Did he get excited when he heard the news? "I had to think about it for a while," says Lindeboom modestly, "because I currently work as a Crown member at the Social and Economic Council (SER) and I am also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Health Economics. Both positions I exercise with great pleasure." The VU economist took some time to let the WRR request sink in and eventually decided to accept it. That was partly due to the fact that his last term at the Journal of Health Economics expires at the end of 2023. The same goes for the SER in early 2024, thereby creating more time for new challenges.
The prospect of moving from one advisory board to another is also a delightful thing, confirms Lindeboom. At the SER, he occasionally has to manoeuver politically to force a compromise from both employers and unions which both parties can support. Operating as an "oilman" between the two parties is less suited to him. Lindeboom: "That's not where my strength lies. It's more in science."
Although he enjoys his work at the SER and learns a lot about the political game, there's nothing that can beat the pleasure of doing pure scientific research. And he gets that opportunity at the WRR, where he will advise the government on various social issues. "And of course we are also allowed to put forward unsolicited topics ourselves that we think the government should consider in the long term," says Lindeboom.
Inequality and poverty
One such topic that is high on the VU economist's agenda is the issue of inequality. Many people, especially at the bottom of the labor market, face financial problems and live sometimes close below the poverty line. "There are all kinds of benefits to ease your financial burden," says Lindeboom, "but many people are unaware of the existence of such provisions. Even though they are entitled to have them."
Lindeboom has already discovered in his previous studies that the mental health of people living in poverty is very fragile. "If you are already in debt and have bills coming in, you don't open those envelopes anymore in the long run. Small debts thus turn into a mountain of debt in a short time. This leads to inequality in all areas: in health, in socio-economic status, in education, in the labor market, you name it. People fall into a cycle from which they can no longer escape."
Lindeboom sees it as a challenge to figure out how the partitions between the government departments that facilitate such services can interact better with each other and how government policy can best respond to this in order to reduce the disparities in inequality.
About the WRR
The Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) informs and advises the government and parliament on major social issues. From artificial intelligence to migration diversity and from sustainable care to the future of work. The WRR's advice is scientifically based and oriented towards the long term. The WRR works independently, multidisciplinary and across sectors.