Massive spike in reports of discrimination in the Netherlands

The 2013 annual report from The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (College voor de Rechten van de Mens) has revealed there was a 75 per cent increase in queries concerning discrimination from 2012.

Queries concerning possible discrimination on people’s origins more than doubled, while questions concerning pregnancy quadrupled. Over half of the all the queries concerned discrimination in the labour market.

Workplace discrimination in the Netherlands

The report states that in 2013 the Institute answered 2.581 queries, received 498 requests for a judgment and delivered 183. Of the large number of queries made, the greatest increase was on the issue of a person's origins or ethnicity, which increased from 14 to 18 per cent.

Of the 183 judgements the Institute made, the three most common areas for discrimination were gender (22 per cent), disability or chronic illness (17 per cent) and age (17 per cent). Complaints received included ones from people who said they were refused traineeships because of the skin colour or because they wore a headscarf.

Unconscious discrimination a growing problem

More and more organisations are showing evidence of discrimination, according to the report: up to 62 per cent, from 56 per cent in 2011, an increase that has been happening for several years now.

More positively, however, in 77 per cent of these cases the discriminatory organisation took measures to reverse or prevent future discrimination, a seven per cent increase from 2012. The Institute takes this to show that organisations often do not realise that they are discriminating.

This report states that one of the solutions to discrimination is greater awareness: if a person does not know what discrimination is, then he or she does not know if they are being discriminated against or discriminating against someone else. It also called on the government to take a leading role in the observance of human rights and act vigorously against discrimination.

Other reports on discrimination in the Netherlands

Also in 2013, the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) wrote that the Netherlands needs to do more to tackle racism, focusing in particular on the opportunities for people to report discrimination and the government’s actions to combat it.

Shortly after this, Amnesty International reported that the Dutch police were using ethnic profiling. These reports have resulted in an investigation by The Netherlands Institute for Social Research on perceived discrimination.

The researchers presented specific situations to people and asked them whether they had experienced these situations and whether they felt this was discrimination.

They asked both the Dutch population in general and specific groups in particular, including people of Moroccan, Turkish, Surinamese, Antillean and Central and Eastern European backgrounds, as well people with people with disabilities.

Incidents of perceived discrimination

The report on the research found that 24 per cent of people, a high proportion of which were migrants, had experienced an incident in the past year which they felt was discriminatory. These incidents occurred primarily in public space or when looking for work, with age and sex two important grounds for discrimination, as well as ethnic origin and skin colour.

The report also charted the consequences of discrimination: almost half of working people who had such an experience now enjoy their work less, while seven per cent gave up work altogether, and a quarter of students with a perceived experience of discrimination were making less effort, and two per cent had dropped out.

The report concluded that the high percentages of perceived discrimination among migrant groups may be a result of the "negative climate" prevalent in the Netherlands concerning immigration. "For almost 20 years, around half the Dutch population has felt that there are too many people of different nationalities living in the Netherlands," the report said.

The Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Lodewijk Asscher announced recently that the Dutch government would be releasing a package of measures against discrimination in employment soon.

Go here to read more on discrimination in the Netherlands.

Alexandra Gowling


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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