Electoral law and articles 53 – 56 of the constitution detail the basic procedures
for free elections at the European, national, provincial and municipal levels. The independence of the Election Council (Kiesraad), the organization responsible for supervising elections, is stipulated by law. Whereas all Dutch citizens residing in the Netherlands are equally entitled to run for election, some restrictions apply in cases where the candidate suffers from a mental disorder, a court order has deprived the individual of eligibility for election, or the name of the candidate’s party is believed to be hazardous to maintaining public order.
In international comparison, the Dutch electoral system is highly accessible. Anyone possessing citizenship, even minors, can initiate a political party with minimal legal and financial constraints.
Media law (Article 39g) requires that political parties with one or more seats in either chamber of the States General, the Dutch bicameral parliament, be allotted time on the national broadcasting station throughout the course of the parliamentary term, provided they participate in elections throughout the country. The Commission for the Media also ensures that political parties are given equal media access that is free from government influence or interference (Article 11.3). The commission is also responsible for allotting national broadcasting time to political parties participating in upcoming European elections. This broadcasting time is only denied to parties that have been fined for breeches of Dutch anti-discrimination legislation. The individual
media outlets themselves, however, are entitled to decide exactly how much attention they pay to political parties and their candidates. Since 2004, state subsidies for participating in elections have only been granted to parties already represented in parliament. Whether this practice constitutes a form of unequal treatment for newcomers is currently a matter of discussion in the Netherlands.
Contrary to other civil rights, the right to vote in national, provincial or water board elections is tied to citizens in possession of Dutch nationality of eighteen years and older (as of election day). For local elections, voting rights are extended to all those registered as legal residents for at least five years. Convicts have the right to vote by authorization only; but some of them, as part of their conviction, may be denied voting rights for a period from two to five years over and above their prison terms. Since the elections in 2010, each voter is obliged to show a legally approved ID in addition to a voting card. In practice, this means that those with expired passports or drivers’ licenses are denied access to voting booths, a policy that affects in particular senior citizens who no longer travel or drive. Citizens of the Kingdom of the Netherlands resident in the Dutch Antilles or Aruba may not vote in elections in the Netherlands because they have their own representative bodies.
Party finances, until recently, were not a contested issue in Dutch politics. In general, the electorate was not particularly concerned with the issue, apart from mild concerns raised about small newcomer parties receiving foreign funding or the effect of one political party making its parliamentarians financially dependent on party leadership by demanding salaries be donated in full to the party. However, as one observer remarked, the absence of controversy over party finances is understandable given that the rules within the present legislation are so weak and underdeveloped, it would be hard to use them in creating a scandal and pinpointing gross violations.
According to the Group of Countries Against Corruption, Dutch legislation regarding transparency in and the surveillance of party financing falls short of the obligations stipulated in Recommendation Rec (2003)4 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for joint regulations in fighting corruption in political campaigns and party financing. Dutch law does not guarantee the electorate sufficient access to information on the financial interests of political parties (and other groupings in parliament). Sufficient oversight and a system of balanced sanctions effective in deterring corruption are absent.
Glaring shortcomings in this area include: the absence of legislation forbidding anonymous gifts by third parties (so-called alternative means of finance, or Umwegfinanziering); individuals or organizations may cite privacy issues and object to their names being made public in financial reports; lack of definitional clarity on what constitutes a “gift” of “donation”; the regulatory exemption of local and regional branches of national parties, some of which can be quite influential politically in larger metropolitan areas like Rotterdam; and the absence of an independent monitoring body mandated with the ability to enforcing sanctions against violators.
Although the cabinet has for several years promised a new bill on Financing of Political Parties, its introduction has been postponed until after the elections of May 2010. The bill is likely to be highly contested. New parties with one or a few members (e.g., Party for Freedom, PVV) reject government subsidies on principle. In April 2009, the influential Advisory Council of Public Administration recommended that donors who were not formally party members ought to be able to give unlimited gifts to political parties and afforded real influence (next to party members) in shaping the party platform, candidacy lists and choice of party leadership.
Freedoms of the press and expression are formally guaranteed by the constitution (Article 7). The Dutch approach to public broadcasting is unique. Programs are produced by a variety of organizations, some reflecting political or religious currents in society, others representing interest groups. These organizations are allocated TV and radio airtime that is relative to their size in number of members. In principle, broadcasting corporations are independent, and autonomous organizations are responsible for their own programming, program content and budgets. However, broadcasting corporations are required to comply with regulations laid down in the Media Law (Mediawet, Stb. 1987, nr. 249).
