In the last decade participation and trust in Dutch society have gone up slightly. This is shown by the increase in the social contacts citizens have with family, friends and acquaintances, among other things. People remain greatly involved in volunteer work for organisations and in political activities. Between 2002 and 2008 trust in people and in social and political institutions increased. There are, however, major differences between regions and communities as today’s publication Sociale Samenhang by Statistics Netherlands shows.
Over one in five peopleworks as a volunteer
A key indicator for social cohesion is volunteer involvement in organisations. More than one in five people indicate that they work as volunteers. This has increased somewhat in the last decade. Volunteers spend an average of 5 hours a week on unpaid activities for organisations.
In 2008 three in ten people indicated that they helped other people outside their own household. This share has been stable since 1997.
Highly educated people more involved in the community
Education level is the main distinguishing feature in various aspects of social cohesion. Highly educated people work more often as volunteers, they join clubs more often, they are more politically active, and they have substantially more faith in others and in institutions such as NATO, the European Union, Parliament and the army than less well-educated people.
There are also considerable differences between religious communities, both in terms of participating in activities and in trust. The group that indicated they belong to the Dutch Protestant Church (Protestantse Kerk in Nederland) has particularly high scores on most aspects of social cohesion. Muslims mainly score low.
Regional differences in social cohesion
Social cohesion is less in some provinces than in others. In Limburg and Flevoland it is lower than in Friesland, which is a positive exception. In municipalities where the share of people living on benefits is higher, voter turnout for the parliamentary elections of 9 June 2010 was generally lower. There also tend to be fewer volunteers. The neighbourhoods where people live also play a role. In neighbourhoods with higher concentrations of non-westerners there is less contact with the neighbours and people experience less social cohesions.
The Netherlands has a high level of social cohesion within Europe
There are major differences in social cohesion between the European countries. The contrast is particularly stark between Eastern European countries compared to the Scandinavians and the Netherlands. The Netherlands has the highest share of volunteers. The population also has many social contacts. Furthermore faith in others and in social and political institutions in higher in the Netherlands and some Scandinavian countries than in almost all other European countries.