National  problems hardly related to regions

27/03/2008 15:00

There is hardly any difference between what Dutch people in urban and rural areas define as urgent national problems. This is amazing, because the problems residents of urbanised areas face differ from those people in rural areas have to deal with. There appears to be a discrepancy between the actual problems people are faced with in their direct environment and the degree of focus people think national problems require.

Minorities constitute major national problem

In 2007, problems related to (ethnic) minorities were most frequently mentioned by the electorate. Approximately 37 percent thought these problems – in particular integration of people with a (non-western) foreign background – should be tackled first. Health care and crime are in second and third place. Problems related to income and prices, immediately followed by ‘norms and values’ are in the top five of most serious problems. ‘Environment’ and ‘employment’, which were sometimes considered important in the past have now faded into the background.

Perceived national problems, 2007

Perceived national problems, 2007

Degree of urbanisation offers no explanation

The degree of urbanisation of a municipality seems fairly irrelevant, when it comes to which problems should be tackled first. This also applies to problems related to the economy, housing, traffic and transport and crime. This is an indication that problems limited to people’s direct environment play no part in the selection of national problems.

Problems related to ethnic minorities are the only exception. In (very) highly urbanised areas, e.g. in the four major cities, 43 percent of residents think minority-related problems are important in the national context, as against 32 percent in less densely populated areas. This result tallies with the fact that ethnic minorities are more commonly found in large cities than in smaller municipalities.

The discrepancies are more prominent, if the various parts of the country are taken into consideration. Problems related to the presence of ethnic minorities are more frequently mentioned in the west and east part of the country than in the south and north. Employment is deemed more important in the south and north, traffic and transport in the west and east and environment mainly in the west. Apparently, these matters are less strongly related to the degree of urbanisation than to the classification in larger regions.

Perceived national problems by part of the country, 2007

Perceived national problems by part of the country, 2007

Hans Schmeets