Will work for beer? Program in Amsterdam pays alcoholic workers with beer

A program in Amsterdam pays its cleaning teams in beer.
A program in Amsterdam pays its cleaning teams in beer.
(Martin Divisek / Bloomberg)

No, you didn’t read that headline incorrectly. A mostly government-funded program in Amsterdam pays alcoholics who clean street litter with beer.

It’s all part of the Rainbow Foundation, a program started last year to help give alcoholics, homeless and drug addicts a fresh start.

“I’m not proud of being an alcoholic, but I am proud to have a job again,” program participant Fred Schiphorst told the New York Times.

Schiphorst starts working at 9 a.m. and is given two cans of beer. He is given two more beers at lunch and possibly a can or two more before the end of the day. The beer comes from whichever brewery gives the organization a decent price.


Participants also get lunch, half a packet of rolling tobacco and 10 euros a day. They can drink the beer before work and on their lunch break but not while out on the streets cleaning. If it sounds like people would be lining up for the job, it’s because they are. The program is so attractive, there is a long waiting list to join.

The program may seem odd, but it’s not the first of its kind. A similar beer-for-work system was tried in Canada and the Netherlands. Three districts in Amsterdam are participating. The Rainbow Foundation insists it purchases the alcohol for the program out of its own funds, not from the 80% of its financing it receives from the state.

As expected, reactions to this work payment have been mixed. Conservative Amsterdam City Council members are labeling it a waste of money in a city already known for drug use and its red-light district. But the Rainbow Foundation sees it as a practical solution.

“If you just say, ‘Stop drinking and we will help you,’ it doesn’t work,” said Rainbow Foundation director Hans Wijnands. “But if you say, ‘I will give you work for a few cans of beer during the day,’ they like it.”

Do you think the program could work here in the U.S.? Let us know in the comments below.

Want more quirky food and beverage news? Follow me on Twitter: @Jenn_Harris_


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