• Rank: 11 out of 38
  • MIPEX Score: 60
  • HEALTH 55

Key Findings

Changes in context

  • One of Europe’s long-established destination countries, with 11.5% born abroad, mostly from medium-to-low developed non-EU countries and most with low-to-medium levels of education
  • NL public still express some of the greatest support for integration and equal rights, alongside citizens of Northern Europe and traditional countries of immigration (e.g. in 2012 85% thought legal immigrants should have the same rights as NL citizens)
  • New 2012 grand coalition after collapse of 2010 right-wing government with support of far-right
  • Numbers of non-EU newcomers decreased from 2008-2012 but returned to previous levels in 2013: increases were significant for international students and small for labour migrants; 2013 increase in humanitarian migrants and all types of reuniting families
  • Asylum requests nearly doubled from 2013-to-2014 to 24,500, mostly SY and ER citizens, with >90% chance to be recognised as beneficiaries of international protection

Key Common Statistics

Country of net migration since:% Non-EU citizens% Foreign-born% Non-EU of foreign-born% Non-EU university-educated % from low or medium-developed (HDI) country
UN 2010 data in 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013Note: Adults aged 18-64, Eurostat 2013Eurostat 2013

Changes in policy

While few NL policies changed from 2007-2010, the far right continued to politicise integation policy, set the terms of the debate and pressure government for restrictions. From 2010-2014, the NL abandoned its traditional commitment to equal opportunities for immigrants and dropped -8 points on MIPEX, more than any other country has from 2007-2014. The NL is no longer a leader on integration policy, with many looking instead to the slow but steady improvements in DE and the high levels of ambition in the Nordics and traditional countries of immigration. The NL is largely on its own in its new approach to integration. The only other country taking a similar turn is the UK, due to the government's pledge to cap migration to tends of thousands and to pursue austerity and localism.

The current NL approach to integration could be called a 'policy of no policy.' Immigrant adults are demanded but not supported to learn the NL language and its core civic values, with 'loans' replacing the grants and free courses provided traditionally by NL and by most other countries. Immigrants are expected to be employed, healthy and civically active but without the targeted support to overcome any specific obstacles they face in NL society. According to the current government's understanding of mainstreaming, it's up to immigrants to pay and do it themselves and up to mainstream institutions to respond. While immigrants are required to integrate, mainstream institutions are not required to open up and no role is foreseen for integration policymakers or immigrant civil society to build bridges between the two. This radical reversal has undermined integration policies in nearly all areas of life, especially the labour market, political participation and education. The previous and current NL governments have also continued to restrict family reunion, leading to few measurable benefits and many potentially negative impacts for integration. 

Conclusions and recommendations

Overall, MIPEX suggests that the NL's approach to integration barely qualifies as 'slightly favourable' for guaranteeing equal rights and opportunities for immigrants, scoring 60/100. Newcomers still benefit from equal socio-economic rights, relatively strong anti-discrimination laws and a basic entitlement to NL citizenship, while their children should be educated by teachers trained and supported to target their specific learning needs and to teach all pupils about diversity. However, NL policies on family reunion, long-term residence and dual nationality are more restrictive than on average in Western Europe. These restrictions can delay the integration of the small number of transnational families and discourage many long-settled residents from becoming long-term residents or citizens and further investing in their integration. They may also face greater obstacles to investing in their integration without the support of free language and integration courses, immigrant self-organisations and effective targeted programmes in employment, education, health and so on. The MIPEX statistics on beneficiaries and outcomes suggest that integration policies are still needed in several areas and these changes can have a significant impact, for better or for worse. These policy changes and cuts can be independently evaluated in terms of their effects on integration outcomes in the many areas of life. More evaluations, pilots and experiments may help focus the integration debate on realistic objectives for what integration policies can and must achieve for the development of NL society.


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Labour Market Mobility

Key Findings

Only NL and UK are divesting from labour market integration at a time when most other countries are increasing their investments and when NL's non-EU employment and training rates are falling

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants could be employed?

Around 30% of working-age non-EU citizens were not in employment, education or training in NL in 2011/2, according to estimates from the EU Labour Force Survey. These numbers were slightly lower in NL than on average in Europe and much lower than in nearby BE or FR. Similar patterns emerge in NL as in most European countries, with higher levels among women (35%), especially the low-educated (44%).

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?

While non-EU newcomers still enjoy equal legal access and rights, they must find their way into employment, education or training without any targeted support, since recent cuts lowered NL's score on labour market mobility by -17 points. In 2010, residents with the right to work enjoyed some of the strongest targeted support. Overall, in 2010, NL's labour market mobility policies ranked 3rd best after SE and NO. Now its policies have fallen to 8th, behind the Nordics, DE and CA and the NL looks less like most other developed countries open to labour migration. The NL and UK were the only two established destination countries to restrict labour market mobility since 2010 or 2007, at a time when most traditional and Western European destinations are expanding both their general and targeted support.

