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Dutch Tolerance and the Jobs Market

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The Jobs Market and Dutch Tolerance

Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, knows how to fight and overcome the odds to be successful. Here is a man who despite a complete and utter lack of charisma, and a speaking style that is as exciting as a notary reading out the terms of a property contract, has fought his way to the top of Dutch politics.

This week he made a statement which says a hell of a lot about the Netherlands and Dutch tolerance.

Ik kan tegen Nederland zeggen: ‘discrimineer aub niet, beoordeel iemand op karakter en kennis.’ Maar als het wel gebeurt, heeft Mohammed de keus: afhaken wegens belediging of doorgaan. Nieuwkomers hebben zich altijd moeten aanpassen, en altijd te maken gehad met vooroordelen en discriminatie. Je moet je invechten.’

I can say to the people of the Netherlands, ‘please don’t discriminate, judge people by their knowledge and character.’ But as it occurs, then Mohammed has a choice: Give up because of being offended or carry on. Newcomers have always had to adapt, and have always had to deal with prejudice and discrimination. You have to fight.

Mark Rutte’s idea of racial diversity

 

Not from within the EU? Good luck with fighting for a job in Holland!

A recent survey by the OECD and Eurostat published in the Volkskrant  shows that the Netherlands is one of the worst countries to be a non-EU citizen looking for a job. In fact, only Sweden has more unemployed non-EU citizens than the Netherlands. Only 49,5% of allochtonen, (the Dutch term for foreigners from a non-western background) are in full time employment.

What’s very clear from the study is that the descendents of Moroccans, Turks and people of the Dutch Antilles and Surinam are much more likely to be unemployed than Dutch natives. What are the reasons for such high unemployment amongst people from a non-EU background? The Shallow Man will seek to explain this.

Now this post might annoy some, and if as a result, I’m captured by a group of angry Dutch HR women, who attempt to explain that the Dutch are the most tolerant people in the world, and that most leading Dutch organisations employ plenty of allochtonen. I’ll say to the HR ladies “Yes I agree with you that there are plenty of allochtonen in most Dutch companies. They can be seen entering office buildings at 5am to do the cleaning. I don’t really think that counts as successful diversity in the workplace.”

The things I do for my readers!

Dutch tolerance HR quote
The head of HR at a major Dutch organisation

Dutch tolerance and the high allochtonen unemployment rates

The fact that with the exception of Sweden, the Netherlands has one of highest rates of unemployment amongst allochtonen in Europe, has absolutely nothing to do with discrimination in the workplace. The Dutch are the most tolerant people in the world. Did you know that the Dutch were the first to legalise gay marriage?

I know for a fact that all Dutch firms are proud to be equal opportunity employers. Typically most Dutch corporate websites will usually have at least one token black person, or someone with licht getinte huidskleur. (Lightly tinted skin color).

There was even an advert for a job agency in Amsterdam that I noticed one morning, which showed a bunch of white Dutch natives all standing around and sitting on a bus, which had the name of the agency on the side. The slogan was something like, ‘looking for a job? get on the bus.’ In the interest of diversity, they still managed to squeeze a black man into the ad. He was driving the bus. So that was one less unemployed allochtoon, success!

Question: If the Dutch are so tolerant, why are so many allochtonen out of work?

That’s a bloody good question. To which the only answers must be.

“It’s not us, it’s our customers”

We’d happily employ allochtonen for jobs other than cleaning, and serving white bread with hagelslag (chocolate flakes) to grown men in brown shoes and trousers that are two inches too short. The problem is that our Dutch customers wouldn’t feel comfortable talking on the phone to a Fatima or Mohammed. They want to speak to Anouk or Jeroen, and discuss how FC Zwolle are getting on, or discuss how many decades Anouk has worn the same jeans before replacing them with a pair that look exactly the same.

 

“They’re not as well qualified, which is why they can’t get the jobs”

Pardon my French, but that is absolute cows testicles. The OECD study shows quite clearly, that allochtonen with university degrees are still far more likely to be unemployed than their Dutch native counterparts. This of course can’t have anything to do with discrimination. The allochtonen, probably attend interviews with a bad attitude, and with a chip on their shoulders. Which is good experience for the only job they are likely to get in a Dutch corporation, frying chips.