Since 1988, the Dutch Media Authority (Commissariaat voor de Media) has been charged with enforcing the Media Law. It guards the independence, quality and diversity of information provided by public and private broadcasting corporations alike. The Commissariaat also guarantees the non-commercial character of the public broadcasting system, and honest relations between public and private media. This is no easy job, as public radio and TV channels face stiff competition from commercial stations, which mushroomed after a 1988 law lifted the ban on commercial broadcasting.
The Commissariaat is an independent governmental authority (ZBO), with its own, autonomous tasks and discretionary space. Although the Commissariaat has the right to makes decisions on its own, it is accountable to the minister of education, culture and science, who nominates the Commissariaat’s chairperson. The chair’s political orientation appears to have become a less important issue over the years. Whereas the Commissariaat refrains from censorship and employs post hoc methods of law enforcement, politics do influence in particular public media outlets through the Commissariaat in ways that may restrict their freedom. Examples include the prohibition of alcohol advertising before 9 p.m., the development of a code of conduct for “safe media-provision,” and salary ceilings for public media employees.
The Dutch media landscape is very pluralistic but nonetheless subject to a development observed in other countries, namely the gradually increasing concentration of media ownership, which has been aggravated by the present financial economic crisis, internationalization and rapid commercialization.
The Dutch media landscape is characterized by one of the world’s highest readership of newspapers. Innovations in newspaper media include the successful run of two free daily newspapers, tabloids, Sunday editions, and new media editions (online, mobile phone, etc.). The concentration of ownership in the print media is high. Three publishers control 90% of the paid newspapers circulated and foreign ownership of print media outlets is growing.
As the circulation of traditional magazines decreases, publishers are launching new titles to attract readers. There are currently at least 8,000 different magazine titles available for Dutch readers. The Finnish publisher Sanoma publishes more than half of the general interest magazines circulated. Print outlets, both newspapers and magazines, carry a high share of advertising, but this is declining.
There are several public and private TV and radio stations at the national, regional and local levels. A Dutch television viewer can receive three public national channels, two foreign, Luxembourg-based channels and five commercial Dutch channels. According to 2005 records, the (Luxembourg) commercial station RTL 4 and public channel Nederland 2 were the most popular stations, each of which carried a 16% market share. Commercial broadcasters together have seen their market share rise to 50% (in 2005); the three public channels lost viewers and now have a market share of 35%. the Netherlands also shows one of Europe’s highest rates of cable-penetration (±95%).
Finally, Internet use in the Netherlands is high and diverse, and many people are connected through broadband (almost 50% of Dutch households). Ten million Dutch use the Internet on a regular basis, which amounts to almost 70% of the population over six years old.
Article 110 of the constitution states: “In the exercise of their duties government bodies shall observe the principle of transparency in accordance with rules to be prescribed by Act of Parliament.” Freedom of information legislation was first adopted in 1978. The Government Information (Public Access) Act (WOB) replaced the original law in 1991. WOB’s legal scope entails both active and passive public accessibility of information. Passive accessibility (art. 3-7) means that administrative bodies are obliged to provide information on request; active accessibility (art. 8-9) concerns information that public bodies ought to make public on their own initiative.
Under WOB, any person can demand information related to an “administrative matter” if it is contained in “documents” held by public authorities or companies carrying out work for a public authority. In order to allow citizens maximum access, they need only to indicate the “administrative matter”; they don’t have to specify the precise, concrete documents they are looking for. “Documents” are also broadly defined and may be information stored on paper, but also on other image- or sound storage devices, digital files on computer disks or other types of electronic information-carrying devices. The request can be either written or oral. The authority has two weeks to respond. Recommendations of advisory committees must be made public within four weeks.
Information must be withheld, however, if it would endanger the unity of the crown, damage the security of the state or, particularly, if it relates to information on companies and manufacturing processes that were provided in confidence. Information can also be withheld “if its importance does not outweigh” the imperatives of international relations and the economic or financial interest of the state. Withholding is also allowed if the release of the information would endanger the investigation of criminal offenses, inspections by public authorities, personal privacy, or the prevention of disproportionate advantage or disadvantage to a natural or legal person. In documents created for internal consultation, personal opinions shall not be disclosed except in anonymous form when it is “in the interests of effective democratic governance.” Moreover, environmental information is frequently considered secret. This is because such information concerns financial an economic state interests (one of the grounds of exception), or if providing such information could damage the environment itself.
According to experts, the WOB is only lightly used, around 1,000 requests each year, mostly by a few newspaper journalists. The lack of interest stems from media and NGOs’ belief that filing requests could damage good relations with government bodies, no tradition of political research, a lack of sanctions, broad exemptions and poor archives.