Dimension 1: Access to labour market

  • Non-EU newcomers still enjoy generally favourable access to the NL labour market
  • They can work in self-employment and all public and private sector jobs except legal sex-work
  • Open labour market access is typical of countries open to labour migration (e.g. traditional countries of immigration, Nordics, DE, Southern Europe)
  • Labour migrants are slightly delayed in their labour market mobility since November 2013 (-10 points on eligibility), with TWV permits down from 3-to-1-year and renewals now subject to labour market tests (as in most other MIPEX countries)

Dimension 2: Access to general support

  • Long-term residents and family migrants enjoy equal access to education, training and study grants
  • Gaps emerge for labour migrants (see instead Nordic countries)
  • They can apply for the recognition of any foreign qualification through IDW and of previous work experience through Kenniscentrum EVC (see also e.g. DK, DE, SE, UK)

Dimension 3: Targeted support

  • At a time when most Western countries and traditional destinations are mainstreaming integration and expanding their targeted programmes, only NL and UK are eliminating their targeted support to help immigrants overcome their specific obstacles to finding jobs 
  • From 2010 to 2014, immigrants in NL went from enjoying some of the strongest targeted support to now some of the weakest in Western Europe
  • National funding was cut for targeted language, employment programmes and coaches/mentors for immigrants, including for vulnerable groups such as immigrant women and youth
  • Now newcomers across NL are only guaranteed  information on the available general programmes and recognition of their qualifications

Dimension 4: Workers' rights

  • NL and non-EU citizens should enjoy equal working conditions and equal rights as workers
  • Workers in need are generally guaranteed equal rights and benefits (e.g. income and housing support)
  • Equal rights are also the norm in 6 other leading countries (CA, PT, Northern Europe) and, with just a few gaps, in 6 others

Real beneficiaries

Are immigrants acquiring new skills?

The NL's traditionally high levels of participation in education and training among non-EU citizens has been decreasing since 2010/1. Up until then, around 1/3 of non-EU citizens regularly reported that they were participating in some form of education or training in NL, compared to around 1/4 of NL citizens. Uptake of education and training was also relatively high in Nordics and UK, compared to lower rates on average in Europe (17%). The numbers reported to Eurostat have fallen for non-EU citizens in NL down to 27% in 2013/4, according to the EU's Integration Indicators. A similar drop was also identified in the UK, the other country eliminating targeted support as part of an austerity and restrictive policy agenda. No comparative data was available on unemployed non-EU citizens' uptake of unemployment benefits in the NL.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants find skilled and well-paid jobs?

  • One of EU's highest employment rates (≥75%), similar to other Northern European countries
  • Relatively flexible employment protection legislation
  • Large numbers of non-EU-born immigrants in NL obtained their highest educational degree in NL
  • Minority of newcomers granted permits as labour migrants or international students
  • Meaningful exposure to NL language rarely possible before migration

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants employed in qualified and well-paid jobs?

Annual Eurostat data suggests that employment rates have fallen since 2008 for the NL-born by 3 points and for the non-EU-born by 8 points, with the gaps in employment rates growing in 2013/4 (78% vs. 59%). Non-EU immigrants' employment rates and quality do begin to converge over time, compared to NL-born people of the same education level and gender, according to 2011/2 EU Labour Force Survey Data. After 10+ years in NL, the near-majority of non-EU immigrants are working: 3/4 of high-educated men and women, 2/3 of low-educated men, but just 41% of low-educated women.  The NL-born are 15% more likely to be working, whether comparing high-educated men and women or low-educated men. The gap is widest for low-educated women (25% more likely or 54% employed). Still, the employment rates for low-educated long-settled non-EU immigrants are slightly higher in NL than on average in Europe (e.g. lower in BE, DE, UK). 

The major long-term challenge in NL and across Europe is employment quality. Among long-settled non-EU immigrants, high-educated workers, especially men, are 75% more likely to be overqualified for their job (26% of these men and women compared to around 15% for NL-born). These low-educated workers are nearly 3 times as likely to experience in-work poverty, without sufficient wages and benefits to meet their basic needs. In-work poverty is especially common among low-educated women (1/4), compared to just 6% of NL-born low-educated men and women. 

More – but not necessarily better – jobs tend to go to immigrants in countries like NL, with flexible & growing labour markets and greater investments in active labour market  programmes. Immigrants' labour market integration is not simply explained by the general policy/context and their individual skills. International reviews finds that employment outcomes are better for immigrants who get legal access to the labour market, a formal recognition of their foreign degree, a new domestic degree and/or domestic work experience. 

Family Reunion

Key Findings

Faced with restrictions driven by the far-right, the small number of NL residents in transnational families have mostly had to turn to courts to benefit from the right to reunite once they meet the same conditions expected of all couples and families in NL

Potential Beneficiaries

How many immigrants are potentially living in transnational couples?

Family reunion is important for a relatively small number of people in NL. An estimated 2.5% of non-EU adult citizens in NL may be separated from their spouse or partner, according to 2011/2 data from the EU Labour Force Survey. These numbers are relatively lower for all non-EU-born (including naturalised citizens) or the NL-born. These estimates are comparatively low for Europe (similar to LU and UK).

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants reunite with family?

