emancipation Monitor (2022) of Statistics Netherlands.

Our economic independence for women programme stimulates the development of knowledge for municipalities in the area of work and income. Here are four municipal projects that were launched so that female residents could be better mentored into work and economic independence.

Besides these initiatives at the local level, a variety of projects are working more broadly to increase the economic resilience of women. In these overarching projects researchers collaborate with social parties in a ‘living lab’ to derive concrete and scientifically founded approaches for all players in the ecosystem – from women themselves and their immediate surroundings, to municipalities, the UWV, local and national authorities, employers and their organisations, and social organisations – that enable economically vulnerable women to become independent and stay that way. Here are some of the projects.

Returning to work with health problems

An employee on long-term sickness absence has to cooperate with their employer to return to work. Can the opportunities for this re-integration be better exploited?

ZonMw-funded research contributes to improving the quality of the re-integration process of employees on long-term sick leave (the ‘gatekeeper process’) – for the original employer (in the original or another job) or for a different employer (the ‘second route’). ZonMw’s improving gatekeeper process quality and improving second route re-integration programmes stimulate knowledge development and exchange, and the use of innovative approaches by ergonomists, occupational physicians and insurance company doctors. This allows them to improve the re-integration process, both for employers and for employees. As an NWO domain, ZonMw also funds the KIC call for Meedoen op de arbeidsmarkt (‘Joining the job market’), supporting interdisciplinary research into technological innovations that allow people with a long-term illness or disability to nevertheless do work that is appropriate to their abilities.

Strengthening mental vitality amongst employees

Following the COVID pandemic many working people have needed some additional support to strengthen their mental vitality, for example as a result of prolonged health complaints or working partly or wholly from home. Our mental vitality amongst employees programme offers stakeholders the opportunity to hire in support and tools for employees through specially selected professionals. At the same time, it deploys and evaluates the most promising and innovative interventions in labour organisations.

No fewer than 17 of these projects have so far been launched in the fields of education, care and welfare, and government. These include projects at a number of secondary schools in Rotterdam, focusing on personal insight, direction and teamwork. All these projects work to deploy innovative interventions at the organisational level, with the aim of allowing working people to feel mentally fitter and stronger.

Socio-economic health differences in the workplace

People with a low socio-economic status are more likely to have health issues and a shorter healthy life expectancy. Knowledge from prevention research contributes to the reduction of socio-economic health disparities and the experience of health amongst employees. ZonMw’s healthy working programme stimulates research that focuses on the development of interventions that are applicable to the workplace, so that employees themselves can work towards a healthier life.