How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world!Anne Frank
Discrimination is a many-headed monster that is found in all areas of society: in healthcare, education, the labor market and the housing market, in the streets and in the hospitality sector. It also occurs on a wide variety of grounds, such as on the basis of ethnic background, gender, political and religious conviction, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability and age. As a result, it is of the utmost importance that we analyze what forms discrimination takes exactly and which citizens suffer from it and when. Having identified the problem, we must also examine what approach is effective.
Learning to recognize discrimination and racism is of the essence if we are to prevent, monitor, report and punish it. A large number of studies of discrimination and racism are being conducted in the Netherlands to discover what it is and how we should tackle it. These studies may also contribute to a responsible choice of policy objectives and may suggest pros and cons of the various routes available to achieve these objectives. The right information and frameworks may also support an evaluation of the implementation of interdepartmental policy, which information may be drawn from national studies (by Statistics Netherlands and the Netherlands Institute for Social Research, for example) or international studies (by the OECD, UN or EU, for example).
Keeping track of the extent of perceived discrimination and the willingness to report it is another important precondition. The Netherlands Institute for Social Research has surveyed perceived discrimination twice, and Statistics Netherlands has recently surveyed perceived discrimination as part of the Safety Monitor. Both surveys also addressed the willingness to report discrimination. The Inclusion & Community Platform prepares publications on mechanisms that effectively tackle discrimination and annually publishes a report containing figures and an explanation of the instances of discrimination reported.
Knowing precisely how discrimination becomes apparent is essential, as this is not always obvious. A 2015 survey conducted by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research, for example, showed that the attitude towards homosexuality in the Netherlands was expressed in a surprising way: heterosexuals turned out to approve of same-sex marriages, but seeing affection shown out in the open did in fact bother them.
Another survey reveals that whereas 27 percent of all Dutch people experience discrimination, this figure is 55 percent among Muslims. i Many of the complaints submitted to antidiscrimination agencies are rooted in religion, including discrimination against Muslims. This means that, regrettably, discrimination is an everyday experience for many Muslims in the Netherlands, which greatly impacts their lives.
Studies conducted in the labor market may also shed light on the precise effects of discrimination and racism. In the past decade, several studies demonstrated that job applicants with a non-Dutch last name were less likely to be invited to application interviews and that people with a Dutch name were 60 percent more likely to receive an invitation in the first selection round than people with a name suggesting an Arab background, despite their equally impressive CVs. It also turned out that people without a migration background and with a criminal record for a violent offense were still more likely to receive a positive response to a job application than people with a migration background who did not have a criminal record. Discrimination in the recruitment and selection of people with a Turkish or Moroccan background also proves to occur significantly more often in the Netherlands than it does in Spain or Germany, for example. i
In addition to discrimination based on origin, religion and color, we also see discrimination in the labor market based on age, gender and sexual orientation. Transgender people and people with a disability also face labor market discrimination.
A recent survey conducted by the Dutch Center of Expertise on Health Disparities (Pharos) demonstrated that discrimination and racism are found in healthcare, too. i People with a migration background do not always receive the same diagnosis or the most appropriate diagnosis and treatment, as opposed to people without a migration background. Some patients or clients should in fact receive different, specific care because of their ethnic background, but the predominantly Western-oriented healthcare sector often does not provide for this. This group of patients often experience a lower quality of healthcare and are less satisfied with treatments. As discrimination based on ethnic origin affects people’s chances of good health, it contributes to greater health differences between groups of people with a migration background and those without a migration background. Studies have established a clear connection between the extent of perceived discrimination and various physical disorders; perceived discrimination increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, obesity, a less effective immune system and other conditions. A link was also found between perceived discrimination and adverse effects on mental health. These differences are also seen between genders, with healthcare professionals paying insufficient attention to specific female disorders, for instance.
As stated above, discrimination comes in many forms and knowledge is the key to recognizing and tackling it. Reports made about discrimination are another major indicator of the extent of discrimination and the possible ways in which it can be tackled. The information ensuing from a report is essential for determining the direction of the approach and targeted interventions. Concrete problems may also be brought up when making reports, and submitting a report is one way to assist and help people who experience discrimination. A study by the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights shows that most of the organizations where the Institute identifies discrimination follow up on the Institute’s opinion by taking measures.
There is a yawning gap between the number of people who experience discrimination and the number of people who report it. As stated above, the last survey the Netherlands Institute for Social Research conducted of perceived discrimination reveals that 27 percent of Dutch people experience discrimination. The annual figures of the police, antidiscrimination agencies, the Center against Internet Discrimination (MiND), the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights and the National Ombudsman show that only 3 percent of all instances of perceived discrimination are reported or registered.
In 2021 antidiscrimination agencies registered 6,922 reports of discrimination, an increase of 26 percent compared with 2020. The police registered 6,580 incidents of discrimination, an increase of 7 percent. The Institute received 739 requests for an opinion, an increase of 16 percent. MiND received 339 reports of online discrimination, less than half the number received the year before. The National Ombudsman received 321 complaints about discrimination by government agencies, more than twice the number of complaints received the year before. The Children’s Ombudsman registered ten complaints related to discrimination, a decline by three compared with the previous year.
The widely shared desire to increase the willingness to report discrimination has priority for the Government, which included this objective in the coalition agreement. In the past few years, the Government launched initiatives to improve the willingness to report discrimination. As this requires an understanding of why people submit reports or why they decide not to do so, this issue was discussed in several town hall sessions. The pilot project ‘reporting discrimination against Muslims’ and other projects show that underlying causes raising the barrier to making a report are a lack of familiarity, low confidence in institutions, little information about the results of the reports and, in some cases, a language barrier.
This testifies to the importance of the visibility, findability and quality of the antidiscrimination agencies. Those making the reports also turn out to appreciate a reporting process that result in perspectives for action and possibly even redress. The remainder of this chapter addresses current policy and policy interventions aimed at recognizing and reporting discrimination and racism.
Ervaren discriminatie in Nederland II, report by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research, March 2020.
Discriminatie en Gezondheid, Over de invloed van discriminatie (in de zorg) op gezondheidsverschillen en wat we hieraan kunnen doen, Dutch Center of Expertise on Health Disparities Pharos, 2022.