Amsterdam ruled by “dominant white culture”

Amsterdam ruled by “dominant white culture”

9th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Amsterdam is almost entirely run by white Dutch people. There is hardly anyone from an immigrant background on the boards of directors of any of the capital city’s private or public organisations.

Members of the establishment simply pass on the top jobs to old university friends, and non-Dutch people are excluded.

This is the conclusion of Amsterdam’s Advisory Council for Diversity and Integration. The council based its conclusion on a survey that included bodies ranging from housing corporations, hospitals and social services to cultural organisations and higher education institutions. And in local government, the picture is no different.


Chair of the Advisory Council, Ankie Verlaan, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, “If you look at the make-up of the population, the executives don’t reflect the population.”

The 66 directors and board members of Amsterdam housing corporations include not a single immigrant. In social services organisations, not one of the 46 directors has a non-Dutch background. A similar picture emerges in higher education, where there are only four immigrants out of 70 board members, and in the cultural sector the proportion is just two out of 48.

Ankie Verlaan says there is a “dominant white culture” within organisations which is hard to break through. She says that although boards of directors and supervisory boards are not deliberately excluding people from ethnic minority backgrounds, the problem is they simply don’t know people from these communities. And people in top jobs tend to pass on positions to people in their own circle of friends and acquaintances.


By “white”, the council is referring to native Dutch people, as opposed to non-Western immigrants. They come from countries ranging from Turkey and Morocco to Surinam and the Dutch Antilles. Smaller non-Western immigrant groups in the Netherlands are from countries including Indonesia, China, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Around 40 percent of immigrants in the country are from other European countries.

In the country as a whole, the total number of both Western and non-Western immigrants combined make up around 16 percent of the population. However, in Amsterdam, just over half the population are not native Dutch.

Dutch phenomenon

The Advisory Council says Amsterdam has been promising for years to improve the balance of the ethnic make-up in its ruling bodies to reflect the city’s population, but virtually nothing has changed.

Photo Flickr © aloxe
Amsterdam: Museumplein

What’s more, Ankie Verlaan stresses that this is by no means just an Amsterdam problem, but occurs nationwide.

“It’s a typical Dutch phenomenon. You go to university, you join a typical student fraternity with a white culture, and that’s where you know everybody, and all your life they remain your circle of friends, and that’s what you draw on.”

Radio Netherlands


Photo credit: aloe

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