The Netherlands guarantees and protects individual liberties, and all state institutions respect and, most of the time, effectively protect civil rights. The Netherlands will publicly expose abuses and report them to the U.N. Human Rights Council of the EU, and cooperate with the monitoring organizations of all international laws and treaties concerning civil liberties signed by the Dutch government.
Yet, on a number of counts, there are developments worthy of concern. Concerns over the right to privacy of every citizen top the list. Due to the government’s abundant use of instruments made available through the information revolution, Dutch citizens are more at risk than ever of their personal data being abused or improperly used, which can lead to unjustified legal prosecution, stigmatization, exclusion (at the hands of the secret service, citing security issues), faulty verdicts, identity theft, and other nasty surprises. In addition, present policies regarding rightful government infringement of civil rights are shifting from legally well-delineated areas like anti-crime and terrorism measures toward less clearly defined areas involving the prevention of risky behavior (in personal health, education, child care, etc.). There is an urgent need to re-think privacy rights and the broad use of policy instruments within the context of the information revolution.
All the usual political liberties (of assembly, association, movement, religion, speech, press, thought, unreasonable searches and seizures, and suffrage) are guaranteed by the constitution. the Netherlands is signatory to all pertinent major international treaties (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, European Convention on Human Rights). The Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index for 2006 and the Freedom House ranking of political liberties for 2009 list the Netherlands as one of the most free countries in the world.
the Netherlands is party to all of the important international agreements relevant to counteracting discrimination. A non-discrimination clause addressing religion, life philosophy, political convictions, race, sex and “any other grounds for discrimination” is contained in Article 1 of the Dutch constitution. An individual can invoke Article 1 in relation to acts carried out by the government, private institutions or another individual. The constitutional framework has been specified by several acts that also refer to the EC Directives on equal treatment. In total there is a high degree of protection even though the definition of indirect discrimination that is provided by the EC has not been adopted by the Dutch legislator (Holtmaat 2009).
In terms of policy, the Dutch government is not pursuing any forms of affirmative action to tackle inequality and facilitate non-discrimination. Generally, the government relies on “soft law” measures as a preferred policy instrument.
The Dutch Supreme Court (Hoge Raad) quite recently condemned the religious right-wing Reformed Political Party (Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij, SGP) for discrimination against women because they prohibited women from running for office on the SGP ticket on religious grounds. The Supreme Court argued that the non-discrimination principle in certain cases outweighs the freedom of religion principle. It is generally believed that this verdict by implication reflects beliefs about women in Islam.
Holtmaat, Rikki: 2009 Country report on measures to combat discrimination – Netherlands. State of affairs up to 31 December 2009. http://www.non-discrimination.net/content/media/2009-NL-Country%20Report%20LN_final.pdf (30/01/2011).
There can be no doubt that legality and legal certainty, applied equally to civil, penal and administrative law, are standards that Dutch governments and administrative authorities on all levels have internalized in their decisions and actions. Even the autonomous administrative authorities that, for a while, threatened to become exceptions to the rule of law have been brought “back on board,” that is, ministerial responsibility and parliamentarian oversight of their decisions has formally been restored. Yet, a small number of glaring miscarriages of justice has demonstrated that legal certainty is, in fact, traded off against, on the one hand, timeliness and efficiency in legal procedures in addition to a desire to produce outcomes (convictions) and, on the other, the risk of incidental injustices.” A heavy (and growing) case load and increased work pressure leads justices to poor, incomplete, and sometimes erroneous argumentation of verdicts. The significance of this is clear in light of the fact that only 3% to 4% of legal cases result in acquittals or release from prosecution. Furthermore, the Netherlands is characterized by a closed system of appeal and judicial review. In cases under civil and criminal law, decision by regular courts can be appealed in higher courts and cassation by the Supreme Court (Hoge Raad), in rare cases even by appeal to international law, such as the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. This exhausts possibilities for appeal, except for very rare Supreme Court decisions for retrials.
Judicial review for civil and criminal law in the Netherlands involves a closed system of appeals with the Supreme Court as the final authority. The Dutch Supreme Court, however, unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, is barred from judging parliamentary laws in terms of their conformity with the constitution. A further constraint is that the Supreme Court must practice cassation justice, that is, it is mandated with ensuring the procedural quality of lower court practices. Should it find the conduct of a case (as carried out by the defense and/or prosecution but not the judge him/herself) wanting, it can only order the lower court to conduct a retrial. It ignores the substance of lower courts’ verdicts, since this would violate their judges’ independence. Recently, public doubts over the quality of justice in the Netherlands have been raised as a result of several glaring miscarriages of justice. This has led to renewed opportunities to re-open tried cases in which questionable convictions have been delivered). Appointments to the Supreme Court are for life (judges generally retire at 70). Appointments are in fact judicial co-optations, determined by seniority and (partly) peer reputation. Formally, however, the Second Chamber of Parliament selects the candidate from a shortlist presented by the Supreme Court. In selecting a candidate, parliament is said to never deviate from the number one candidate. Except for the re-opening of cases with questionable convictions, there is rarely any publicity regarding the Supreme Court’s work.