NL's recent governments have politicised family reunion, with restrictions that are disproportionate and ineffective for improving integration outcomes, according to NL and international evaluations (see Huddleston and Pedersen 2011). Residents used to enjoy slightly favourable policies to reunite in the NL with family abroad, similar to policies in Nordics and traditional destination countries. Following the 2009 ECJ Chakroun case, non-EU families temporarily enjoyed the same basic age limits and income requirements required of all NL couples, scoring 67/100 on the MIPEX scale. Successive restrictions have dropped its score -11 points to 56/100, with even a temporary exclusion of long-term partners in 2012/3. NL increasingly imposes conditions, tests and definitions of the family that few European countries follow and many native NL families would fail. In 2014, NL family reunion policies ranked 26th out of 38, 5 points below average for Western Europe. In recent years, a few non-EU citizens have challenged this policy as contrary to the NL's European standards that these families have the right to reunite once they have proven their basic willingness to integrate and their ability to cover their basic costs.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • Since the 2009 Chakroun case, families have again faced new restrictions on their eligibility for reunion in NL
  • In 2014, NL's eligibility rules were more restrictive than 27 out of the 37 other countries, alongside AT and FR 
  • Unmarried couples in durable relationships temporarily banned from family reunion in 2012/3 (allowed in 16 other countries)
  • Sponsors able to settle long-term in NL can apply for certain family members after 1 year's residence (immediately in 14 other countries) 
  • NL one of only 8 countries not treating couples over 18 like adults: 21-year-age limit re-imposed in 2011 (overturned as disproportionate in 2011 in UK and 2013 in BE)
  • Since 2012, NL now one of 13 countries denying the right to reunite with dependent adult children and parents  (similar restrictions also in AU, CA, NZ, UK)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  •  In 2014, NL residents separated from their non-EU family members face more restrictive requirements than in 30 out of the 37 other MIPEX countries
  • NL ranks 31st, just above the Western European countries with even more restrictive requirements (AT, DK, FR, IT, NO, CH, UK)
  • Sponsors can prove they meet their families' basic costs through any legal means based on the minimum wage, after the 2009 ECJ Chakroun case overturned the 120% requirement and benefit restrictions
  • They now face more affordable official fees/costs (228€), after ECJ judgement C-508/10 found them excessive and disproportionate (previously 1550€ total or the equivalent of over 1 month's income for the average non-EU citizen in NL)
  • NL's pre- and post-departure requirements are found to be unfavourable by demanding without supporting families to learn NL and various facts about life there
  • 5 of the 31 other European countries followed NL to impose a pre-departure requirement and none internationally are as restrictive as NL; all others focus on free integration courses (FR) or language tests and often provide legal exemptions, while materials and courses are generally more expensive abroad 
  • 9 of the 31 also impose obligatory in-country requirements and, since 2013, NL became one of only 4 demanding without supporting integration through enough guaranteed free courses (also problems in AT, CH, UK, see instead BE, FR, Nordics), although those with relevant degrees or disabilities are exempt
  • NL's new 'student loans' may work more obstacles than as incentives to study for risk-averse, low-income immigrants (nearly all other countries opt for grants or free courses)

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Families meeting the legal requirements are only slightly secure in the future in the NL, average for Western Europe
  • Reunited family members can be denied or lose their permits on several discretionary grounds, but with consideration of some of their personal circumstances and with judicial oversight
  • These policies are entitled to residence permit as long and renewable as their sponsor's, as in 18 other countries

Dimension 4: Rights associated

  • As on average in Western Europe, reunited families in NL experience several opportunities and a few obstacles for their long-term integration  
  • Families enjoy the same right to work, study and access benefits as their sponsor in NL, as in the majority of countries
  • Since 2010, autonomatic autonomous residence after 3 years has been replaced by new integration requirements
  • The exceptions for vulnerable families (e.g. in case of divorce or domestic abuse) are also limited by restrictions and delays

Real beneficiaries

Are families reuniting?

23,835 non-EU family members reunited with a non-EU resident in NL in 2013. The number of reuniting non-EU family members increased by 60% from 2011 (12,563) to 2012 (20,002). The numbers increased for all of the major nationalities and for all types of family members: spouses/partners, children and others. Most family members are no longer children (around 60% in 2009-2011) but spouses/partners (51%), while the number of other family members increased to 2,029 (9%). Still, non-EU family members account for only around 1 in 3 newcomers in NL. They are very diverse, coming from all over the globe. For example, the top 5 nationalities of reuniting families in 2013 were TU (12%), IN (10%), CN (7%), US (7%) and MO (7%), which accounts for less than half of reuniting families in that year.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants reunite with family?

  • Most non-EU citizens are long-settled in NL (5+ years' stay)
  • Sizeable share of humanitarian migrants likely to stay and need family reunion in NL
  • Most from low-to-medium developing countries and thus likely to reunite

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants reunite with family?

Since 2012, non-EU family reunion has become much more common in NL. Non-EU family reunion is relatively rare in Western Europe. Out of every 100 non-EU citizens in the population, only 3 are newly arrived non-EU family members. The rate was relatively similar in NL from 2009-2011 (between 3.3 and 3.7 out of 100). The rate increased to 6 in 2012 and 7 in 2013, similar to Nordic countries like NO and SE. This increase may come from changes in the family reunion conditions, as a result of ECJ cases. Non-EU families have been more likely to reunite in countries with inclusive family reunion policies, such as the Nordic, Benelux and Southern European countries. In contrast, policies can quickly function as obstacles to the right to family reunion, with disproportionate effects on the most vulnerable groups.


Key Findings

New turn in integration policy makes immigrant pupils a lower priority for equal opportunities in education

Potential Beneficiaries

How many pupils have immigrant parents?

Ethnic diversity is an increasingly common in schools in NL, particularly in its major cities, with around 10% of 15-year-olds being 1st or 2nd generation, according to 2012 OECD PISA estimates. The numbers are slightly smaller and mostly 2nd generation in NL compared to most other Northern European countries. An estimated 8.1% of 15-year-olds are 2nd generation with only 2.7% of 1st generation pupils born abroad. Half of these 1st/2nd generation pupils speak NL at home with their parents. These levels of language use at home are similar to BE, CH, DK and most English-speaking countries.

