May 23 (Reuters) — Job cuts in the Dutch civil service will go deeper than initially planned, affecting up to one in eight employees over the next five years as the Netherlands pushes ahead with austerity measures.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, re-elected in September, has had to cut billions of euros from the budget to bring the deficit down, although it is still expected to exceed the European Union's target of three per cent of economic output this year and possibly next.
Stef Blok, Minister for Housing and the Central Government Sector, said in a letter to parliament sent late on Wednesday night that between eight per cent and 12 per cent of a total 150,000 jobs in government and government agencies would be cut by 2018.
"State debt is running up and the budget deficit is too high. The cabinet has to spend within its means, and will bring government spending to a lower level," Blok said.
The cuts, equivalent to between 12,000 to 18,000 jobs, include about 10,000 which had already been announced and which were due to take place by 2015.
Rutte promised a smaller, leaner government when he was first elected in 2010, a move that has subsequently been criticised for making the Netherlands less visible and less influential on the international stage.
The Netherlands has been a strong supporter of fiscal discipline, but with the economy in recession and unemployment hitting 8.2 per cent in April, the debate over the need for austerity measures versus stimulus measures is lively, as in many other euro zone countries.