Whereas the Supreme Court is part of the judiciary and highly independent of politics, administrative appeals and review are allocated to three High Councils of State (Hoge Colleges van Staat), which are subsumed under the executive, and thus not independent of politics: the Council of State (serves as an advisor to the government on all legislative affairs and is the highest court of appeal in matters of administrative law); the General Audit Chamber (reviews legality of government spending and its policy effectiveness and efficiency); and the ombudsman for research into the conduct of administration regarding individual citizens in particular. Members are nominated by cabinet and appointed for life (excepting the ombudsman, who is serves six years only) by parliament. Appointments are never politically contentious.
In international comparison, the Council of State holds a rather unique position. It advises government in its legislative capacity, and it also acts as an administrative judge of last appeal involving the same laws. This situation is only partly remedied by a division of labor between an advisory chamber and a judiciary chamber, which has to do with the fact that several members have double appointments.
Justices, both in civil/criminal and in administrative courts, are appointed by different, though primarily legal and political, bodies in formally cooperative selection processes without special majority requirements. In the case of criminal/civil courts, judges are de facto appointed through peer co-optation; this is also true for lower administrative courts, but its highest court, the Council of State, is under fairly strong political influence, mainly expressed in a considerable number of double appointments. State counselors working in the Administrative Jurisdiction Division are required to hold an academic degree in law, although there are a few exceptions made.
In the Netherlands integrity policy has steadily been afforded greater attention on the political and decision-making agendas of public sector organizations, and it appears to show reasonable success. A large survey among local government officials (n=671) scored a 6.4 (on 0-10 scale) for integrity policy of 11 types of public sector bodies as reported in Huberts (2004). Almost all public sector organizations now have an integrity code of conduct, and there are plenty of workshops, conferences and training sessions where public sector employees’ awareness of integrity policy and its instruments is enhanced. However, the soft law approach to integrity means that rules and sanctions against fraud, corruption and inappropriate use of administrative power are underdeveloped. There have been some major corruption scandals – particularly in the building sector – and a survey among over 300 representatives of public organizations revealed that over 3% of civil servants and 5% of politicians were deemed corrupt.
Under the Balkenende IV cabinet, efforts to prevent and control corruption gained some prominence. In one case, the mayor of a large town and several aldermen in local governments of a southern province resigned over controversies regarding conflicts of interest.
In at least three (out of 17) areas, the Netherlands is not living up to the guidelines for effective integrity policy as identified by Transparency International. All three involve preventing corruption and taking sanctions against corruption: there are no independent bodies for corruption monitoring, prevention and prosecution; corruption prevention in the private sector is left unattended; and there is no clear financial disclosure regulation for politicians and civil servants. In addition, in spite of many, hesitant initiatives on all levels of government, there is no transparent overview of how many disciplinary or civil court cases pertaining to corruption in a given year are actually conducted.
Huberts, L.W.J.C. 2004. Integriteit en integriteitsbeleid: Nederlandse lessen? Artikel gebaseerd op een lezing aan de Katholieke Universiteit Leuven op 17 september 2004, Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. http://www.fsw.vu.nl/nl/Images/Huberts,%20L.W.J.C.%202004.%20Integriteit%20en%20integriteitsbeleid%20Nederlandse%20lessen_tcm30-35136.pdf (10 August 2010)
The Netherlands numbers among the top six SGI countries in terms of the highest per capita GDP ($39,225, whereas the statistical mean of the 31 countries is $32,761).
However, the Dutch economy is shrinking. The CPB expects a contraction of 4.75% for 2009. Projections of 0% growth for 2010 are not encouraging. Unemployment in 2010 is expected to reach 8%, which is double the figure of unemployment in 2008. The number of jobs lost will be the highest since World War II. However, the unemployment rate in the Netherlands will still be among the lowest – if not the lowest – of the 31 SGI countries. The loss of jobs will affect youth and lower-educated citizens most. The purchasing power increased by 1.75% in 2009, but is expected to decrease by 0.25% in 2010.
Unemployment, at 5.7% on average, is quite unevenly distributed. The Netherlands’ youth employment of 5.6%, the long-term unemployment rate of 1%, and the low-skilled unemployment rate of 4% are all very low. However, the unemployment rate of older individuals (55-64 years) remains high at 50.7%.