Policy Indicators

Is the education system responsive to the needs of the children of immigrants?

So far, cuts to targeted support mean that immigrant pupils benefit from fewer efforts to address structural obstacles to immigrant achievement, such as measures to promote access to higher education, parental involvement or diversity in society). These cuts have made the NL education system slightly less prepared to promote equal opportunities for immigrant pupils, sliding several positions down in the ranking and 10 points down from 60-to-50, now scoring similar to DK and UK. Schools still receive basic funding and training to target immigrant pupils' specific learning needs. Teachers and school leaders are supposed to be trained and funded to find their own solutions themselves to address immigrant pupils' needs and diversity.

Dimension 1: Access

  • NL's commitment to equal access to all school types slightly slipped from 2010-to-2014 from 58-to-50 points
  • Schools are largely left on their own to assess newcomer children's prior learning and to properly place them (see role of outside experts in FR and LU)
  • All pupils enrolled as children can complete their full education in NL regardless of legal status (see also FR, GR, KR, ES)
  • A few targeted initiatives still aim to get immigrant children to enroll in pre-primary education and to stay in school to avoid dropout and unemployment
  • Higher education institutions lose funding for diversity policies to increase enrollment of immigrant pupils due to limited results of previous efforts

Dimension 2: Targeting needs

  • Schools still receive basic funding and training to target immigrant pupils' specific learning needs though standards may vary across schools and cities 
  • This type of support is relatively common in Western Europe (see stronger frameworks in Nordics and traditional countries of immigration)
  • Newcomer parents and pupils do not benefit from common information about schools and the education system
  • Once enrolled, newcomers and foreign pupils should benefit from extra support and equally high-quality teaching through extra funding to increase the capacities of schools and teachers however they decide
  • Teachers are supposed to be trained pre/in-service to understand the needs of pupils with different cultural backgrounds
  • Foreign-language pupils, whether 1st or 2nd generation, should benefit from extra NL teaching through subsidies to their school, but the quality standards are set locally
  • Statistics are available to monitor school performance 

Dimension 3: New opportunities

  • The NL education system sees few of the new opportunities and skills that immigrant pupils bring to the classroom – and even less since cuts to targeted integration support
  • General policies aim to diversify the teaching staff in order to provide greater school capacity and role models
  • Programmes now cut to get immigrant parents involved in school activities and governance
  • NL's weak approach ranks 26th out of 38, alongside IT and JP and far behind AT, BE, CH, Nordics that are trying to seize these opportunities 
  • Neither immigrant nor non-immigrant pupils can learn immigrant languages and cultures in school, unlike in the majority of other MIPEX countries (see most accessible and flexible courses in AT, AU, CA, Nordics, CH)
  • Unlike NL, a few other countries are trying to remedy 'white flight' from immigrant schools and communication difficulties with parents (see AU/CA/NZ, Nordics, DE/CH)

Dimension 4: Intercultural education

  • Recent cuts are also undermining the NL's traditional strengths on intercultural education (see strong approaches also in BE, PT, Nordics, traditional destinations)
  • Closure of FORUM ends many activities to promote cultural diversity in society
  • Teachers are still supposed to teach about other cultures and religions across the curriculum, including specifically in general courses e.g. history and religion
  • Teachers receive pre/in-service training, support materials and guidelines on how to teach intercultural education and how to adapt the school day and activities to reflect local diversity

Real beneficiaries

Are pupils with limited literacy getting remedial courses?

One potential indicator of immigrant pupils' access to targeted support is their uptake of extra out-of-school literacy courses, which comes from the OECD's 2012 PISA survey. Around half of low-literacy 1st generation pupils in NL are benefiting from these extra courses. This drops to 36% of low-literacy non-immigrant pupils and 30% of low-literacy 2nd generation pupils. The majority of low-literacy pupils, whatever their background, benefit from extra literacy courses in Nordics, IT, PT and US, with higher numbers for 1st generation pupils in English-speaking countries.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether the children of immigrants excel at school?

  • >50% of immigrant pupils with low-educated mothers are concentrated in disadvantaged schools in NL and one of the highest gaps compared to non-immigrant pupils with low-educated mothers
  • 1/2 of 1st/2nd generation speak NL at home
  • Very few foreign-born pupils arrive after age 12
  • Relatively long duration of compulsory education
  • High % of GDP spent on education
  • Relatively high student-teacher ratios

Outcome indicators

How well are the children of immigrants achieving at school?

The situation of 1st and 2nd generation pupils seems to differ significantly in NL, according to 2012 PISA data. Comparing 15-year-old foreign-born and non-immigrant pupils with low-educated mothers, today's 1st generation pupils are only around 25% more likely to be low-achievers on PISA math tests. 16% of pupils with low-educated NL-born mothers were math low-achievers, compared to 20% of 1st generation pupils with low-educated mothers. The gap was actually larger for 2nd generation pupils with low-educated immigrant mothers, around 30% or nearly 2 times more likely than for pupils with low-educated non-immigrant mothers. Large gaps also emerged for the 2nd generation in BE/LU, AT/DE/CH and DK/FI/NO. No systematic link emerges between targeted education policies and outcomes. The reasons why are hard to know for certain, since experimentation and robust evaluations are usually missing in policymaking on migrant education. Targeted education policies may be too new, too weak, too late or too general for most migrant pupils to benefit from them all across the country and education system. Their school may not have the knowledge, resources or will to implement these policies. Moreover, the general quality and structure of the education system probably have a greater impact on the outcomes of migrant and other disadvantaged pupils. For example, PISA finds that the over-concentration of immigrant pupils in socially disadvantaged schools with many low-achieving pupils is a major factor influencing the low educational achievement of immigrant pupils in NL and many European countries.