Looking on the bright side, they can always get a job working for PostNL and deliver packages to the wrong addresses in revenge for not having had a fair shot at the job market. Perhaps this explains why so many taxi drivers in Dutch cities have such a bad attitude, they have degrees in accountancy, but instead of fixing the books of companies to pay as little tax as possible, they fix the meters to rip of passengers instead.

“They speak Dutch with an accent, our clients wouldn’t like that”

All Dutch people, speak Dutch with an accent. What this means in fact is that they speak Dutch with the wrong accent, or better said, without an aardappel in keel/potato in the throat, which is the posh method of speaking Dutch. Many HR people, are graduates of the same hotel schools. They’ve been in sororities together, where membership often depends on having blonde hair and being whiter than the teeth of Tom Cruise.

They have built up a nice little network, of irritating, “I’m going to speak as if I’m from Het Gooi, when in fact I grew up in a slum in the Schliderswijk” (a rough neighborhood in the Hague)

HR folks are not in the least bit intolerant, even if every time a CV arrives with a foreign sounding name, they file it in the wastebasket, as they just don’t believe that such a person will fit in.  Or better said, “we just don’t think that you are the rrrrrrrrrrright fit for our company.”

This has nothing to do with discrimination, have you ever been to the USA? Look at how they treat minorities there, then come to Holland, (on holiday, don’t move here we’re full) nowhere is more tolerant than the Netherlands.

yes-we-just-dont-think-youd-be-rrrrrrrrrrrright-for-our-company-you-cant-play-hockey-wearing-a-headscarf-fe81d

A number of surveys have shown that even with the largest employment agencies in the Netherlands, that when people with identical CV’s apply for jobs, that those from non-EU backgrounds are not offered the same opportunities. 

They like living off the uitkering (social security)

‘They’ being the pesky foreigners. It appears to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mohammed applies for lots of jobs, but fails to gain employment. He has to live, so claims social security. If he manages to get a job interview, and explains to the clueless HR person, that he’s been unemployed for sometime now. He’s not likely to get the job, as the employer will be thinking “typical lazy allochtoon, living off social security.”

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So the Shallow Man’s advice to unemployed allochtonen is to prove that you’re not interested in living off the state, and want to work. The best way to do this is to simply allow yourself to starve to death. Dutch employers will be so impressed with your independent attitude and sense of determination, that they’ll offer you a job on your deathbed.

Mohammed's job offer finally arrived just a little too late
Mohammed’s job offer finally arrived just a little too late

Other tips for allochtonen to get jobs

  • Change your name to be more Dutch friendly, for example instead of Mohammed, simply shorten it to Mo
  • For female muslims that wear headscarves, my suggestion at the job interview would be to tell the female interviewers that you caught a bad cold from having wet hair on public transport everyday, so have to wear a headscarf temporarily until the cold had gone
  • For black people from Surinam or the Antilles, attend job interviews only in November. You can tell the interviewers that you work as a Zwarte Piet in your spare time, and didn’t have time to remove the makeup, this should make you immediately popular and acceptable

Newcomers?

According to the Prime Minister, ‘newcomers’ have always had to deal with discrimination.   So Mohammed, who is most probably third generation Turkish or Moroccan, is still considered by the Prime Minister as being a ‘newcomer.’ So Mr Rutte, how many generations will it take, before Mohammed will no longer be seen as a ‘gast’ or a ‘newcomer?’  Four? five? or seven generations? Will the grandchildren of Mohammed (assuming he doesn’t starve himself to death) say in an interview forty years from now, “well our family has only been in the Netherlands for seventy years, so it’s not a problem if you don’t employ me as I need to fight to be accepted for my knowledge and character as a newcomer.”

To summarize

If you’re discriminated against when applying for jobs, it’s your own fault, as you haven’t fought enough. The OECD are a left wing organisation, and the author of the research, was probably sold some white heroin instead of coke while in Amsterdam, and has now made up the study to make the country look bad. The Dutch are tolerant, so the study must be wrong.

If you don’t like it here rot op naar je eigen land

I’m sure I’ve heard that one somewhere before.