The Netherlands’ tradition of wage moderation dates back to the Wassenaar agreement, which was reached during a period of economic stagnation in 1982 by employer organizations and trade unions. This policy has led to a relatively low level of unemployment in the Netherlands and is currently very relevant following the consequences of the economic crisis. Benefits in the event of job loss are relatively high and set at 70% of an individual’s last-earned income. This percentage guarantees a certain level of income security.
The participation rate in the labor market is relatively high. In 2008, this included 83.2% of men and 71.1% of women. Participation by women, older employees and immigrants has been growing. Recently, the government implemented policy instruments to improve work and care for mothers. In 2008, the cabinet submitted a long-term childcare plan to the Lower House. Additionally a taskforce for part-time employees was initiated. Restrictions for seasonal foreign workers were loosened.
A high pay gap is usually characteristic of a labor market in which a significant proportion of women work part-time, as is the case in the Netherlands (75.3% of part-time workers are females).
Another fact that is detrimental to the very favorable rating of Dutch labor market policy is the relatively high proportion of economically inactive people in the Netherlands (4% in 2009) and especially those in disability benefit programs.
The Dutch business sector’s investment rate is not high. However, the share of investments in information and communication technology as part of total investments in the Netherlands is high. The business ownership rate in the Netherlands was higher in 2007 than it was from 2002 to 2005, which indicates that there is an increase in the number of people that engage in entrepreneurial activity. The business ownership rate has in fact risen in most countries, but the increase in the Netherlands was so distinct that the county improved its international position in this area.
The Netherlands scores well on some aspects of its investment climate. Both government policies and the stability of the political and economic system make the Netherlands attractive for foreign investments, despite the relatively high labor costs. The performance of the Dutch economy is characterized by a high per capita GDP, sustained GDP growth, high labor productivity (GDP per hour worked) and a high employment rate. However, the growth in the employment rate among the older aged (aged 55–65) is lagging slightly behind that of other countries. In addition, after Germany the Netherlands has the lowest number of hours worked, which depresses the GDP per person employed.
Business enterprise R&D expenditures have increased. However, this was not sufficient to improve the international position in this area. The number of innovative companies also increased, but not enough to lift the Netherlands out of the lower regions of the benchmark countries.
The self-employment rate in the Netherlands increased to such a level that the position within the group of benchmark countries has also improved. The birth rate of enterprises has also risen, but this was accompanied by an increase in the exit rate of enterprises. The amount of people that are actively engaged in starting-up a business is below the EU average of 5.5%. New enterprises in the Netherlands are characterized by an above-average size of enterprise, but with a persistently low proportion of fast growers.
Taxation policy in the Netherlands addresses the trade-off between equity and competitiveness reasonably well. There is horizontal equity in that the taxes levied do not discriminate between different societal groups or enterprises. The Netherlands has a progressive system of income taxation. The fact that taxes are dependent on income contributes to vertical equity. In general, income tax rates range between 30% and 52%. There are some tax benefits for high-income earners, such as favorable arrangements on mortgage interest. Personal income taxes are also levied on businesses that are not subject to the corporate tax system. The tax system includes only a limited set of deductibles, of which the one for interest payments on mortgages is most substantial. Furthermore, there are a number of subsidies that depend on taxable income. The most substantial are subsidies for child care, health insurance and renting a house. There is a separate tax for wealth.
Competitiveness may be harmed by the fact that the total of taxes and premiums on mandatory social insurance is relatively high when compared to international standards. The relatively low rates of taxation cannot offset the effect of payments into the social insurance system. In 2010, the Dutch government introduced several measures to help SMEs overcome shortages in working capital and liquidity problems due to increased payment delays on receivables, an increase in inventories and an increase in failures to meet financial obligations, insolvencies and bankruptcies. The Dutch government introduced measures to help SMEs by making, for example, tax rules more entrepreneur-friendly and by expanding a guarantee scheme (the so-called BBMKB scheme). Also, the maximum guarantee of the Guarantee Business Financing scheme was increased from €50 million to €150 million.
Insofar as state-levied taxes cover most government expenses, it can be said that taxation, until the economic crisis, generated sufficient income. This is not the case anymore, since additional measures will be necessary to provide national government with sufficient revenues for its budget.
Budgetary policy has been sound over the course of the period before 2008. The economic crisis, however, has put severe pressures on the government budget. Over the course of the period under review, the national balance switched from a surplus in 2008 to a deficit in 2010. The deficit for 2009, registered at 4.6% of GNP. The prospects are not promising; the CPB expects this figure to increase to 6.3% by the end of 2010. Tax revenues will decrease further, while unemployment expenditures and interest will go up. Factors affecting the negative EMU-balance include disappointing gas benefits and a stimulating policy package to facilitate economic recovery following the Supplementary Policy Agreement by the national government. The rapid pace of budget deterioration is unequalled in Dutch history. The deficit of 6.3% is far worse than was expected two years ago. The same goes for the EMU-debt of 66%. The current plans to increase the age for retirement can be seen as a measure to improve budgetary sustainability.