Key Findings

Despite inclusive healthcare entitlements, mainstream health providers and policymakers are doing less in recent years to understand and address migrant patients’ specific access/health needs

Policy Indicators

Is the health system responsive to immigrants' needs?

NL policies to promote migrant health are only slightly above-average for Western Europe. These policies score as 'halfway favourable' on the MIPEX policy indicators and similar to BE, DK, FI, but behind NO, SE and most English-speaking countries. Migrants in NL enjoy slightly inclusive healthcare entitlements but only average policies to help them access these entitlements and help mainstream providers become more responsive to their specific needs. Fewer efforts have been made in recent years to get mainstream providers to better understand and treat migrant patients' specific health/access needs, with most capacity limited to a few specialised services focusing on specific communities and health problems.

Click here to learn more about how MIPEX health was developed with IOM and EU’s COST/ADAPT network through ‘Equi-Health’ project and co-funded by European Commission’s DG SANTE. 

Dimension 1: Entitlements

  • Healthcare entitlements in NL are relatively inclusive of migrants from a public health perspective, similar to FR, CH, SE, JP, BE, NO and NZ
  • Legal migrants and NL citizens have the same basic health insurance rights and obligations under AWBZ (similar to BE, FR, DE, SE, CH)
  • Nearly the same standards for healthcare apply to asylum-seekers under special arrangements in NL (similar to most Western European countries)
  • Undocumented migrants lacking a BSN (Citizen Service Number) are partially included, with additional exemptions for certain vulnerable groups; service providers can get reimbursed for most of the costs (similar partial or complete coverage in CH, SE, IT, LU, FR)

Dimension 2: Access policies

  • Migrants and mainstream providers can access basic information about entitlements, but these methods may not be fully effective to reach all about entitlements and health issues
  • Legal migrants and asylum-seekers can get this information through many means, mostly in NL and EN
  • This information may not reach all patients or staff, especially on entitlements for undocumented migrants, which may discourage access in practice
  • Targeted information on health issues was funded from 1976-2003 but now exists only through local projects, mostly in the Randstad and for specific groups/issues (e.g. depression among TU/MO, Hepatitis among CN, stress/PTSD among asylum-seekers, diabetes among Surinamese-Hindustani)
  • Cultural mediators are also only available among a few major cities' general practices, often due to costs (see examples in 17 other countries)

Dimension 3: Responsive services

  • Mainstream providers have less capacity than in the past to respond to migrant patients' specific health/access needs, often influenced by changes in policy and funding (contrast with developments in AT, NO, AU/IE/NZ/US/UK)
  • Provision of qualified interpreters was government-funded until 2011 (as in 14 other countries) but now varies between providers (2014 Quality Standards for Use of Interpreters)
  • Medical students are supposed to learn intercultural competence and diversity-sensitive care provision, but these are not required or integrated throughout professional education or mainstream providers
  • Intercultural guidelines and treatments are available in mental health care, but rare among other specialist or general practitioners
  • Migrant patients are encouraged to be involved in public health research by ZonMW, but not more broadly in the design or delivery of health services 

Dimension 4: Mechanisms for change

  • Migrant health has become largely a priority of only specialised health providers and researchers, without specific attention in wider health or integration policy
  • Migrant health data is available in NL and research has been prioritised by ZonMW from 2009-2013, as in the majority of countries
  • Migrant health is generally overlooked in NL health policy and integration policy
  • Culturally-sensitive service-standards were starting to be used by mental health service-providers until 2005, when changes in policy and funding left these issues up to the few specialised providers
  • For example, the Advisory Board on Healthcare and Multicultural Society was funded from 1972-2005

Political Participation

Key Findings

Recent cuts to consultation and support of immigrant civil society may undermine NL's traditionally inclusive democracy if immigrants are not informed, supported and encouraged to become civically active

Potential Beneficiaries

Who are disenfranchised from voting?

Few non-EU citizens are disenfranchised in local elections in NL without the right to vote as newcomers with <5 years' residence (around 15% according to 2011/2 estimates from the EU Labour Force Survey).

Policy Indicators

Do immigrants have comparable rights and opportunities to participate in political life?

NL, a traditionally confident country of immigration and inclusive democracy, has long allowed and encouraged newcomers to become active in public life. Immigrant civil society has now lost state support, as part of the current government's decision to mainstream integration and cut all targeted support. Mainstreaming could have meant that the NL's strong national consultative body and immigrant civil society work with mainstream institutions to guarantee immigrants' equal voice and participation in their activities. Instead, the bodies must survive on their own and immigrants must compete with others to make integration a priority and have their voices heard. Local consultative bodies continue to come and go (e.g. Amsterdam, The Hague). Several local authorities have moved from immigrant consultative bodies and subsidies to mixed bodies and project funds for the participation of all groups. As a result, the NL's slightly favourable policies (72/100 in 2010) now only go halfway to promote immigrants' political participation (52/100 in 2013/4, -20 points) through basic political liberties and voting rights, no national support and uneven local consultation and project-based funding. NL dropped from 7th, alongside Nordics, LU, IE, NZ, to 18th, alongside FR & UK.

