Record immigration and emigration in 2017

© Hollandse Hoogte / Olaf Kraak Fotografie
In 2017, 235 thousand immigrants arrived in the Netherlands whilst 154 thousand emigrants left the country. The two flows have never been larger since official migration statistics became available in 1865. Net migration has also reached a record level at 81 thousand. The high net migration rate can be explained by increased immigration from other EU member states as well as by asylum seekers and following family members. This is evident from the definitive migration figures over 2017 which have been released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

Net migration (x 1,000)
 Net migration
194513.4
194640.5
1947-11.5
1948-20.2
1949-21.9
195019.9
1951-9.4
1952-47.7
1953-31.6
1954-19
1955-5.2
1956-11
1957-12.5
195812.1
1959-16.9
1960-13.3
19616.6
196216.6
19638.3
196413
196518
196619.3
1967-12.9
19685.3
196919.6
197032.7
197135.5
197219.9
197321.8
197433.7
197562.7
197619.2
197720.5
197826.8
197943.1
198050.8
198114.5
1982-0.8
19832.3
19845.1
198519.9
198626.8
198735.1
198826.9
198926.9
199048.4
199149.6
199243.1
199344.4
199420.1
199513.9
199616.8
199727.5
199839.1
199940.4
200053.9
200150.8
200224.3
2003-0.3
2004-16.2
2005-27.4
2006-31.3
2007-5.8
200825.7
200934.5
201033.1
201129.8
201213.9
201319.1
201435.1
201555.1
201679.2
201780.7

Net migration (immigration minus emigration) always fluctuates sharply. Since the middle of last century, the migration balance has varied between –48 thousand (1952) and +80 thousand (2016 and 2017).

Political and economic factors

The peaks and troughs in migration flows since the Second World War are related to a number of political and economic historical events, including:
• The proclamation of Indonesian independence in 1949.
• Dutch emigration to countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States during the 1950s.
• Immigration flows from the so-called recruitment countries such as Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey in the 1960s and early 1970s.
• Increased immigration from Suriname after it gained independence in 1975.
• Family reunification and formation during the 1980s, among Turkish and Moroccan immigrants in particular.
• A larger influx of asylum migrants as of the mid-1980s, partly due to the violent war in the former Yugoslavia and conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
• Declining immigration during the early 1990s and early 2000s on account of tighter legislation regarding admission of asylum seekers, stricter requirements for family reunification and economic downturn.
• Larger numbers of European immigrants after the European Union was enlarged to include the A10 countries in Central and Eastern Europe as of May 2004, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007.
• An increase in the number of foreign students, partly due to a rising number of English-speaking degree and non-degree study programmes in the Netherlands.
• The Syrian Civil War, which has led to a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers and following family members as of 2014.
• Higher economic growth rates in the late 1990s and in 2006-2007 (and other periods) were accompanied by rising immigration.The recent immigration growth is likely also due to the current economic upturn.

A structural rise has been seen in both immigration and emigration since the Second World War. Many immigrants are temporary residents, and increased immigration will lead to increased emigration after several years. The increased emigration mainly concerned people who had previously immigrated to the Netherlands. As of 2012, the share of former immigrants in emigration has amounted to 70 percent; the remaining 30 percent have been Dutch-born emigrants.

Sharp growth in immigration from other EU countries

In the period 2013-2017, on average 30 thousand native Dutch people remigrated to the Netherlands every year. As of 2017, nearly half of all foreign-born immigrants came from other countries in the EU. Ever since the EU was enlarged with ten Central and Eastern European countries, immigration by EU citizens has risen sharply. Many immigrants came to work or study and were followed by their family members. The number of non-western immigrants, too, has increased significantly since 2013. The majority are asylum seekers and following relatives, but there has also been an increase in labour, education and family migration from non-western countries.

Average immigration per year, by country of birth (x 1,000)
 2013-20172004-20121995-2003
Netherlands30.125.322.9
EU (excl. Netherlands)79.847.323.4
Non-EU
Western19.113.315.6
Non-western74.644.154.5

Average immigration from non-EU countries, per year, by motive (x 1,000)
 2014-20162009-20132004-20081999-2003
Labour13.110.788
Asylum24.35.52.610.3
Family26.520.817.229.8
Education14.311.698.7

Part of immigrants leave the country again

Labour and education immigrants often stay in the Netherlands for the short term. Of migrants in this group who arrived between 2005 and 2007, approximately 35 percent had left again within two years’ time. This share was lower among asylum and family migrants. Nevertheless, part of this group eventually departed as well. After ten years, 35 percent of asylum migrants had left, often with another destination than their country of origin. In the case of family migrants, 40 percent had left again after ten years.

Immigrant departures within two years, by year of immigration (%)
 EUNon-EU, westernNon-western
199525.217.111.4
199627.12211.9
199727.623.512.4
199826.623.411.6
19992522.610.4
200024.417.610.6
200125.720.112.5
20022622.914.5
200327.624.316.2
200426.127.716.4
200528.231.418.5
200628.433.821
200728.733.621.8
200832.734.222.1
200933.93522.7
201035.736.424.5
201138.336.226.8
201239.838.829.3
201340.438.227.2
201440.737.324.5

More immigrants leaving within two years

After the turn of the century, the share of short-term immigrants started to rise, partly due to increasing numbers of labour and education immigrants. Of all non-western immigrants who arrived in the Netherlands in 2000, 10 percent had left again within two years’ time. A significant part of the influx in those days were family members of immigrants from Turkey and Morocco, who generally stay for a much longer period of time. Twelve years onwards, the share of short-stay non-western immigrants had risen to nearly 30 percent. After 2012, the share of non-western immigrants who stayed less than two years saw a slight decline again.

Among western immigrants as well, the share of short-term residents increased sharply. Since the enlargement process of the EU began in 2004, the share of short-term immigrants from the EU (staying less than two years) has continued to rise: from 26 to 41 percent. Of non-EU western immigrants who arrived in 2014, those who had left within two years’ time occupied a share of slightly under 40 percent.

Departing non-EU citizens immigrating in 2005-2007, by motive (%)
 After 2 yearsAfter 10 years
Labour33.3170.93
Asylum6.3435.36
Family15.2741.31
Education37.374.44