The system of financing health care underwent a complete transformation in 2006. This more market-oriented system includes price competition for a standardized basic benefits package, community rating, sliding-scale income-based subsidies for patients and risk equalization for insurers. However, the Dutch health insurance model does not control costs or increases in consumer premiums, and insurance companies report large losses on the basic policies. Public satisfaction is not high and perceived quality is down. Consumers may not behave as economic models predict, as they may remain unresponsive to price incentives. Health insurers announced mergers that have been approved by the Dutch competition authority. After these mergers, about 90% of the population will be insured by six large insurance groups, while the other 10% will be insured by seven small regionally oriented health insurers.
In 2008, the electronic patient dossier (Elektronisch Patiënten Dossier, EPD) was introduced as a pilot project in order to facilitate the exchange of patient medical information between nursing staff, general practitioner and pharmacists. Participation is now on a volunteer basis but will be made mandatory in the future. The system saves time and money but is also highly debated because it touches upon privacy issues.
An international study on infant mortality showed that within a group of 25 European countries (plus Norway), the Netherlands has a higher infant mortality rate than France and Latvia. The numbers of mortality are especially high during the pregnancy period and in the first week after birth. Women in the Netherlands are on average older at childbirth and more twins are born in the Netherlands, two factors which are associated with more complications during birth. The infant mortality rate is particularly high in the group of women with foreign background.
CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis “Health care reform in the Netherlands” Retrieved from http://www.cpb.nl/nl/org/homepages/rcmhd/reform_english.pdf (April 16th 2010)
Rosenau, P.V. & Lako, C.J. “An Experiment with Regulated Competition and Individual Mandates for Universal Health Care: The New Dutch Health Insurance System”. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law Retrieved from http://jhppl.dukejournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/33/6/1031 (7th April 2010)
The social security system is comprised of a national social security scheme (Volkverzekering) and an employee social insurance scheme (Werknemersverzekeringen). The national social security scheme concerns all residents of the Netherlands and the benefits are independent of salary. The employee insurance scheme concerns employees and benefits depend on the last earned income. The aim of the Dutch social security system is to provide guaranteed income for all those for unable to support themselves independently as a result of unemployment, invalidity or illness. The system thus ensures rights of equal political and civic participation. Social provisions are financed by general revenues.
In 2006, 1.2 million people (8% of the population, but 1,000 less than in 2005) were living in poverty, with children comprising a large portion (11%) of this figure. The risk of poverty is higher for single-parent households, the elderly and non-western immigrants. Despite the financial crisis, 75% of the Dutch public believes that the Netherlands is a prosperous country. People identify antisocial behavior, income levels, the economy, and crime and safety as the most important social problems. In a 2008 poll, 3% of the population as a whole stated they were not happy and 84% stated they are happy or very happy. Compared with 2006, these figures show some improvement: slightly fewer unhappy people and slightly more happy people (5% and 82%, respectively, in 2006).
Euraxess “Dutch social security” http://www.euraxess.nl/getting-started/social-security-pensions/dutch-social-security
The Netherlands Institute for Social Research “Armoedebericht 2008” Retrieved from http://www.scp.nl/ (March 15th 2010)
The Netherlands Institute for Social Research “The Social State of the Netherlands 2009” Retrieved from http://www.scp.nl/Publicaties/Alle_publicaties/Publicaties_2010/The_Social_State_of_the_Netherlands_2009 (March 20th 2010)
Family policy in the Netherlands is characterized by the need to recognize a child’s best interest, and to provide support for the family and the development of parenting skills. Day care centers for young children are not directly subsidized, but parents face considerable transaction costs. The subsidy depends on the taxable income and is a result of the Childcare Act that came into effect in 2005. Until 2011, the government invests €2.65 billion extra in child care. The government established an extensive system of child protection.
From January 2009 on, parental leave was extended from 13 to 26 weeks. According to the OECD, around two-thirds of Dutch working women choose part-time jobs, which bring down the country´s average working time to one of the lowest in the OECD. Next to individual preferences, there is a strong link between the incidence of part-time work to taxation and childcare. Although government decisions have facilitated the provision of childcare services and cost reductions, not all obstacles have been removed yet. Full-time female participation is hindered mainly by a high marginal effective tax burden on second earners, reflecting the withdrawal of social benefits conditioned on family income.
