2.4 Current policy and policy reinforcements – Domains
Drafted in late 2020, the policy agenda for tackling segregation in education covers several ways in which the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science seeks to eliminate segregation in education in collaboration with municipal authorities and school boards.
A coalition of school boards, municipal authorities and other parties has been formed, which is already working on tackling segregation. Municipal authorities will also be given the opportunity to expand the Equal Opportunities Agenda – arrangements made between municipal authorities and the Equal Opportunities Alliance (Gelijke Kansen Alliantie) – with segregation measures. The website of the Equal Opportunities Alliance and the Coeducational Schools Knowledge Center (Kenniscentrum Gemengde Scholen) lists numerous good practices that municipal authorities and school boards can follow. Additional funds are also available for broad-based combined schools and heterogeneous classes in the first year of secondary school.
In the period 2017-2021, senior secondary vocational education (mbo) included the Citizenship Agenda in the curriculum, containing arrangements between vocational schools and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science on strengthening civic education. The evaluation of the Agenda has shown that it had little impact on improving quality across the board. All too often, the quality of civic education in senior secondary vocational education is below par. For example, several studies have revealed major educational differences between and within schools, with education being largely dependent on passionate teachers. In collaboration with the field, various policy intentions are currently being worked out to strengthen civic education in senior secondary vocational education. These intentions pertain to reviewing the civics qualification requirements and stepping up efforts to make teachers more professional. The Minister of Education, Culture and Science will provide Parliament with the details shortly.
In the next few years, ‘equal opportunities’ will also have priority in senior secondary vocational education. Together with the field, arrangements will be made about measures intended to increase equal opportunities, which will be laid down in the Senior Secondary Vocational Education Work Agenda. These measures will also be aimed at tackling discrimination and racism. Vocational schools must secure a safe and inclusive learning environment where students and staff feel free to be themselves, where students are able to successfully complete their training and where teachers can do their job.
As civic education is not up to par in primary and secondary education either, a tightened civic education directive entered into force on August 1, 2021. This amendment to statutory provisions covering civic education in primary, secondary and special education ensures that civic education becomes ‘more mandatory’ in nature. The statutory directive calls on schools to promote active citizenship and social cohesion, in any event by paying attention to the promotion of knowledge of and respect for the basic values of a democratic state under the rule of law and the development of social and civic competencies. These measures should enable pupils to contribute to and participate in our multiform and inclusive democratic society.
A duty of care for schools has also been introduced: schools must create a school culture that observes the basic values of a democratic society, which are freedom, equality and solidarity.
Primary schools advising pupils on the choice of secondary school and undervaluation in this regard are points of concern throughout the education sector. This is why even the study programs address these issues; primary education teacher-training colleges place a great focus on inclusion, awareness about testing and preventing prejudice in general. The next review of the knowledge base will also specifically consider undervaluation as a theme. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science also supports teachers and schools in arriving at recommendations for pupils that are as objective and appropriate as possible. It has drawn up a guideline for this purpose, which will be updated this year.
Undervaluation is harmful and should be tackled at all levels of education. As it is not limited to the transition from primary to secondary education, undervaluation is highlighted and discussed in all teacher training courses.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science also values cultural education in all sectors of education. Cultural education contributes to the broad development of students as individuals and as part of a group, partly because it contributes to the appreciation of diversity. Enriching education with the power of art and culture is of paramount importance, as this involves such matters as critical thinking, being able to see the diversity in yourself and society, and knowing how you can make your voice heard in this society. Funds from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science are used to issue culture cards to make a budget available for all students in senior secondary vocational education through 2024, and a Culture Education grant scheme has been developed for senior secondary vocational education, which also runs through 2024.