Till next time, if you’re a non-EU foreigner, fight for your right, not to be discriminated against in the Dutch job market.

My one-way flight to London has already been booked.

No cows were hurt during the writing of this post.

getting a tan in my last 24 hours in Amsterdam
“I almost didn’t employ him, I thought he was from Surinam!”

 

About Simon Woolcot

Infamous blogger, annoyance and self confessed Shallow Man . Simon is a British expat who has lived in Amsterdam for over 11 years, and due to Brexit may soon be applying for asylum. As well as writing this blog, Simon also has a YouTube channel of the same name, writes and directs videos, and hosts seminars about life in the Netherlands

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  • katee

    Let me help you out and tell you about the average Dutch person’s annoyances (not mine). Yes, the language issue. It’s not the accent, but the way foreigners mess up spelling of certain words. Like an extra e in ‘een mooie verhaal’ or lack of an e in ‘het mooi verhaal’. Nobody thinks a lesson in Dutch is going to save these allochtonen, because like you say they’ve been in the Netherlands from birth and multiple generations before them and they still don’t get it. For driving a bus, nobody cares, but having a management or higher office function it does matter. Then: they don’t fit in the culture of the company. There’s some truth to that, generally speaking. Most of the ‘jokes’ made by allochtonen at work, are simply not funny to Dutch people. As far as I can tell, Dutch humor is more about sarcasm and word jokes while humor of foreigners is about making fun of other people, which is considered tasteless. And furthermore there is a way of working that is sort of short, factual, business like where one colleague can tell another colleague what to do without getting bogged down by niceties and sharing personal details, which is something that works better with Dutch than foreign colleagues (and boss/subordinate, too). Basically, foreigners are hired because it looks hip (sort of like social corporate responsibility) but nobody seems to believe it actually will help productivity, getting things done, nor quality, so here it is…

    • lebriz

      well said, katee. you are just a perfect sample of his database here.

    • Peter D. Barker

      Hahahahaha – wow.

      Xenophobic much?

    • Katee, I hope that you don’t work in HR

      • katee

        Luckily not. I don’t agree with these views, just pointing out what the average Dutch person thinks (except for the ones that will be screaming on here that they are not like that ). Maybe it helps understanding the issue a bit better.

    • Dora

      So the assumption is that the only jokes allochtonen can make and enjoy are about mocking other people (while Dutch don´t) and that their work style is doing their job while sharing personal info and getting offended if bossed around, while Dutch people just do the thing (successfully) and go home. And for these reasons plus the fact that allochtonen cannot learn how to spell Dutch words no matter how many years they are here and how many university degrees they have, they are not a fit to a higher office function or a management position.
      Allow me to conclude from this series of thoughts (if I got them right), that the average Dutch person described in this comment is not educated. And if this is not the case, then the Dutch education system sucks in teaching people critical thinking.

      • katee

        Correct summary. Don’t understand the conclusion. I am actually talking about higher educated groups of people. I would say these Dutch people think critically as this is what they have experienced. It would be more politically correct (and thus easier) to say you love working with foreigners. The only thing I see wrong with this view of some Dutch people is that not everyone has to do things the way you do, as different things are valued in different parts of the world. Greetings and niceties may not be important in the Netherlands, but they may be important elsewhere, and in that place not greeting properly may be as big of a sin as it is in the Netherlands to not get to business right away.

    • Laura

      I’ve worked in 3 different mixed offices (Dutch and foreigners) so far and each time I could notice how the Dutch were NOT at all the productive colleagues but the ones that waste time and like postponing things while the real work was done in a good and timely manner by their non-Dutch colleagues. So please step down from your superiority pedestal, look around and maybe you’ll learn some useful tings from your foreigner-colleagues.

      • katee

        You mean to say the Dutch are also excellent in delegation?

        • satan4lyf666slipknot

          At my uni, when we work in a project team, everyone complains about the Dutch members. They aren’t usually more productive than the international students at all. I assume that this phenomenon occurs in the workplace too, meaning that natives aren’t good at what they do, but they are simply preferred due to the reasons the Shallow Man has mentioned above.