Nederlands Jeugd Instituut “Youth policy in the Netherlands – Child Protection” Retrieved from http://www.youthpolicy.nl/eCache/DEF/1/06/360.html (11th April 2010)
OECD “Economic survey of the Netherlands 2008: Increasing working hours: Helping reconcile work and family” Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/document/5/0,3343,en_2649_34321_39997701_1_1_1_37457,00.html (7th April 2010)
ifo Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung „Parental Leave in the Netherlands“
Retrieved from www.ifo.de/DocCIDL/dicereport209-rm2.pdf (7th April 2010)
The Dutch pension system is based on three pillars. The first pillar is the basic, state-run old-age pension (AOW) for people 65 years and older. Everyone who pays Dutch wage tax and/or income tax and who is not yet 65 pays into the AOW system. Given that this contribution income is used immediately to pay out AOW benefits, the system may be considered a “pay-as-you-go” system. In comparison to other European countries, this pillar makes up only a limited part of the total old age pension system in the Netherlands. Because the current number of pensioners will double over the next few decades, the system is subject to considerable and increasing pressure. The second pillar consists of the occupational pension schemes which serve to supplement the AOW scheme. The employer makes a pension commitment and the pension scheme covers all employees of the company or industry/branch. The third pillar comprises supplementary personal pension schemes which anyone can buy from insurance companies.
The government’s attempt to increase the age of retirement from 65 to 67 was met with controversy in the country. As a result of the financial crisis, pension fund assets are shrinking. At the same time, however, the liquidity ratio of pension funds must be maintained at a minimum of 105%. But some funds failed to properly estimate their liquidity ratios in the context of the economic crisis. As a result, the funds have to report to the Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), which is the financial authority in this matter, as to how they aim to achieve this level. The timeframe for the recovery was increased from three to a maximum of five years.
Public Services International “The principles of the Dutch pension system” Retrieved from http://www.world-psi.org/TemplateEn.cfm?Section=Home&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentFileID=23259 (6th April 2010)
Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelenheid “Informatie over pensionen en de kredietcrisis” Retrieved from http://home.szw.nl/index.cfm?menu_item_id=13755&hoofdmenu_item_id=13825&rubriek_item=391841&rubriek_id=391817&set_id=3636&doctype_id=6&link_id=163263 (6th April 2010)
All non-EU nationals who immigrate to the Netherlands are required to learn the Dutch language and develop knowledge about Dutch society.
The Civic Integration Abroad policy requires obligatory integration tests in the country of origin for family reunion applicants. However, Human Rights Watch stated that this poses some concerns because it clearly applies only to family migrants from certain nationalities, mainly from non-western countries. The number of applications decreased a nd further financial restrictions (€350 for each time the test is taken) infringe upon the right to family life.
Compared to other countries, immigrants benefit from several measures targeting employment security and labor market integration. In terms of political participation, the Netherlands performs very well on immigrants’ political liberties in forming associations and political parties. Nonetheless, applicants for national citizenship can be rejected for not participating in the mandatory Naturalization Day ceremony.
Narcis “Bridging the social divide? Reflections on current Dutch neighbourhood policy (2009)” Retrieved from http://www.narcis.info/publication/RecordID/oai:uva.nl:332409 (April 11th 2010)
“Memorandum on Integration Policy 2007-2011 Netherlands” European Web Site on Integration http://ec.europa.eu/ewsi/en/resources/detail.cfm?ID_ITEMS=4141 (7th April 2010)
Human Rights Watch “The Netherlands: Discrimination in the name of Integration” Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/05/13/netherlands-discrimination-name-integration (March 2010).
The expenditures for defense increased from €7.9 billion in 2007 (1.5% of GDP) to €8.2 billion in 2008 (1.66% of GDP). During the period under review, the Netherlands took an active and leading role in the peacekeeping military campaign in Afghanistan. The Netherlands was also involved in operations in Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Somalia. The Balkenende IV cabinet was unable to agree on whether the Netherlands’ military involvement in International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) after December 2010 should continue. For that reason, the Labor Party ministers and state secretaries tendered their resignations, and the Christian Democrat and Christian Union ministers and state secretaries indicated their readiness to give up their portfolios.
In March 2008 the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism (NCTb) raised the general threat level for the Netherlands from “limited” to “substantial.” This was due mostly to the Dutch military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also to the release of “Fitna,” an anti-Muslim movie by right-wing politician Geert Wilders.
During the period under review, several trends affecting security policy were indentified. Members of local autonomous networks have increased their contact with international jihadist groups, while the number of anti-Islam statements on Dutch web sites has increased in the last few years. Right-wing parties, in particular the Geert Wilders-led Party for Freedom (PVV), have gained traction in Dutch society, which may indicate that further polarization is underway. However, the resistance to polarization, radicalization and terrorism remains high within the Dutch Muslim communities. In addition to problems associated with terrorist attacks, there are other forms of internal risks – such as the beach riots at Hoek van Holland – that should be addressed. The incident at Hoek van Holland, in which the public attacked police, drew national attention and sparked public debate.
