Sunday , May 28 2023

Social security in BES islands

The Caribisch Netwerk published an article discussion the social security situation on the BES islands. They claim that, even after the reductions of 1 January of the package benefits in the Netherlands, the residents of the Dutch municipalities in the Caribbean have fewer rights when it comes to social benefits.

In the Netherlands there are many different support options depending on the specific circumstances of the persons in need. Subject to specific age and living situations, there is a helping hand for those in need. However, for those residing on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (BES) there is only one type of benefit: the Onderstand. This is a fixed amount for every resident who is unemployed or disabled.

The rule is simple. Residents of the Caribbean Netherlands, who are older than 18 years and who are not able to earn enough to provide for their living and who have lived on one of the islands for at least 5 years, can claim Onderstand.

In 2015, the basic amount of the Onderstand on Bonaire was set at $ 90 dollars per two weeks. That’s the one dollar more than last year.

The right to Onderstand stops if your partner has an income, even if only the minimum wage. Sometimes a small individual fee is added to the basic amount of the Onderstand , for example for those who live independently and anyone with children or who need expensive care.

“There may be differences with the Netherlands like the size of the islands, their geographical location and economic development,” said an employee of Social Affairs and Employment on Bonaire, the department where you can apply for relief.

But for for the residents of the Dutch Caribbean Islands there is no transitional payment, partner allowance, combination discount, asbestos settlement, housing allowance, carer complement or care allowance.

The beautiful ZVK office on Bonaire (Photo Belkis Osepa)
The beautiful ZVK office on Bonaire
(Photo Belkis Osepa)

What does exist?

Child support equal to an amount between 191 and 273 euros per child per quarter that is paid to residents of the European Netherlands will not be implemented here.  According to an employee of the Social Services on Bonaire, from 2016 onwards, an amount of $ 38 per child will be paid.


On Bonaire, there is a special relief fund for parents who earn less than the minimum wage and have children in high school. It is an annual, one-time fee for school supplies. There is no extra allowance for parents with disabled children. In the Netherlands, those persons are eligible for double child allowance and an additional amount of 1,460 euros for a single parent or sole earner.

Social Affairs

Besides that on in the Caribbean Netherlands the minimum wage almost half is of that in the Netherlands and pensions are much smaller, but, according to Nibud, the cost of living is higher than in the Netherlands.

So on Bonaire AOV, AWW, Accident Insurance Act and the Health Insurance Act exist, similar to the state pension OAW, the Survivors Insurance and sickness in the Netherlands, but the amounts are much lower.

But whoever is enjoying already benefits from Netherlands and moves to the Caribbean Netherlands does not have to join to the lower local level. They can take the benefits from the Netherlands ‘take’ to the island. Thus, all who could claim AOW, WAO, WAZ, WIA, ANW or sickness, there in the sunshine tasty further enjoy. Of course, one also needs to consider, that they have paid the significantly higher insurances premiums during the time they have acquired their rights.

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