    • Arina

      I am somewhat agree with Dutch sense of humor, though it is equally as not good as hurt other people with sarcasm other than to make fun of other people

    • Márcio Fernandes

      It is a nice insight, from a local thank you Katee. I also saw the reverse coin, my Dutch Manager being fired by a foreigner (it gave me rather confused feelings). I put the blame, not on the Dutch, but on the elitist culture (which also happens within the Dutch culture), vampiric corporate culture (e.g. Walmart) and a lack of females in management.

      “Foreigners can go back, where they come from” what these words really mean? Will my Dutch friends get their jobs back? nope…it just a populist expression for voters and an elitist statement.

  • Els

    The Dutch are the most tolerant piepel in de world ent if you disagree you can go back to your negercountry!!!!!1!!

  • Irina

    you encounter discrimination even if you are an European citizen.

  • Li Dong

    As an educated Asian living in this country for a little over 7 years, I experience some degree of discrimination almost everyday, this article has just reminded me just MAYBE, I’m not the problem here. If it’s really just the accent or language issue, dear Nederlanders, try speak Chinese and see if the Chinese gets annoyed or make fun of you the way you do to foreigners

  • t0m

    Good job generalising an entire ‘race’. You clearly are the solution to the problem. Keep up the ‘productive’ work.

  • A brave post, and I agree that Dutch “tolerance” is not always given evenly (http://www.aguanomics.com/2010/04/tolerance.html)

  • jorgen

    wtf is everyone on about, I am living in the UK for 8 years now.
    In the Netherlands I have worked a Chef, Worked for a big cable company with several function’s (debt collection, account receivable and installations) and although I do not hold any other qualifications other then being a chef they wont give a monkeys here.
    I tried to get in to the same line of work and they wont even give you a interview as you are foreign.
    The only thing they think your good enough for is warehouse work.

    And although i am sure discrimination is happening in the Netherlands, i do think it happens in every other country.
    Fact is just like in the UK there are a lot of foreigners in the country so unemployment among foreigners will stand out like a sore thumb.

  • Lapins Cretins

    Please, Do you think the Netherlands or any other EU country has serious problems with job discrimination? Go to Mexico, Morocco, Tunisia, Chile, Venezuela, Japan, or Angola, and you’ll see how difficult if not impossible is to get a clean declared job, and the discrimination in those countries does not even start by the companies but from the government itself.

    • Wasif

      The discussion is not about that type of comparison b/w Netherlands and Mexico, Morocco etc. It is about Netherlands and west Europe and its hyped decorum of being liberal and tolerant, where as in reality it is not at all.

    • Angela

      And what is your point? Discimination is bad in other countries so tolerate it in The Netherlands.

  • Makas

    Have you been in ABN Amro? Between 9:30 to 4:30, everyone in the building is blond “Jeroen”. After 4:30, most desks go empty and only the Indian IT contractors remain. Receptionists are replaced with Surinamese counterparts. Moroccan cleaners take over the meeting rooms. In my 5 years, I have never seen a blondie work beyond 6 p.m. Most decision makers are Dutch. Applying for job? Dutch language is a requirement, even if you’re mostly trading with UK! Given that ability to gossip is crucial job skill – which needs Dutch language, it’s no wonder that only the Dutch would be hired.

  • I am full of “colors” and not into the black/white ‘thing.’
    Let me speak for myself based on my personal experiences. I don’t select a teammember based on culture, religion, race nor gender; that’s irrelevant. People should be selected on trust, quality & skills. If I don’t trust nor like you, you can have all the skills required, it’s not going to work.

    People of all nationalities come to Curaçao, or any Dutch Caribbean island for that matter. They learn & speak the language Papiamento. Some or certain Dutch don’t feel that’s necessary. Just like ‘some’ or ‘certain’ groups in any country, if it’s not required, and you can find your way around, why bother?

    Denying that discrimination exists would be ignorant. However, it’s not only white vs black, it’s also black vs white and black vs black, and so on. Virtual borders are being broken, whereas visual walls are being built in real life.
    It’s not the color of the skin, it’s the content of the mind.

    Personally, I’ve never felt the sting of discrimination. Neither in the Caribbean nor in Europe. I’m proud of my heritage. In Curaçao I’m a “begi” from English Caribbean background. In the Dominican Republic, I’m a “kokolo” or “spanglish” Spanish/English. In Holland, “allochtoon”. Who cares?