Dimension 1: Electoral rights

  • Non-EU citizens can participate in an inclusive local democracy in NL, as in IE and Nordic countries
  • They can vote and stand as candidates in local elections after 5 years' residence 
  • Newcomers more quickly gain the right to vote in IE and several Nordics, while the right to vote in provincial elections in 9 MIPEX countries (e.g. Nordics, CH, KR, NZ)
  • Non-EU nationals after 3-5 years can stand as local candidates in 11 EU countries, vote locally in 15, regionally in 5, and nationally in 2 (certain groups in PT & UK), with overall IE and the Nordics granting the most inclusive voting rights in Europe. 
  • Outside the EU, immigrants can also stand in 3 more (IS, NO and CH cantons), vote locally in 6 more (AU, IS, KR, NO, NZ, CH), regionally in 4 more (KR, NO, NZ, CH) and nationally in NZ, the most democratically inclusive destination for immigrants in the world. 

Dimension 2: Political liberties

  • Non-EU citizens are guaranteed the same basic political liberties as national citizens in NL, traditional countries of immigration and all Western European countries

Dimension 3: Consultative bodies

  • Now that the NL government withdrew the support and status of its strong national consultative body (LOM, see box), the conditions for dialogue are unfavourable and immigrants have limited opportunities to inform and improve the policies that affect them most 
  • This approach is far below average for Western Europe where most countries reach out more to immigrant communities
  • Since March 2013, immigrant civil society lost its official platform to inform the policy and public debate; instead, they can only participate in ad hoc consultations like everyone else
  • Immigrant civil society is consulted by only certain  municipalities (not in Amsterdam or Hague since 2001) through bodies with active participation but often weak powers  (e.g. Utrecht Advisory Council on Interculturalisation, Nijmegen's Adviescommissie Allochtonen, Harlem's new Participatieraad)

Dimension 4: Implementation policies

  • Immigrant civil society has lost its strong structural state support and faces greater competition over fewer resources through project-based funding on citizenship and diversity, mostly at local level
  • Since 2012/3, subsidies are being phased out for immigrant self-organisations at national level and in cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam
  • Non-EU citizens can still get ad hoc information about their voting rights around election time
  • This level of information and support is far below average for Western Europe (e.g. see DE, FI/NO/SE, BE/LU)

Policy Box

Introduced in 1985 and regulated in 1997, LOM created favourable conditions for minorities and government to dialogue build consensus around policy changes and moments of crisis (e.g. Iraq War, Fitna film). All 8 minority organisations were legally qualified for dialogue and achieved a diversity of nationalities and backgrounds, i.e. representation of women and second generation. All participants were structurally funded to inform and consult communities. The NL Parliament had a role to settle any disputes between LOM and the government.

Real beneficiaries

How many non-EU immigrants are eligible to vote?

NL ranks as one of the most inclusive democracies at both local and national level, alongside NZ and Nordic countries with high levels of enfranchisement and naturalisation. At local level, most non-naturalised citizens are eligible to vote in local elections in NL (also IE, NL, with NZ the most inclusive). More importantly, non-EU citizens most interested and active in politics may have naturalised as NL citizens, particularly during 1991-97, when dual nationality was tolerated. Over 3/4 of non-EU immigrant adults have naturalised as NL citizens, comparable to SE, AU, CA and NZ.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become politically active?

  • Generally high levels of civic engagement in NL as across Northwest Eruope
  • Most long-settled in NL as across Northwest Europe
  • Sizeable number of humanitarian migrants in NL, potentially likely to become civically active in long-term
  • Small numbers are university-educated
  • Most are from low-to-medium developed countries

Outcome indicators

Are immigrants participating in political life?

Long-settled non-EU-born adults seem as likely to participate politically in NL as on average across Europe. as non-immigrants with similar levels of education. In the 2000s, among long-settled residents (10+ years' stay), 1/2 of the university-educated and 1/4 of the low-educated reported recently taking part in a political party, association, petition, demonstration or contacting a politician. The overall level of participation (35%) is slightly below the level for the NL-born (45%), with similar gaps emerging in AT, DE and CH. These outcomes suggest that greater targeted support may be needed for political participation policies to reach most immigrants and inform, support and encourage them to take up the available civic and political opportunities.

Permanent Residence

Key Findings

Potentially large numbers of 'de facto' long-term residents unable to secure permanent status and equal rights to invest in their integration due to restrictive path to long-term residence

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become long-term residents?

The vast majority of non-EU citizens in NL (85%) and across Europe have lived there long enough to become long-term residents, according to 2011/2 estimates from the EU Labour Force Survey. The numbers in the NL are similar for men (88%) and women (83%).

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?

