A look at society: involved, safe, and full of colour

13/09/2007 15:00

Dutch society is changing in many respects. Many of these changes are remarkable from a historical or European perspective, while in other areas there is continuity.

Manifest involvement

Involvement in society is growing, the quality of social relationships is evolving. Citizens trust individuals and institutions more and have become more politically active. At the same time people have become more sceptical about politics. The involvement is manifest socially: young people, highly educated people and people higher up on the social-economic ladder are participating more, have more confidence and are less critical about politics.

Involvement in the neighbourhood, 2006

Involvement in the neighbourhood, 2006

Safety due to policy and aging

Citizens are feeling safer. They fall victim to theft and burglaries less often. A more effective approach to frequent re-offenders, who are responsible for many of these crimes, prevention measures taken by the citizens themselves and the age specific population (fewer ‘criminal’ youths) explain the lower crime rate.

Feeling unsafe

Feeling unsafe

Young people are better educated. Many more young people leave school with a diploma. This improves their position on the job market: unemployment among young people has been falling since 2005. However, the share of long-term unemployed doesn’t drop at the same rate.

Unemployed youths (aged15–24) by duration of unemployment, 2006

Unemployed youths (aged15–24) by duration of unemployment, 2006

Less dependent on benefits due to new policies

Over the last few years about 60 thousand people have retired annually. Most people stopped before they turned 65, usually when they were about 60.
People who take early retirement are faced with a 15 percent cut in purchasing power. But there is a substantial spread: a quarter looses 25 percent or more, a fifth is better off after retirement.

The changes in the laws on social security in recent years seem to have the desired effect. The changes were meant to limit the influx and stimulate the outflow. The figures show that this was successful: there has been a substantial reduction in the number of welfare, unemployment, and labour disablement benefit recipients over the last few years. The decrease in the number of labour disablement settlements is mainly due to stricter policies. These policies were helped by the continued economic recovery.

Welfare recipients on 31 December (under 65)

Welfare recipients on 31 December (under 65)

Non-native population remains vulnerable

All this is taking place in a society that has seen many changes recently: There is more colour, that is, an increase in the influx of migrants; and there is more grey (older people). Moreover lives are becoming more varied.

Some things only change slowly. Non-westerners as a group still have a lower education level than the native Dutch population, although the second generation is narrowing the gap. The group is therefore vulnerable on the job market. This vulnerability is also shown in other aspects of life: feeling less healthy, having less contact with friends and family, and being less happy than the native population.

People with work as their main source of income, 2005

People with work as their main source of income, 2005

Ronald van der Bie and Pieter Duimelaar