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Netherlands/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

In 2017, the Netherlands had slightly more than 17 million inhabitants and the population is ageing. By 2040, the population is expected to be 17.8 million people, 26% of whom will belong to  the over-65 age group (Statistics Netherlands).

The Frisians

The Frisians are the only official minority group in the Netherlands. In 2012, a covenant was signed concerning the Frisian language and culture, for the period 2013- 2018. The covenant includes agreements concerning education in the Frisian language and the use of Frisian by the judiciary, in the courts, public administration and the media and for cultural activities and amenities (see also chapter 4.2.5). The covenant implements the commitments made by the Netherlands, when it ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in respect of Frisian in 1996. The covenant also implies that the Netherlands now complies with the conditions set by the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which the Netherlands ratified in 2005.


Like many other countries in Western Europe, the Netherlands is an "immigration country". The trend began soon after World War II, with a wave of immigrants from the former Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. The Moluccans are a special group of immigrants, who had served in the former colonial army and brought their families with them.

Over the past 40 years, the number of immigrant nationalities has increased considerably, with Turkey and Morocco as the main countries of origin. After Surinam became independent in 1975, a large number of Surinamese who had Dutch nationality also decided to take up residence in the  Netherlands.

The Netherlands has just over 17 million inhabitants. The last two decades have seen an influx of asylum seekers from various parts of Africa and Asia as well as Europe. Most immigrants live in or near the major cities. Official figures put the foreign population in 2017 at almost 3.8 million (not including illegal immigrants), or about 20.6% of the total population. In 2015, about 57,000 asylum seekers and following family members arrived in the Netherlands. 27,700 of them had the Syrian nationality. Asylum seekers holding a residence permit and those who have stayed in asylum centres for a period of at least six months are allowed to register in a Dutch municipality. They acquire the immigrant status and as such are considered to be official residents of the Netherlands. Following family members also have access to this immigration procedure.

In official terms, people are defined as immigrants when at least one parent was born in another country (Central Bureau of Statistics). The Dutch Constitution [Grondwet] provides the legal basis for the civil rights of immigrants (e.g. citizenship, education, health, social insurance etc.) and for their cultural rights (e.g. to participate in cultural life, to protect and develop cultural and linguistic identities, to create, etc.).

The Cultural Diversity Code

The Cultural Diversity Code was developed in 2010 by the cultural sector itself with support from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Being a code of conduct, it is a practical tool: a framework and a specific guide, to assist organisations in formulating ambitions and objectives in the area of cultural (ethnic) diversity and putting these into practice. The aim of the code is to permanently embed diversity in cultural organisations. It focuses on the following four aspects of cultural organisations: programming, public reach, partners and staff/management policy.

The 2012 coalition agreement states that "state-funded cultural organisations will apply the Cultural Diversity Code". When receiving the recommendations by the Council for Culture on the 2017-2020 national basic infrastructure in May 2016, Minister Bussemaker emphasised the importance of the Code Cultural Diversity. The Minister concluded that there were still many opportunities for cultural institutions to reach a wider audience and to better connect to a cross-section of the population.

Minorities, groups and communities in the media

Over the years, the emphasis within the media policy has shifted from targeted programmes to multicultural programmes and into inclusive programmes. However, the representation of ethnic minority groups as actors, presenters, candidates in gameshows, spokespersons and experts is insufficient. Cultural diversity in Dutch society is not reflected in the media, nor in organisations (less than 10%).

A number of broadcasters focus specifically on a specific group, like the elderly, Frisians, Muslims, Buddhists, or humanists.  

Since 2016 , the religious and spiritual broadcasters providing media offerings as part of the Dutch Foundation for Public Broadcasting (NPO) are terminated as a result of the change in the Media Act 2008. The NPO has been asked to perform this task. NPO requested that broadcasting organisation NTR provides media content on Hinduism and Islam.

Chapter published: 12-02-2019

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