Internship discrimination is a persistent problem that greatly impacts young people, education and society. For many young people, internships are their first introduction to the labor market and an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, there are indications that students also experience exclusion and discrimination when trying to find internships, which has emerged from studies as well. Internship discrimination displays dynamics similar to labor market discrimination. A study conducted in the municipality of Utrecht has revealed that students in senior secondary vocational education who have a name that may suggest a migration background are less likely to find an internship than other students with nearly identical CVs. i Students with a non-Western background are also forced to apply for internships significantly more often than students in similar circumstances who do not have a migration background. i The same issue arises when it comes to gender identity, sexual identity or a physical or mental disability. There seems to be a trend among employers to prefer ‘standard employees’, which reinforces inequality of opportunity even more. i
With the aim of promoting equal opportunities in finding internships and tackling internship discrimination, in 2018 an administrative work agenda was prepared in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, MBO Raad, JOB, the Foundation for Cooperation on Vocational Education, Training and the Labor Market (SBB), the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW), the Royal Association MKB-Nederland and the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights. The School & Safety Foundation joined later. A collaboration is currently ongoing with students, schools and work placement companies to review the approach to tackling internship discrimination. They consider new knowledge and views while acknowledging and recognizing the existence of discrimination, improving support for students who experience internship discrimination, providing tools to help schools and work placement companies to prevent discrimination and disseminating information on how to facilitate the reporting of discrimination. This autumn, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will present a plan to tackle discrimination in senior secondary vocational education as part of the Internship Pact.
By signing a manifesto to tackle internship discrimination on July 13, 2022 and introducing a common long-term working program, universities of applied sciences, research universities, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, student organizations and employers stress their joint responsibility for tackling internship discrimination and their individual duty to help resolve this complex issue each in their own way. i
The Bill on Monitoring Equal Opportunities in Recruitment and Selection will require employers to have a policy in place for combating discrimination and encouraging equal opportunities in recruitment and selection. This obligation will also apply to the recruitment and selection of interns.
Educational institutions should take more control and help students find internships. Although there is still much room for improvement in senior secondary vocational education, educational institutions in higher professional education (hbo) and university education in particular leave students to fend for themselves. Educational institutions should become involved in ‘matchmaking’, with students actively being linked to internship placements and with application interviews by students being increasingly replaced with introduction interviews. Students are of course at liberty to find their own placement, but educational institutions should take more responsibility in the process.
The Government is firmly committed to tackling labor market discrimination by means of a comprehensive approach described in the 2018-2021 Labor Market Discrimination Action Plan, which was founded on three pillars: knowledge & awareness, research & instruments, and monitoring & enforcement. The Minister of Social Affairs and Employment sent the new 2022-2025 Labor Market Discrimination Action Plan to Parliament on July 14. i
Awareness will be a permanent point of focus, and effective interventions will be explored to help companies increase equal opportunities for job applicants. The Ministry pooled resources with 21 national organizations of the Work & Integration Task Force to draft the Work Agenda on Further Integration in the Labor Market with the aim of helping as many employers, schools and municipal authorities as possible to set to work on effective interventions that create equal opportunities in the labor market for people with a migration background. This Work Agenda includes a theme ‘more cultural diversity at work’ that addresses the preparation of a menu of effective interventions, opening the Diversity at Work helpdesk to all employers who seek to create equal opportunities in recruitment and selection, and providing more practical support to employers in communities of practice.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment intends to validate the knowledge and views collected to the maximum extent possible and then build on them. The new plan also includes a few major new points of focus. For instance, the Minister increasingly seeks to encourage the masses to act. This will require even closer collaboration with various stakeholders, including the employers’ organizations. The new action plan will focus not only on access to the labor market, but also on equal opportunities in the workplace.
The action items break down into the following clusters:
A. More knowledge among employers and employees of rights and obligations and how to exercise them or comply with them (awareness/providing information). This includes timely communication about obligations ensuing from laws and regulations and the tools available to both employers and current or potential employees.
