During the final quarter of the 20th century there was an increasing overlap between the social facilities provided by the company and those provided by the state. The Dutch welfare state, which had developed at a rapid rate, provided a wide range of benefits, public healthcare, social housing, open-access education, student finance, and subsidies for sports and cultural pursuits. This led to a debate about which responsibilities should be taken by the government and which by companies. There was criticism from many quarters, including labor unions and politicians, of what was perceived as Philips’ dominant position in society. It is also important to note here that as prosperity rose, so employees became more emancipated and more vocal. According to popular opinion, Philips’ social policy exhibited paternalistic traits, and that was not in keeping with a modern welfare state. The company responded by gradually amending the social provisions it offered in order to better suit the changing circumstances and needs.
A major change took place in 1980 when the primary healthcare provided by the Philips Medical Service started to be provided by an independent body. Most Philips employees felt it was no longer appropriate for the doctors or social workers treating them to also be employed by the company. Several dozen company doctors, nurses and pharmacists found new jobs at the Philips Healthcare Centers Eindhoven (Stichting Gezondheidscentra Eindhoven) that were set up to provide healthcare on an independent basis. Following this, it became clear that the Philips schools – which ranged from nursery schools to vocational training institutes – would also function more effectively if they were public bodies. The many Philips sports and leisure associations also started to operate independently, although a considerable number of them continued to be financed (to some extent) by Philips. This was also the case for the professional section of the PSV football association. Another major change was the transfer of almost all of the company’s housing stock – in excess of 17,000 rental properties – to the Hertog Hendrik van Lotharingen housing association. The company’s decision to allow its social facilities to operate independently or to terminate these facilities was in some cases driven by financial motives, but more often than not there were other more important considerations. For example, at the end of the 20th century hardly any claims were being made on the Philips Support Fund that had been set up to help employees who were in financial difficulty. When the decision was announced to close the Van der Willigenfonds many people felt very emotional. For more than 101 years this fund had enabled tens of thousands of students to access further education.
The rise in prosperity and changes in social and economic circumstances have led to changes in Philips’ social policy. However, the company’s ambition to strive for the highest possible social standards has remained unchanged and is still firmly embedded in the company culture. These days Philips’ social policy forms part of the ESG Commitments. These commitments not only define the company’s obligations to its own employees, they also define Philips’ responsibility towards workers in its supply chain. This is all part of Philips’ overall aim to improve the lives of billions of people all over the world.