Discrimination in the Netherlands

Despite the constitution, various groups (particularly immigrants) find themselves in a disadvantaged position. This creates the danger of the formation of an ethnic underclass. There are two explanations for being in a disadvantaged position. These are position-acquiring and position-assigning factors. Positive factors are the capabilities and efforts of people themselves, they have control over them. They have less control over position-assigning factors. These are the social environment and society in which they live. These factors determine the opportunities someone gets.

Position-assigning factors

Factors determine the difficulty of achieving a higher position for immigrants. The most important are:

  • the average low level of education
  • technological developments that eliminate many jobs for low and unskilled workers
  • the opacity of the labor market, which is especially important for immigrants
  • discrimination
  • and (sometimes) language deficiency in Dutch



Discrimination starts with stereotypical images (exaggerated assumptions about a group that are not true). These can lead to prejudice and then to xenophobia (fear of foreigners) or discrimination (unequal treatment based on characteristics that actually do not matter at all, such as skin color).

There are 3 forms of discrimination:

  • Direct (intentionally and openly excluding a group, e.g. not allowing an immigrant somewhere)
  • Indirect (unintentionally and hiddenly excluding a group, e.g. not hiring a native as a dishwasher because he cannot speak Dutch)
  • Institutional (exclusion due to all kinds of existing regulations, e.g. immigrants with temporary contracts and ‘last in, first out’)

A more extreme form of discrimination is racism (a way of thinking that assumes that a certain group of people are worth less than another group. This can be based on external characteristics (classic racism) or on the basis of human capabilities or certain behavioral tendencies (modern racism).There

are several causes of group distinctions , such as:

  • Naturalness of one’s own culture
  • Fear of the ‘new’
  • Scapegoat thinking (everything is their fault)
  • Developing a sense of belonging (a community is best held together by an external enemy)


Position-acquiring factors

A problem with regard to the position-acquisition factors is ethnicization (group formation based on common origin and culture). Immigrants start living near each other and thus form a close-knit neighborhood with newcomers. Ethnicization has advantages and disadvantages. From the safe neighborhood, immigrants try to get a fair place in society, but ethnicization can also lead to opposition to the dominant culture of society.

Proponents of ethnicization believe that someone can better integrate into society by having a clear identity of their own. This way they can gain a better social position. The integration takes a little longer, but it is better.

Opponents think that interest in Dutch culture is limited by ethnicization. Foreigners fall back on their own culture, do not speak Dutch and live in their own atmosphere. Ethnicization is a means that ensures that leaders preserve the members of the neighborhood from the bad ‘outside world’.


Left-wing politicians believe that discrimination in the labor market should be fiercely tackled. They are for positive discrimination. An open culture of interaction is necessary. Right-wing politicians believe that immigrants lock themselves up too much. They have to take care of themselves and go to school and learn Dutch. They are not victims, that image gives a negative group identity. Central politicians believe that integration is something that must come from both sides. By working together, differences become smaller and prejudices can be removed.

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