B. Supporting employers and offering a perspective for action when applying effective instruments intended to promote equal opportunities. Guidelines for employers are being drafted partly on the basis of several studies and pilot projects carried out under the previous Action Plan. Another example is the Equal Opportunities e-learning course for SMEs in particular, which raises awareness of effective instruments. The support provided by Diversity at Work (and the Diversity Charter) is also continued.
C. Increased/more effective discrimination legislation and compliance. Legislation is used to encourage equal opportunities, thereby raising awareness and also setting the standard. The Bill on Monitoring Equal Opportunities in Recruitment and Selection, for instance, has been offered to Parliament and includes a reporting obligation for intermediaries.
D. Monitoring, evaluation, increasing knowledge and expertise (including in terms of trends). National trends are monitored, activities are evaluated where possible, and stakeholders regularly exchange views to keep track of the issue in general.
The Minister of Social Affairs and Employment discusses the details of the aforementioned clusters and activities in the Labor Market Discrimination Action Plan as recently presented.
Procurement by the national government
The coalition agreement states that organizations that have been found guilty of discrimination may be excluded from contract awards by the national government. Options should also be explored for using tender procedures to increasingly do business with companies that have committed to the national government’s diversity and inclusion goals and antidiscrimination policy. This should include an examination of whether a quality label can be introduced to assess the degree of social entrepreneurship in respect of non-discrimination, diversity and inclusivity.
Current regulations stipulate that award criteria and performance conditions related to antidiscrimination, diversity and inclusion may be set if they meet the simple requirement of being sufficiently connected with the “subject matter of the contract”. In practice, ‘being sufficiently connected with’ proves to be open to interpretation and these criteria could be used more frequently than is currently the case – in every situation where personnel is hired, for instance, and for other staff-related services. Currently, these criteria are set in a limited number of cases only.
The national government is carrying out the government-wide roll-out of the safeguards for diversity and inclusion in socially responsible procurement policy, with policy on diversity and inclusion among suppliers being one of the priorities. In European tender procedures, diversity and inclusion will be included in the national government’s basic documents. Studies are currently underway to find out how diversity and inclusion can be incorporated into the schedule of requirements for purchases with a value of less than 150,000 euros. The options the Public Procurement Act offers will obviously be thoroughly considered before implementing the above. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is presently developing a European standard on diversity and inclusion within organizations.
The national government as an employer
The national government seeks to achieve a diverse composition of its staff and an inclusive organization. Within the national government, people feel a need for diversity of views, as different perspectives, backgrounds and opinions may enhance the national government’s brainpower.
Diversity and inclusion is one of the key objectives in the 2025 Strategic Personnel Policy. “The national government as an inclusive organization: aiming for an inclusive government organization with diverse teams and more diversity in higher pay scales in particular. The reasons for this include population ageing, a changing labor market, changes in society and increasing complexity of social issues.”
Although the 2021 Annual Report – National Government Operations i reveals slight yet steady growth in the proportion of employees with a non-Western migration background among the total number of staff, the targets agreed are not always reached. The proportion of national government employees with a non-Western migration background in the highest pay scales is a consistent point of concern, as growth is lagging. In pay scales 14-16, the percentage rose slightly to 3.6 percent non-Western employees, an increase of 0.3 percentage points compared with 2020. In pay scales 17+, the proportion of national government employees with a non-Western migration background was up 1.2 percentage points on 2020 (from 0.7 to 1.9 percent). i The diversity and inclusion policy pursued throughout the national government includes specific jobs agreement targets. For 2022, there is a focus on additional measures to recruit more employees by bringing forward the previously announced central funding structures in Ministries and stepping up efforts to achieve social return.
The national government has not met its jobs agreement targets. Each department operates its own policy for implementing the jobs agreement. There are indications that the main focus is on intake, with little consideration for retention and promotion opportunities. Employees subject to the jobs agreement often experience being in a lower pay scale in the job classification system than colleagues responsible for comparable tasks who are not covered by the jobs agreement. Their experience is that it is difficult to advance to jobs in a higher pay scale.