    My attitude in all this: I am not 4-Z: zwak, zwart, ziek, zielig. (weak, black, sick, pitiful)
    I am 4-B: Brave, Bold, Black & Beautiful. I am Tirzah Zenovia Bienvenida Libert,
    Liberty showing my Colors, celebrating diversity and embracing similarities. Thank you! 😉
    http://www.colorszine.com/team/team.html

  • Rach

    I dont think its even necessarily about skin colour, and more about not being of native Dutch descent. Although, having said that, I have also experienced how certain sectors of the community here treat people who are not Caucasian, when my husband (who is a Caucasian Dutchman) and I (a Caucasian Aussie girl whose grandparent’s immigrated to Australia from England and Scotland) were mistaken for Africans. How is that possible you ask? A long – and looking back – very amusing story involving a black south African au pair, a female Dutch judge and her short Dutch husband and a racist au pair agency owned by an aged Dutch sorority Queen from the Hague. (If you ever need an interesting story, let me know). The long and the short of it is – Racism is definitely alive and well in the Netherlands. Non Caucasian people living here definitely have it worse. However, back to just plain old discrimination, even as a Caucasian Aussie I’ve experienced this. When I was searching for work it was almost impossible even to get an interview with an agency. After numerous rude rejection emails, I decided to go physically to their offices. I would open the door to an agency office, they’d look up, I would smile and say ‘hallo’, they’d hear my Aussie accent and they would literally tell me not to even bother walking further into the office. I had that happen on more than one occasion. I’d end up in tears and my Dutch husband would end up wanting to hunt down and clogg dance on these rude people. He couldnt believe the extent of the rudeness and lack of professionalism shown. He wrote more than one blistering email to job agencies who refused to even let me in the door and look at my cv. (After reading your blog I now realise that my real mistake was visitng those offices wearing a dress suit and heels – ha!) But the last straw came the day I finally went to the UWV in Alkmaar to ask for advice. The lady there shook my hand, heard my accent, sat me down, and asked how my Dutch was. (Every expats favourite question!) I explained I was newly married and was in the process of learning – she crossed her arms and without even looking at my cv, told me she couldn’t help me. My husband (who was with me) explained my job skills are in office management, that we understood jobs for non-dutch speakers in my field in the Netherlands were limited, but asked in the meantime (while I’m still learning the lingo) if there was anything she could suggest that might help me look for some kind of work, any kind of work. Her reply? Go back to Australia. Lol!!! I’m serious. I was so gobsmacked I literally just sat there and stared at her. Happily my hubby was not so gobsmacked and fluent in all the Dutch terms of endearment for such a sweetheart… :p I have never felt discrimination so keenly as on that day. I’m pleased to say I now have a very nice job with an Dutch foundation that employs an international array of people as they publish for an international market and the business language is English. I got it through an English expat friend, and so skipped HR agencies and went straight to an interview with my (now) boss. So. Some might choose to deny it until the cows come home, but discrimination is huge here. Its real and denying it just adds to the problem. Yes, there is discrimination and racism in all countries. But here it is a big problem because they think there is no problem. They are famously “so tolerent”. Tolerance is a nice word. But we all know how much water words hold. The proof is when you deal with the everyday person doing everyday things. Then the lack of tolerance becomes glaringly, painfully, obvious.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I’d love to hear your story

      • EXPAT23

        Hi , Thanks everyone for your stories .. I can call myself a new comer ! first I’m here almost two years , still struggling to find a job , and always getting rejections as well , on top of that I am a non-EU background by race and education a total fresh foreigner .. I have worked in big international company before and no body considers this ! When they call me for an interview and ask where are you from , after they know , they never show up again ! I have stories too .. Thanks ” The shallow Man ” for your posts !
        I would really appreciate though , if some expats can help in finding a job .. i tried all , undutchables not undutchables !! nothing works !!

    • Recoloniser

      Hmmm, Alkmaar ….. Cheese and … not much else.
      Try the Randstad, plenty of jobs for native English speakers there. There are agencies that specialise in that market segment. Like UnDutchables and ExpatJobs.