Citizens’ perception of safety also receives attention in Dutch policies. The aim has been to increase the perception of safety by 25% from 2002 to 2010. Perceived safety by citizens also receives attention in large policy programs, for instance the Large Cities Policy program (GSB).
In the Netherlands, 90% of environmental improvements derive from the application of clean technologies in production and transportation. This will not change in the future. In the short term, the environment will benefit from the economic recession, especially with regard to emissions and air quality. In the long run, the crisis will have negative effects on the environment as it will slow the development of environmentally friendly techniques. The environmental policy goals set for 2015 will be partially met. Most 2020 goals, however, are not within reach and require a readjustment of current policy strategies. Readjustment will render short-term goals concerning emissions of greenhouse gasses and other air polluters feasible. The same applies to noise reduction. Fundamental policy change is needed, however, in the fields of energy conservation, renewable energy alternatives, surface water quality, soil protection, biodiversity and odor pollution in order to meet long term goals. In most cases, this demands that new green technologies – many of which are applied only in protected experimental arenas – be implemented.
Although the Netherlands aims to number among the top 5 most innovative countries, its capacity to meet this goal is fading. The Balkenende IV cabinet placed innovation high on its agenda and pursued policies facilitating innovation in the Dutch economy. However, the requisite circumstances for such a platform to succeed were undermined by the centrifugal forces of departmental interests and special interests pursued by government insiders. During the review period, progress in innovation policy was achieved in only a few sectors.
In June 2008, the government presented its long-term strategy for sustainable productivity growth. However, research and development (R&D) investment has kept pace neither with GDP growth nor with investment levels in other developed countries. Although there are some promising individual measures in the policy mix, the Netherlands lags behind other countries in terms of measures taken to expand the number of SMEs, and develop and exploit (technological) knowledge. Considering innovation performance, the Netherlands is just above the EU-27 average (European Innovation Scoreboard 2008), but the rate of improvement is below that of the EU-27.
In its Strategic Plan 2007-2010 the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) states that in the past years the investments in scientific research and innovation have structurally failed to meet the ambitions of the Netherlands. Recently the Council of Economic Advisors states that an additional annual investment of 10 to 15 thousand million euros for the knowledge system as a whole is needed in order to meet the country’s targeted policy objectives. The economic crisis will negatively affect R&D investment and innovation. Businesses in the high-tech sector have already reduced R&D spending and shifted attention toward short-term and low-risk innovation.
The 2007 parliamentary inquiry into educational policy revealed a deep sense of professional crisis, a severe lack of high-quality teachers at all levels of education, and an alarming drop-out rate. Equality and equity are still important characteristics of the Dutch educational system. Policy aims at striving for inclusion of all pupils. This is visible in the accessibility of education. Although compulsory education starts at the age of five, most children start school at the age of four. Education, which emphasizes equality, is open to all students. Key goals of education in the Netherlands include the provision of equal opportunities for participation in society as part of the larger goal of facilitating social cohesion. There are a number of policy measures in place targeting these goals. One of the main policy objectives is to reduce the number of early school dropouts by 50% between 2002 and 2012. As part of this policy, schools receive €2,000 less of government funding for each dropout.
Primary schools in the bigger cities have high numbers of students with non-Western backgrounds. In cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam, this percentage is more than 80% in some schools. These students start school with considerable deficits, especially concerning language.
During the 2007 – 2008 academic year, 19,000 full-time university students obtained a bachelor’s degree. Although the course of study takes three years, the average student required 4.5 years to complete the requirements for their bachelor’s degree.
European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education “Development of inclusion – Netherlands” Retrieved from http://www.european-agency.org/country-information/netherlands/national-overview/development-of-inclusion (11th April 2010)
Centraal Planbureau voor de Statistiek “Fewer school – leavers without starter qualification” Retrieved from http://www.cbs.nl/en-GB/menu/themas/onderwijs/publicaties/artikelen/archief/2010/2010-3093-wm.htm (11th April 2010)
SGI 2011 review period (May 2008 to April 2010) is outlined. Shown are: Prime minister or president, type of government, and ruling parties. Asterisks indicate national parliamentary or presidential elections.
Country scores and texts were produced by the country coordinator, based on comprehensive assessments by two country experts.
Prof. Nils C. Bandelow Technical University of Braunschweig
Prof. Robert Hoppe, Prof. Thomas Hoppe University of Twente