The national government has not met its own targets pertaining to the number of employees with a non-Western background in higher pay scales, either. In order to solve this issue, a broader approach will have to be organized with the aim of improving the recruitment, promotion and retention of diverse, i.e. ethnic, talent. For instance, greater focus will have to be placed on the creation of talent development programs for the advancement of talented individuals (including those with a non-Western migration background) to higher pay scales within national government employment.
It is vital that potential candidates with a non-Western migration background at least be more clearly recognized. This calls for a culture change that starts at the top and includes such matters as a different composition of selection committees, periodic assessments to determine why the advancement of employees with a non-Western background stagnates, and exit interviews for all persons leaving the organization earlier than expected.
The NCDR believes that the introduction of the ‘Rooney rule’ for positions in higher pay scales can bring benefits: for every vacant position, at least one candidate with a non-Western migration background should be invited. He calls upon the national government to experiment with potentially effective measures. As the Senior Civil Service (Algemene Bestuursdienst; ABD) expects that introducing this measure for ABD positions will take some time, in the period ahead the ABD will step up its efforts to increase the number of candidates and the intake of more diverse talent. Candidates with a non-Western migration background will, for example, at least be invited to (initial) interviews. A search team also actively scouts candidates with a non-Western background, and additional efforts are being made to encourage these candidates to participate in the ABD’s talent programs. The search for suitable candidates has also been actively extended beyond the limits of the national government. Experiments with other measures will also be started to increase the number of appointments of candidates with a non-Western migration background.
The national government will set to work on an extensive set of measures for all of the civil service to ensure that all job applicants are equally likely to be hired. These measures may include:
- inclusive labor market communication and job advertisements (including a diversity statement in every advertisement);
- a more active search for candidates with diverse backgrounds who would like to work for the national government;
- diverse selection committees;
- guaranteeing better compliance with the arrangement in the 2025 Strategic Personnel Policy that members of selection committees must have completed the inclusive recruitment and selection training course;
- criterion-based selection interviews;
- conducting pilot projects to experiment with innovative ways of recruitment and selection, including open hiring;
- it is agreed in the coalition agreement that the government will invite candidates to submit anonymous applications. In consultation with other Ministries, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will implement this measure within the civil service in the period ahead and will also involve experiences already gained in the process.
In addition to quantitative diversity targets, the national government also sets great store by an inclusive organizational culture. The status on this issue will be examined in the years to come by means of a government-wide inclusion monitor to be developed. An inclusive organizational culture means that all employees are actively involved and accepted in the group. It means that they can be themselves, that they feel free to express their opinions, that they feel appreciated and respected, and that they are able to educate themselves in a safe learning environment. In short, an organizational culture were exclusion, discrimination, bullying and harassment are not tolerated. Being the employer, the national government must lead by example. That is why a project has been initiated under the name ‘The Government for Everyone’, which aims to strengthen efforts to prevent and fight discrimination and racism throughout the government. The letter to Parliament of June 27, 2022 on social safety, safe working practices and a resilience scan within the national government discusses these efforts. i Discrimination and racism within the national government is a serious problem that requires additional time and resources. A recent study has shown that about 9 percent of employees working for the national government experienced that they were discriminated against in the past year, and 15 percent of employees indicated that they had witnessed discrimination in their working environment. These are worrying figures that emphasize the need for additional and lasting efforts. It is important that the national government sets an example, given that prejudice, discrimination and racism in respect of civil servants also carry over into society.
Efforts to tackle discrimination and racism within the national government – called ‘The Government for Everyone’ – focus on:
- plainly and clearly communicating the standards;
- raising awareness of prejudice;
- increasing resilience and alertness to discrimination and racism;
- increasing the perspective for action;
- giving more publicity to options for receiving help, making a report or submitting a complaint;
- adequately addressing indications and reports of discrimination and racism.
