Dutch integration is on right track
Young Moroccans: harsh political response. Just a few comments made by politicians from across the political spectrum during a recent debate about integration in the Dutch parliament. It sounds pretty bad.
"People have had enough!"
"We can't pamper them anymore; we have to put our foot down."
"We're plagued by an epidemic of Moroccan violence."
Just how did Dutch integration fail so badly? The answer: it didn't.
Despite heated debates in Dutch politics, integration in the Netherlands is going well. That's one of the conclusions of the annual report on Dutch society published by the Dutch national statistics organisation Statistics Netherlands (CBS).
The CBS report shows that non-western immigrants, and their children, are closing gaps with native Dutch citizens in various areas. More immigrants are enrolled in higher education and more are graduating from secondary school. There's also been a sharp rise in the number of immigrants in the workforce.
Jan Latten, a researcher at Statistics Netherlands, worked on the report. He says employment helps people identify with the society around them.
"When you work, you meet colleagues, you speak better Dutch, you might have to take the bus, you have to know the way to work. It adds to the social cohesion. Work gives structure to your life. Those who stay on the sidelines have a tough time taking part in other things. So it also has social consequences."
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende (pictured left) says he is pleased by these developments:
"You can see at this moment the second generation is doing better than the first generation, when we think about labour participation, and the fact that people are following higher education. These are really positive signals."
And there's more. The CBS report says social cohesion is improving. Membership of social organisations has risen, and people reported having more contact with their neighbours. Political participation has also improved.
But the CBS report is not just good news. More people say they're bothered by anti-social behaviour, particularly that of teenage boys from a Moroccan background. The problems caused by young Dutch-Moroccan boys have attracted a lot of attention, and led to calls for a harsh response too.
Focus on the young
Prime Minister Balkenende says his government will continue to focus on this group.
"Young people are behaving many times in a very bad way. That leads to irritation, and people cannot accept that. That means that we have to be very strict as far as these young persons are concerned because they are not willing to participate in society."
Mr Balkenende admits the group of young Moroccans causing trouble is not large. And he doesn't mention another trend brought to light by the CBS report. Overall, crime is down, and people feel safer in their own neighbourhoods than in previous years.
Immigrant (20 percent of the population): 13,200,000
Western immigrant: 3,200,000
Non-western immigrant: 1,450,000 / 1,750,000
Integration isn't the only aspect of life in the Netherlands that's going better. Dutch people are eating better, drinking less, getting better health care, and, as a consequence, living longer.
And they're complaining more: the CBS report says nothing about the Dutch temperament, but residents of this small, crowded country tend to accentuate the negative.
Webster University, a US university with a campuses in the Dutch 'university city' of Leiden, has done a study in the run-up to the US Thanksgiving holiday. The Webster study shows that even though they have much to be thankful for, the Dutch are an ungrateful folk.
So politicians who focus on immigrant crime and antisocial behaviour among Moroccan youth are not an exception; like everyone else in the Netherlands, they just don't realize how good they've got it.