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Netherlands/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

In July 2015, the Netherlands' population was just over 16.9 million inhabitants. The population is ageing, with approximately 16.8% already in the over-65 age group. By 2040, the population is expected to be 17.8 million people, 26% of whom will belong to the over-65 age group (source: Statistics Netherlands, click here for the English page about the Dutch population).

The Frisians

The only official minority group in the Netherlands is the Frisian minority. 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; 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 country 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. One special group of immigrants are the Moluccans, 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 currently about 17.1 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 2015 at almost 3.7 million (not including illegal immigrants), or about 20% 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. 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.). In the policy memorandum More Than Quality (2010), there is no specific policy regarding immigrants and cultural diversity. This responsibility lies with the cultural institutions themselves.

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. A code of conduct, it is a practical tool, both a framework as well as a specific guidance, to assist organisations in formulating and putting into practice ambitions and objectives in the area of cultural (ethnic) diversity. 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 infrastructures 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. But the number of coloured actors, presenters of non-Dutch origin, and ethnic minority candidates in game shows, spokespersons and experts from ethnic minority groups is small. 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 of people, like the elderly, Frisians, Muslims, Buddhists, or humanists.

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

Kapitel publiziert: 13-03-2017

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