‘The Government for Everyone’ applies a wide range of instruments, such as bystander training, expert meetings, a theater show about everyday racism and a toolkit for managers. The efforts are differentiated to various target audiences, such as managers, bystanders, confidants and front-office employees.
The police as an employer
The police has an intake target for 2025 of having 35 percent of new intake in the four police units of the Randstad conurbation consist of employees with a migration background. A target will also be defined for the other units, and studies are being conducted to identify factors that may help counteract an undesired outflow of employees. The police is also working on the implementation of the jobs agreement for disabled workers.
Safe and inclusive teams are another point of focus. Efforts are being made to secure a safe working environment in the teams, which includes appropriate ways to handle discriminatory behavior in the workplace and a continuing dialogue in the teams on safety and inclusivity. A number of instruments are being developed to support this dialogue, with specific attention being paid to leadership and managers’ duty of care.
On January 13, 2022, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport held round-table discussions with parties in the field, experts and experts by experience to gain the expertise needed to tackle discrimination and racism in healthcare. The results and the possible follow-up will be considered in the Ministry-wide approach.
The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport also funds the Dutch Center of Expertise on Health Disparities (Pharos), which contributes to reducing major health disparities by sharing knowledge through studies, training and guidelines and by organizing meetings. In 2021, Pharos used an institution grant from the Ministry to start building up a knowledge file on discrimination in healthcare with the aim of placing the issue on the agenda for a number of years and providing a solid knowledge base to both policy professionals and healthcare professionals.
In the sports domain, discrimination and racism are tackled in several ways. Diversity policy is an agenda item for the sports associations. Policy attention focuses not only on expanding possibilities for participation in sports, but also on more equal representation of different groups in society.
Diversity is one of the factors included in the revised Good Sports Governance Code, which sets minimum quality requirements for sports associations in the area of diversity and other areas through the male/female ratio and age, for example. NOC*NSF has launched a Diversity Charter that allows sports associations to demonstrate their active work on this issue and that they can use to actively prepare policies. Ten parties also joined forces in the Sports and Movement for Everyone (Sport en bewegen voor iedereen) alliance to involve vulnerable groups in sports. These groups are elderly people, people with a disability, people living in poverty or in another vulnerable situation, and people with another cultural or sexual background.
The program ‘Our soccer belongs to everyone’ – a joint initiative of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Justice and Security and Royal Dutch Soccer Association KNVB – is aimed at effectively tackling discrimination and racism in soccer. In principle, the current plan is valid until the end of 2022, but its term of validity may be extended. The conclusion in the first two progress reports was that – despite the restrictive COVID-19 measures – the measures were being implemented expeditiously. Having said that, this does not mean that tackling racism and discrimination in soccer is a thing of the past. These issues are not eliminated without efforts; instead, they require a culture change. The efforts are threefold: (1) prevention, (2) identification, and (3) sanctioning. The ‘Our soccer belongs to everyone’ program has identified four measures for the Prevention pillar, which are aimed at raising awareness among current and future players, managers, trainers, officials and supporters:
- A public information campaign dubbed #OneLove to reach all soccer fans with the message of inclusion and bonding;
- Training programs for clubs aimed at increasing awareness. Clubs are also supported in setting standards and ensuring that limits are not overstepped (with an emphasis on managers, trainers and officials);
- Education for officials and employees dealing with disciplinary matters, comprising refresher courses for referees on recognizing and dealing with racism and discrimination;
- The Anne Frank House carries out two educational projects: Fair Play and the Soccer Chanting Project. The Fair Play project is a game as well as a workshop and is aimed at raising awareness among young people of the different forms of discrimination and the role they have to play in this on and around the soccer field. The Soccer Chanting Project seeks to raise awareness of the hurtful effect of soccer chants.
