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Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


Netherlands

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TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 2.5 5.5 2


1. Constitutional, legislative or parliamentary affirmation of multiculturalism at the central and / or regional and municipal levels and the existence of a government ministry, secretariat or advisory board to implement this policy in consultation with ethnic communities

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 0

Evidence:

  • While the notion of “pillarization” had historically been popular in the Netherlands—referring generally to elite cooperation among religious and ideological communities—it began to lose favour in the 1960s. While not explicitly replaced by a discourse of multiculturalism, the Minorities’ Policy, which was passed in 1979, allowed for parallel institutional arrangements and could be considered “multiculturalist” (Entzinger 2006).
  • Such policies began to decline, however, with the focus shifting in the late 1990s to integration and assimilation. While integration policies do retain some of the influences of multiculturalism—particularly at the local level—there is no explicit affirmation of multiculturalism nor any separate ministry or agency to implement the policy. While there are some ethnic advisory bodies, these are far less powerful than they were in the past (Entzinger 2006; see also van Selm 2005).


2. The adoption of multiculturalism in school curriculum

   Permitted but not required. Adoption is uneven and declining.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • Dutch school boards have jurisdiction over their own curriculum and thus may decide the extent to which multiculturalism is included. While Entzinger (2006) notes that multiculturalism has been included in some ethnically diverse schools, in general the curriculum focus tends to be on integration rather than multiculturalism. In particular, emphasis is placed on Dutch language acquisition and programs that will facilitate immigrant children’s integration.
  • Because school boards are not required to include multiculturalism in their curriculum, application has tended to be uneven. As Leeman and Reid (2006, 65) note “since the 1970s school regulations insist teachers pay attention to intercultural education—that immigrants as well as the Dutch have to change in order to co-exist in a multicultural society … However, the content and pedagogies of intercultural education are not officially prescribed. Schools and teachers have considerable freedom in the way they bring intercultural education into practice.” Moreover, they suggest that “intercultural education is not a priority subject.”
  • Indeed, in a review of Dutch integration and education policies from 1970 to 2002, Rijkschroeff et al. (2005) note that there has been a precipitous decline in the extent to which cultural individuality is in encouraged in the school system. They distinguish between the socioeconomic, emancipatory and sociocultural dimensions of education policy, noting that while the sociocultural dimension (including education in a student’s “own culture and language”) was viewed to be important throughout the 1970s and 1980s, “the notion of ‘preserving a group’s own language and culture’ has disappeared: one’s own culture is at most something private and must not stand in the way of integration (Rijkschroeff et al. 2005, 424). They note, further, that “this point of view has recently become more radicalized. Learning one’s own language and ‘preserving’ one’s own identity is now viewed mainly as an obstacle to successful integration” (Rijkschroeff et al. 2005, 425).


3. The inclusion of ethnic representation / sensitivity in the mandate of public media or media licensing

   Partially.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1 0.5

Evidence:

  • Two policy documents, one on Minorities (Minderhedennota) and the other on the Media (Medianota), were released in 1983, and both signalled the lack of minority representation in the media. Several local experiments with minority media followed, and broadcast time was reserved for minority programming on the Dutch National Broadcaster (Bink n.d.). Mira Media, a national organization that brings together migrant associations to provide advice on minorities in the media, was founded in 1986. While not a broadcaster, Mira Media works in cooperation with media outlets to improve the representation of minorities in the media (Mira Media 2010).
  • Although the public broadcaster and media licensers do not explicitly include ethnic representation or sensitivity in their mandates, various religious and ideological associations are allocated broadcast hours on the national public broadcaster; this is an artifact of the pillarization policy (Entzinger 2006). While none of the groups are specifically ethnic minority associations, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim organizations are allocated some broadcast time (ibid.).
  • There is also a production company called MTNL (Multicultural Television in the Netherlands), which produces television programs for the country’s four largest minority groups (Surinamese, Antilleans, Moraccans and Turks), as well as a radio station called FunX, which caters to ethnic minority urban youth (van Hamersveld and Bína 2008).
  • Nonetheless, as Entzinger (2006) notes, there is still some distancing from multiculturalism in the Netherlands’ media policy, with the government discontinuing a previous policy that required a proportion of broadcasting time to focus on multiculturalism.


