Dutch cities increasingly polarised and segregated

The economies of the major Dutch cities are doing very well, with a high productivity and a healthy competition for skilled workers which lead to higher salaries.

The flipside is that, as a result, the difference between rich and poor is growing in the Dutch metropolitan areas.

These conclusions come from a March, 2016 publication by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, or Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving (PBL).

The report is called De verdeelde triomf (The divided triumph) and deals with the economic success of Dutch cities and its impact on people.

Dutch cities have strong economies

The report indicates that the number of jobs in the metropolitan areas have increased by 30 percent during the last 25 years, while that increase is only 20 percent outside of the cities.

Utrecht and Amsterdam have the best-paying jobs, largely due the growing business services sector.

This is also the reason for why these two cities have surpassed Rotterdam when it comes to job growth. The Rotterdam region once had the highest concentration of jobs in the Netherlands, but the business services field and related companies are mainly located in and around Utrecht and Amsterdam.

Same work pays more in the city

Working the same job will earn you an average of 8 percent more in The Hague and Rotterdam compared to areas outside of the metropolitan areas, while an identical position in Amsterdam has a 10 percent higher salary than outside of the city.

Not all cities have experienced the same economic progress, however. In Leeuwarden, Enschede and Heerlen the salaries are actually lower than outside their city limits.

Growing economic inequality

While most Dutch cities have experienced economic growth, economic inequality has also increased. In the metropolitan areas, the salary difference between the highest and lowest paying jobs has increased by 3,5 percent. In Amsterdam, it increased by 4 percent since 2006, the biggest increase in the country.

The PBL indicates in its report that Amsterdam is becoming increasingly polarised in two ways, in terms of socio-economic classes. Not only is there the growing income gap, but the groups at the very top and bottom of society are also increasing in size.

The increasing divide between rich and poor is because the salaries have steadily gone up for the upper classes, while low-paying jobs have the same wages as before.

Highest and lowest classes growing

The number of people belonging to the highest economic class and the lowest economic class has also increased. This second type of polarisation was the highest in Amsterdam, compared to the rest of the Netherlands.

In the period between 2001 and 2012, Amsterdammers with a high-paying job increased by 10 percent, and those with low-paying jobs increased by 9 percent.

The PBL states that this is not because more people with a low income moved to the city, but that many existing residents, who previously were in a higher income bracket, now earn significantly less compared to 2001.

For the highest socio-economic classes, new residents settling in the city make up a larger portion.

Class segregation in Dutch cities

Despite the growing divide between rich and poor in Amsterdam, in 2012 income-based segregation was actually the lowest in the Dutch capital compared to the other cities.

Between 2001 and 2012, this type of segregation increased the least in Amsterdam compared to the other metropolitan areas. In other cities, class-based segregation increased, with The Hague at the top as most segregated city in the Netherlands when it comes to income.

The PBL concludes that the segregation of lower income households is a consequence of Dutch economic policy that mainly focuses on the metropolitan regions as the engine for economic growth in the Netherlands. This has served to amplify economic segregation and polarisation in many Dutch cities.

Thomas Lundberg


Thomas Lundberg

Born as a Swede in the Netherlands, this life-long expat has spent his time in Belgium, the United States and Amsterdam. He began his professional career as a regional news...

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