In response to the Van Dijk motion, which calls on the government to identify ways to intensify efforts to tackle racism and antisemitism, the Ministry of Justice and Security collaborates with the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in the identification process. This is a first step towards a plan to tackle online hate speech, which is to reinforce the fight against online hate speech. The plan is expected to be underpinned by the following pillars: awareness, prevention, capacity building, law enforcement, and laws and regulations. The Minister of Justice and Security will send the online hate speech action plan to Parliament before the end of the year.
Prejudice, stereotypes and the prevailing social standard are important tools to predict discriminatory behavior. Studies of online discrimination are used to explore ways to raise awareness of online discrimination and social standards, for example by encouraging bystanders to act. This year the Inclusion & Community Platform, supported by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, is conducting a study aimed at recognizing online discrimination and identifying good practices for preventing and tackling online discrimination.
The 2021-2025 coalition agreement states that large online platforms will be responsible for combating disinformation and hate speech on their platforms. This is fully in line with international developments in this area:
- When the Netherlands held the presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2016, the European Commission presented a Code of Conduct that it had prepared together with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Google/YouTube to combat online hate speech. The Code of Conduct is a significant instrument for fighting online hate speech. The main best-efforts obligation is handling and, where necessary, deleting expressions of hatred within 24 hours after reports from users. The Code of Conduct also contains arrangements on monitoring compliance with the arrangements. In later years, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and other parties joined the Code of Conduct.
- The Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on Combating Hate Speech has prepared a new recommendation for addressing hate speech, showing that the Netherlands as an EU Member State is subject to a positive obligation to safeguard the exercise of fundamental freedoms and prevent human rights violations. It also states that every Member State has an important role to play in the fight against hate speech and ensuring a safe environment for public debate.
- The purpose of the recently adopted Digital Services Act (DSA) is to regulate the role that platforms play in counteracting illegal content and, to that end, it contains further rules on having illegal content removed.
The media face the challenge of combating the one-sided and/or stereotypical portrayal of different groups in terms of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural background, age and disability. As the subject touches on the constitutional editorial freedom of the media, the government’s mandate to intervene in the media or in media content is limited.
The statutory remit of umbrella administrative body NPO that is responsible for the public broadcasting system must be maintained in the years to come. This means that it provides a multiform offering, thereby helping to represent all of society.
In the years ahead, the specific further arrangements in the performance agreement concluded with NPO will also be maintained when it comes to the obligation to report on diversity.
With effect from 2023, NPO will phrase more specific quantitative and qualitative goals on the issue, which it will actively attempt to reach.
In the months ahead, the NCDR will speak with various media companies about the options the media sector itself has for arriving at measures that may promote diversity in the portrayal of different groups without direct government intervention.
As the offer within the media and culture sectors is still insufficiently representative and does not contain enough perspectives, the media and culture sectors are charged with the task of eliminating this unequal portrayal.
Cultural objects may have been stolen, bought or received in the colonial context, but they have always been acquired on the basis of an unjustified position of power. As a result, calls for the return of stolen art objects to the countries of origin are becoming louder internationally as well as in the Netherlands.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science encourages institutions to enhance safety and inclusion and to combat all forms of exclusion, and also supports them in doing so. The Ministry envisages a learning and working environment within the sectors under the Ministry’s responsibility, including the culture sector, where this issue is tackled and where indications and reports to the contrary are adequately addressed. The culture sector initiated disclosure office Mores for the culture sector, allowing employees working in the sector to report undesirable behavior, including discrimination.
“MBO-studenten Utrecht hebben te maken met stagediscriminatie” – Verwey-Jonker Instituut
ROA Fact Sheet.
De Jong et al., 2021.
Parliamentary Documents II 2021-2022, 29 544/30 950, no. 1119.
jaarrapportage-bedrijfsvoering-rijk-2021.pdf (p. 21)
As the 2021 Annual Report still applies the old definition given by Statistics Netherlands (‘population with a Western or non-Western migration background’), it is also applied here. For more information about the new definition, see: New classification of population by origin (cbs.nl).
Parliamentary Documents II 2021-2022, 31 490, no. 417.