Long-term residents in NL enjoy equal and secure rights, but reach this point with difficulty. The NL path to long-term residence ranks 24th, far below most Western European countries. Long-term residence is denied to several categories of temporary migrants, including students, whose routes were closed in 2014. While they face a more reasonable application fee since a 2012 ECJ case, they must now pay for all the costs of language and integration courses and test.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • Eligibility for long-term residence is more restricted in NL than in 32 out of the 37 other MIPEX countries
  • 5 years with interruptions are allowed to apply for long-term residence in NL, as in most countries
  • A path to long-term residence is denied for several categories of temporary residents, such as seasonal workers, medical permits, study/exchange permits and certain family permits
  • Since March 2014, former international students cannot count that time towards long-term residence (-13 points)


Dimension 2: Conditions

  • Immigrants face a more reasonable application fee since a 2012 ECJ case, but must pay for all the costs of language and integration courses and test since 2013
  • The fees dropped from 401-to-152€ after case C-508/10 found them excessive and disproportionate 
  • Applicants must prove a basic legal income, as in most countries
  • NL is one of 14 countries demanding immigrant prove their 'integration' and only one of 8 demanding without supporting them to learn the language and the required basic facts (see DK, IT, NO, UK, 1€-per-hour courses in DE) 
  • NL's new 'student loans' may work more obstacles than as incentives to study for risk-averse, low-income immigrants (nearly all other countries opt for grants or free courses)


Dimension 3: Security of status

  • Immigrants becoming long-term residents are halfway secure in their future in NL, as on average in Europe
  • Authorities can withdraw their permits for fraud, public policy, serious crimes and >1 year outside the EU, but must consider their personal circumstances, explain why and  accept decisions upon appeal, as in most countries
  • After changes in 2010, long-term residents are not fully protected against expulsion, even for decades or since childhood (see several Western European countries), with only protections remaining for minors with a NL parent

Dimension 4: Rights Associated

  • Long-term residents can work, study and live in the country with the same social and economic rights as citizens in NL and 29 other MIPEX countries

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are long-term residents?

69,171 non-EU citizens had settled as national or EU long-term residents in NL in 2013. These numbers are down from around 90,000 due to decreases in the number of national long-term residents. Only 1/3 of these are EU long-term residents, with the right to move and work in other EU Member States. These numbers have changed little in recent years.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether immigrants become long-term residents?

  • Vast majority are long-settled in NL
  • 15% of residents potentially ineligible with <1-year-permits
  • Mostly humanitarian or family migrants likely to settle in NL as across Northwest Europe

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become long-term residents?

While an estimated 85% of non-EU citizens are long-settled with 5+ years in NL, only around 20% are estimated to be long-term residents. A country's number of long-term residents strongly reflects its policies on long-term residence and citizenship. While many may opt instead to become NL citizens instead of long-term residents, the requirements for NL citizenship are similar if not greater, including giving up the citizenship of their country of origin. Immigrants unable to become NL citizens are also likely unable to become long-term residents. These long-settled immigrants end up as 'permanently temporary' foreigners discouraged to invest in integration given their limited opportunities and uncertain future (see also AT, DK, CH).

Access to Nationality

Key Findings

Dual nationality and integration support would significantly increase naturalisation rates and boost other integration outcomes

Potential Beneficiaries

Who can become a citizen?

Around 85% of non-EU citizens have lived in NL long enough to become NL citizens, according to 2011/2 estimates. These estimates also suggest that 20% of non-EU citizens are actually second generation born and living in NL without its citizenship.

Policy Indicators

How easily can immigrants become citizens?

Immigrants wanting to become NL citizens face a relatively clear path to citizenship similar to most countries of immigration, but with less support than before and without the right to dual nationality, unlike in most other countries. The language and integration requirements may now discourage immigrants from naturalising rather than encourage them to learn NL language and the country's core civic values. The renunciation requirement remains a major obstacle to naturalisation in NL, one of the small and shrinking number of countries still resisting dual nationality.

Dimension 1: Eligibility

  • The basic eligibility rules in NL are common to most established countries of immigration
  • Applicants must be eligible for permanent residence and living there for 5 years (a proposed rise to 7 years has not yet passed)
  • As in an increasing majority of countries, children born or raised there are entitled to become citizens, though the wait (age 18) is longer and less flexible in NL than elsewhere (e.g. BE, FR, DE, IE, PT, ES, SE UK, traditional countries of immigration)

Dimension 2: Conditions

  • The requirements to become NL citizens are also similar to the average MIPEX country: Strict criminal record requirements, A2-level NL fluency, a civic exam (the same as for long-term residence) and no income-based exclusion
  • Still, many applicants are discouraged in practice
  • Since 2013, the cuts to courses mean that the procedure poorly supports linguistic and civic integration (see instead e.g. AU, BE, CA, DK, DE, LU, NO, NZ)
  • NL demands more money to become a citizen (€829) than most countries do (only higher in UK, IE, AT, CH); That’s 60% of a month’s income for the average non-EU citizen in NL

Dimension 3: Security of status

  • The procedure itself is slightly favourable
  • If immigrants can afford to prepare for, pay and pass all the requirements, then they are entitled to become citizens, as in most Northern European countries
  • The grounds to lose NL citizenship were enlarged in May 2010 for new citizens convicted of crimes against the state's essential interests, as in most MIPEX countries

Dimension 4: Dual nationality

  • NL is one of the few countries where immigrants are only allowed dual nationality as an exception (11 countries, e.g. AT, DE, NO rather than as a rule, as in 25)
  • Recent reformers (SE, FI, LU, CZ, DK, PL) find that dual nationality is harder to avoid, easier to regulate and unrelated to integration

Real beneficiaries

How many immigrants are becoming citizens?

27,395 non-EU citizens were naturalised as NL citizens in 2012. The total number of naturalisations rose between 1991-97, when dual nationality was tolerated. The peak in 1996 reached 78,731. The number fell again in 2003, after introduction of the formal language and integration test, from around 45,000 in the early 2000s to a steady 26,000-31,000 over the past decade.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain why non-EU immigrants become citizens?

