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Migrant integration in the Netherlands gives reason for optimism

Statistics Netherlands, the Dutch government’s statistical bureau, recently published the 2018 annual report on integration. But the report has not received much public attention. This may be because the report’s statistics and conclusions do not support the stated concerns of many politicians and opinion makers about demographic change and integration challenges.

According to Leo Lucassen, a researcher on migration and integration, integration has proven to be an unstoppable process in virtually all dimensions examined by the report. For example, one in three children with a Moroccan background now go to HAVO or VWO (upper levels of secondary education) compared to only one in five in 2005. Among children of Afghan and Iraqi refugees, the share is even higher, and children of Iranian refugees are overrepresented.

Lucassen further points out that benefits dependency decreases among children of migrants compared to their parents. Children of migrants are higher educated, have more work, and enjoy a higher income. Although they still lag behind their Dutch peers, that comparison is somewhat flawed since the children of Turks, Moroccans, and Antilleans typically start with a disadvantage. When compared with Dutch people of the same socio-economic background, the gap probably disappears.

Moreover, the proportion of ethnically mixed marriages has been high for years, especially among the higher educated. While some immigrant groups are still overrepresented in criminal activity, the crime rate has nearly halved in all groups, and rates are relatively low regardless. However, Lucassen also points out that, while the report shows many improvements among the largest immigrant groups historically, newcomers from Somalia are having difficulty in employment and education, giving rise to concern.

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