4. Exemptions from dress codes (either by statute or court cases)

   Some, but mixed.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0.5

Evidence:

  • Policies related to dress are typically set by schools, employers and other private institutions, and religious headwear is generally permitted, although some schools have banned the niqab, citing security concerns (Entzinger 2006; The Economist 2003). The debate often seeps from the private sphere into the public sphere. A motion to ban the wearing of the burqa in public was passed by the Dutch Parliament in 2005, and the Immigration and Integration Minister announced in 2006 that the government would introduce legislation that would forbid the covering of one’s face in public (BBC 2006). There were changes in the governing coalition, however, and as of yet, such a ban has not been passed.
  • The Equal Treatment Commission has sometimes intervened in disputes related to dress, although its rulings have favoured both sides. In one instance, the Commission ruled that police uniform policies that prohibit headscarves were discriminatory, although because the Commission has no powers of enforcement, the ruling has typically been ignored (Entzinger 2006); police organizations argue that “‘alternative headgear’ should not be introduced because a uniform should be ‘sober and express independence’” (Verhaar and Saharso 2004). In another instance, the Commission sided with a school that had prohibited three female students from wearing the niqab, arguing that eye contact is necessary in an educational setting and that this concern overrode freedom of religion (Commissie Gelijke Behandeling 2003).


5. Allows dual citizenship

   Although dual citizenship is technically not permitted, it is, de facto, allowed.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 0.5

Evidence:

  • While the Minorities’ Policy of the 1980s provided immigrant minorities with several rights, the acquisition of Dutch citizenship continued to be largely discouraged. In 1992, however, a policy allowing those who acquired a Dutch passport to retain dual citizenship was adopted, although it was rescinded just five years later as a result of the government’s concerns over conflicted loyalties (Entzinger 2006; see also De Hart 2004).
  • At present, “the basic rule is that once an individual has become a Dutch citizen by means of naturalisation, he must give up his old nationality” (Immigratie-en Naturalisatiedienst 2010). Some exceptions are granted, however; these include refugees, immigrants who marry a Dutch citizen, and those whose countries of origin prohibit renunciation, among others (Immigratie-en Naturalisatiedienst 2010; see also Entzinger 2006 and Niessen et al. 2007).
  • Nonetheless, Howard (2005, 709) notes that while the Netherlands de jure requires foreign nationals to renounce their citizenship in order to acquire Dutch nationality, there is a “de facto common practice of allowing naturalized citizens to maintain their prior citizenship.” The Kingdom Act on Dutch Nationality of 2003 reinforced this practice.


6. The funding of ethnic group organizations or activities

   Limited.

SCORES

Year:

1980

2000

2010

Score:

0.5

0.5

0.5

Evidence:

  • While funding for ethnic minorities was widespread in the 1970s and 1980s, the practice has declined precipitously in the current period. While Entzinger (2006) notes that funding for so-called intercultural activities is still available, support is generally not provided to initiatives that involve a single ethnic group. Moreover, organizations have been encouraged to become more financially independent (van Hamersveld and Bína 2008).
  • Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Netherlands’ largest ethnic minority groups received state funding to establish advisory bodies. Government departments were obliged to consider the advice of these ethnic advisory bodies. While the organizations continue to exist, they are less influential (Michalowski 2005).
  • The MIPEX does find that some public support is given to immigrant organizations that are involved in public consultations at the national level (Niessen et al. 2007). These are not, however, organizations specifically tasked with furthering the goals of ethnic minorities; rather, the funding supports their provision of advice to the government.


7. The funding of bilingual education or mother-tongue instruction

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1 0

Evidence:

  • Mother-tongue instruction was one of the cornerstones of the Minorities’ Policy, which was passed in the early 1980s, and the 1985 Primary Education Act gave legal status to mother-tongue teaching in the major immigrant languages (Baubock 2002). In the early 1990s, however, the mood began to shift, with mother-tongue instruction increasingly viewed as detrimental to integration (Entzinger 2006).
  • In their review of Dutch integration and education policies, Rijkschroeff et al. (2005, 425) note that while mother-tongue language instruction was provided throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it “became marginalized in the curriculum in the course of time, ultimately vanishing altogether.” This reflects the view, which has increased in prominence in the Netherlands, that cultural maintenance is an obstacle to integration. Integration policies thus focus increasingly on learning Dutch, participating fully in society, and addressing socioeconomic gaps between native-born and immigrant populations.


8. Affirmative action for disadvantaged immigrant groups

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1 0

Evidence:

  • Under the auspices of the Minorities’ Policy, a number of employment programs were introduced throughout the 1980s; these targeted disadvantaged groups, including immigrant minorities (Entzinger 2006). In 1994, these projects were formalized in the Act on the Promotion of Minority Groups in the Labour Market, which required employers to report on the representation of immigrant minorities within their workplaces (Nieuwboer 2004). However, no formal quotas were set, and many employers simply opted not to file reports. The law was rescinded in 2004 (Entzinger 2006).
  • Also passed in 1994 was the Equal Treatment Act, which included provisions for the creation of the Equal Treatment Commission. The Commission has the authority to investigate allegations of discrimination in employment and the workplace, although in a recent report it decried the lack of government-sponsored initiatives to encourage private employers to adopt codes of good conduct (Commissie Gelijke Behandeling 2004).

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