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02 May 2021

Institutional racism in the Netherlands


An analysis carried out by Knowledge Platform Integration & Society (KIS), an institute that conducts social research on behalf of governments and organisations, shows that there is institutional racism in two 'domains' in the Netherlands: the housing and labour markets.

The analysis concludes that in both the housing market and the labour market, people with a non-Dutch background have access to fewer opportunities than their white counterparts. In the educational sector and the police force, there are also 'strong indications' of institutional racism.

According to Hanneke Felten, KIS researcher, it can no longer be denied that there are racist structures in the housing and labour market: 'It has been proven that someone with a Dutch name is more likely to pass the first round of a selection process than someone with, for example, an Arabic-sounding name. Study after study shows that, so it is clear that this is institutional racism', said Felten.

There is also clear evidence on the housing market: it has been shown, among other things, that house-seekers with a migration background are always less likely to be invited to view an available house (the first step in the selection process on the housing market) than house-seekers without a migration background with exactly the same characteristics.

In two other areas, education and the police force, research finds that there are strong indications of institutional racism. When it comes to the police, various studies demonstrate the occurrence of ethnic profiling: a form of institutional racism. Exactly how structural this is, however, remains unclear due to a lack of transparency by the police and limited research. As well as stop and search actions, it is becoming increasingly well known that some police agents make racist comments and spread racist ideas among their colleagues.

Less research has so far been carried out into education. Nevertheless, there are still several studies indicating that teachers' prejudices play a role in the achievements of pupils with a migrant background. They have also been shown to affect young people's chances of securing an internship, something which has become mandatory for many vocational and higher education courses.

Felten said: 'The striking thing about these sectors is that a lot is known about individuals who have experienced racism, but that objective research is not available.' Felten believes that such research must be carried out, because 'in all areas where such research takes place, institutional racism is confirmed'.

Solutions to racism

Researchers say that it is indeed possible to act on the racism that exists within organisations and institutions. Above all, these researchers argue for more accountability on the part of individuals. KIS researcher Amma Asante said that in social discussion about institutional racism, the emphasis is often on intention, and that discrimination is not explored further if individuals declare that racism was not their intention or that their meaning was misinterpreted. 'I would argue in favour of disregarding intention', Asante said, 'because just because someone did not intend something that way, cannot mean that no responsibility has to be taken'.

Download the KIS report on institutional racism in the Netherlands here, and read the literature review on tackling institutional racism here. Listen here to a podcast in which institutional racism in the Netherlands is discussed.

Find answers to seven important questions on racism here.

Institutioneel racisme in Nederland: De aanwijzingen uit de wetenschappelijke literatuur op vier domeinen op een rij
(3.81 MB - PDF)
Wat werkt in de aanpak van institutioneel racisme - Een literatuuronderzoek
(2.26 MB - PDF)


Hanneke Felten, Serena Does, Suzan de Winter Koçak, Amma Asante, Iris Andriessen, Roelien Donker, Anneke Brock
Geographic area
Contributor type
Academics and experts
Original source
Posted by
Laura Coello Eertink
Country Coordinator

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