  • Most from less developed countries and thus likely to naturalise
  • Most long-settled in NL
  • Mostly humanitarian or family migrants likely to settle
  • Nearly 3/4 from countries allowing dual nationality

Outcome indicators

How often do immigrants become citizens?

Nearly 3/4 of non-EU-born adults in NL have NL citizenship, according to 2011/2 estimates. NL enjoys one of the highest levels of naturalisation in the developed world, alongside a few European countries and traditional countries of immigration such as Australia and Canada. For years, the naturalisation rates for non-EU men and women in NL have been above the EU average and similar to BE, UK and Nordic countries. The strongest factors determining a country's naturalisation outcomes are its citizenship policies, including dual nationality. For example, the rates seem higher in NL than on average in Europe for nationals of countries producing many refugees or not allowing dual nationality.


Key Findings

Time for enforcement: Favourable laws and strong equality bodies may help potential victims to start taking the 1st step to justice, but weak equality policies may limit their impact on wider discrimination in society

Potential Beneficiaries

Who said they experienced racial/ethnic or religious discrimination last year?

4.3% of people in NL felt that last year they had been discriminated against or harassed based on their race/ethnic origin (2.7%) and/or religion/beliefs (1.6%). These numbers are similar to the EU-wide average.

Policy Indicators

Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?

Discrimination victims in NL have slightly favourable opportunities to access justice, with few changes in recent years. Broad anti-discrimination definitions protect all residents on many grounds in most areas of life, as in a near majority of countries. Victims bringing forward a case can benefit from some of the strongest enforcement mechanisms and equality bodies in the MIPEX countries, but weak equality policies to promote equality more broadly in society.

Dimension 1: Definitions

  • A wide range of public and private actors cannot discriminate against people on the grounds of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality and other grounds, as in 21 other countries
  • People can also challenge racial profiling (see also BE, FR, DE, UK), discrimination by association based on caselaw and multiple discrimination based on previous College decisions

Dimension 2: Fields of application

  • Everyone is protected against ethnic, racial, religious and nationality discrimination in all areas of life except social protection where gaps emerge in NL law (see wider protections in 16 other countries)

Dimension 3: Enforcement mechanisms

  • The mechanisms to enforce the law are some of the strongest among developed democracies (with PT, US)
  • During proceedings, victims can benefit from sharing the burden of proof, situation testing, NGO support, class actions and several types of sanctions

Dimension 4: Equality policies

  • Potential victims can also turn to one of Europe’s strongest equality bodies for independent advice and proceedings 
  • The new College for Human Rights took over the powers of th NL Equal Treatment Commission, an independent quasi-judicial body established in 1994 to hear and investigate claims of discrimination
  • Anyone can ask for an opinion; As part of its mandate, it conducts surveys, issues reports and recommendations, and performs consultative functions for government
  • Local governments are obligated in law to provide anti-discrimination bureaus to provide advice and assistance to victims
  • However, the NL shares Europe’s weakness on equality policies, with the State not legally committed to promote equality through information, dialogue, duties and actions (see FR, NO, SE, UK, CA, US)
  • The 2014 Action Plan against labour market discrimination proposes non-discrimination clauses in all government contracts with private companies (as in traditional destination countries)

Real beneficiaries

How many racial/ethnic and religious discrimination complaints were made to equality bodies?

The number of discrimination complaints to equality bodies is the one available indicator of how often people report discrimination in different countries, given that other types of discrimination cases are rarely recorded by police and justice systems. MIPEX provides the best harmonised data on the number of ethnic/racial and religious discrimination complaints received or handled by equality bodies, both promotional and quasi-judicial. NL's combination of a quasi-judicial College and local Anti-Discrimination Bureaus have reached a large number of potential victims of racial, ethnic and religious discrimination. In 2012, these bureaus received 3072 complaints of racial/ethnic discrimination and 337 of religious discrimination. In 2013, the College received 120 requests for opinions on racial/ethnic discrimination cases and 28 requests on religious discrimination.

Contextual factors

What other factors explain whether potential victims report discrimination cases

  • 45% of NL public know their rights as discrimination victims in countries with low-scoring laws and access to justice
  • High levels of trust in police and justice system in NL
  • Relatively few newcomers in NL
  • Most naturalised and thus more likely to report discrimination incidents

Outcome indicators

How many complaints were made last year for every person who said they experienced racial/ethnic and religious discrimination?

Few complaints are made compared to the large number of people reportly experiencing incidents of racial/ethnic or religious discrimination. Complaints seem to be more common in the countries with stronger, longstanding and well-resourced anti-discrimination laws and bodies. In NL, 1 complaint is received for approximately every 180 people experiencing ethnic or religious discrimination, one of the highest levels of reporting alongside BE, FR, IE and SE. This is equivalent of just 0.6% of NL's potential racial, ethnic or religious discrimination victims who are making complaints to equality bodies. Reporting rates are slightly lower for potential victims of religious discrimination. What is clear is that most countries need to do more to enforce and resource their anti-discrimination laws in order to guarantee the same access to justice for potential discrimination victims as they do for victims of other crimes and illegal acts. The problem of non-reporting is starting to be tackled in NL and a few others (BE, FR, IE, SE). Already, slightly more people in NL say that they are informed of their rights as discrimination victims (45%) than in most other European countries.

Netherlands RELATED NEWS


New results of MIPEX

We are pleased to announce that the new results of MIPEX (2014-2020) will be published by the end of 2020. MIPEX 2020 will include 52 European and non-European countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, EU28, India, Japan, Mexico, US and much more. Stay tuned!