      • Angela

        Both of those places are a joke. And what do you do if you don’t live in the Randstad?

        • Recoloniser

          Commute. Plenty of people live in Alkmaar and work in Amsterdam

          • Angela

            What if you live outside the area even more, like in another province okay. I Live in Eindhoven for example. I can not commute that far, it is not financially or even available to me due to the daycares closing no later than 6:30 Thanks but not thanks for the advice.

  • Adil El Azzaoui

    All Those Topics Prove your Discrimination (you are racist)… Whether acknowledged or not you are a racist.

  • medidude

    MMhhh, I think the problem is even deeper and goes back to evolutionary psychology laws and the history of occidental countries. Holland is indeed tolerant, being a black man I can easily assert of that. BUT racism is natural. Everyone is xenophobic in some ways and it’s normal. I understand that some people are nice to anyone; I’m not because I don’t believe it makes sense. I’m black myself, and I sometime don’t like some black people and black stereotypes in the same ways that I don’yt like certain personnality traits( self-entitlement,…Etc)…. Does it mean I hate my race and envy white people? Don’t think so and therefor I could easily imagine that another person( white, black,..Etc) doesn’t like balkc people for whatever reason. SO racism doesn’t shock me really… IT’s natural. and comes from a need to assert ones boundaries. I actually agree with prime minister and believe that integration is actually a very difficult process, evn moreso than predicted… I think autochtones don’t actually realize what it takes to move out of ones country( because of poverty, war, dangers of any nature,…Etc) and try to adapt to a system that doesn’t always make sense to us or works for us. Most allochtones(even more so than the autochtones) I know are failing in this modern capitalistic system and the worst thing is that there is absolutely no one to blame… No one. Not the immigrants, not the white people, no one. That’s just a very selective system that is hard for foreign people and it’s like that in most advanced countries. There is one saying in immigrant crowds that goes like” It takes twice the talent and effort of an autochtone to reach the same level of wellbeing”.. and there is some truth in it. That’s also why foreign people usually agreggate in ghettos and try to find their own way of doing things and making the system work for them….

  • Raf Addison

    Sounds funny….!! You are open in accepting LGBT and promoting marijuana but racist in the job market….!!! A typical two-faced nation :-

  • Angela

    My favourite. ..I am an American and have an Italian last name. Interview goes like this.
    They stumble over my last name and proclaim” That’s not an American name.
    I usually say oh so you are familiar only of native American names.
    It is amazing how long it takes them to .”get it”
    The is is educated people?

  • belaroo

    Try being a foreigner and a middle aged mum! Having said that I have finally found a part time job selling tickets and taking coats in a poppodium. It took a year volunteering and they knew I could do the job before they gave it to me. Most of the punters are old enough to be my kids, but I’m just glad the punters aren’t English people going out. The lack of red bull and vodka is so refreshing.
    I live in an area full of foreigners, I feel much more at home there. I might be the only person in the shop not wearing a headscarf sometimes but they are friendly, sometimes a bit too dutch, most of them were born here afterall. But generally the Dutch people I encounter who are willing to exist where there are lots of non-dutch are also nicer.
    What the English contribute to Englishness has sometimes more to do with the nasty government that they technically didn’t vote in the first place, not to mention the crazed way the media works. Some of the weirder aspects of the Dutch are also down to a minority of people, often disowned by their fellow countrymen.
    I can’t understand the nastiness towards the Moroccans, there is absolutely no excuse for blaming any ethnic group for the sins of a small minority. In doing so they have set the Moroccan community against the Dutch in a big way and the feelings seem to be pretty mutual in places. I know of quite a few Dutchies and Moroccans who are doing their best to put this situation right but it’s hard work. There’s resignation on both sides.
    Some Moroccans I know praise the way London seems so much better integrated and relaxed about foreigners, but I fear that this might be grass is greener syndrome. Apart from anything else, by the time you get far enough out to be able to afford somewhere to live, you are stuck in Norfolk with a bunch of UKIP carrot munchers who still wish it was 1983.
    To a point we do have to fight for our own rights, but we mustn’t forget to fight for everyone else’s too.

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  • Márcio Fernandes

    Does this mean, no more shallowmen? 🙁