By Kate Pashevich
Almost any working immigrant coming to another country unavoidably faces a number of problems, amongst them include: cultural differences, language barriers, lack or even absence of contacts. What can a person do to work successfully in a new field? What should the government do to help him?
20th of February 2013 the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment of the Netherlands Lodewijk Asscher proposed a change in the law, according to which all foreigners who move to the Netherlands should be required to sign a “participation contract” in which they agree to uphold the Dutch constitution and the rule of law.
In an interview for the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant, he argues that his idea will contribute to tackling the discrimination that exists in the country, especially concerning the people of Dutch Caribbean descent. Not only they would be subjected to this new policy, but also newcomers from fellow European Union (EU) countries and Turkey. The 2012 Annual Integration Report and the report “Closer to each other?” have shown that immigrants are increasingly facing discrimination.
It is about integration
The main problem concerning immigrants in every European country is that they are not integrated into society. When they arrive they usually do not know the language of the country and its traditions. That is why they are not able to find an appropriate job, which causes in dissatisfaction with their lives and sometimes results in protests. It often happens that highly educated working immigrants (often called “expats” as a short version of “expatriates”) when not integrated into the society, usually is forced to have lower-skilled job. According to the Eurostat, with an overqualification rate of 34%, foreign-born persons are clearly more likely to be overqualified than native-born persons, who registered a rate of only 19 %.
Learning the Dutch language is an essential requirement for people to actively participate in Dutch society. “Commanding the language makes people independent. Integration also requires that people know and apply the Dutch norms and values, get an education, find a job and treat each other with respect,” stated Asscher.
To stimulate integration and participation, all newcomers, just as Dutch native people, have to participate in the labour market. “To be successful on the labour market we will set high demands for newcomers; they must have a degree and the capacity to be economically independent. People who contribute are welcome.” (The Daily Herald) The Minister tries to attract more highly educated people to the country and to decrease the percentage of lower educated immigrants or maybe change them to highly educated ones.
This innovation may help to solve the problem of increasing number of immigrants in The Netherlands and other European countries. For example, in Norway, a similar project is also being discussed. People who want to get Norwegian citizenship may be forced to pass not only the norwegian language exam, but also an exam, where their understanding of the norwegian governmental system and culture will be tested.
The main problem is that the government proposal postpones the right to vote in local elections from five to seven years. It seems like the government is putting newcomers on the sidelines of society. But if the minister wants immigrants to participate in the social and political life of The Netherlands, why would he exclude people from voting? It is impossiple to force people to participate if not letting them the opportunity to express their meaning about what happens in society.
Some claim participation contract can establish even more barriers between the immigrants and the natives, but if applyed properly, it can also be a first step to solve a problem.
In order to know, what people living in Netherlands think about the new governmental proposal, we interviewed several highly educated people outside the WTC of Amsterdam. All four respondents agreed that immigrants should be integrated into the society, but three of them argued that there was no point in creating such “contract”, because it would not be a solution to the problem of immigration. For example, Ufuk Bingol, Senior IMC at ReachLocal, argues that highly educated people are integrating faster, they need no extra knowledge to understand the political and cultural realities of the country. Adam Smit, Architect, supports him saying that this contract has nothing to deal with highly educated people, because you would not teach them what to believe in. Ufuk also thinks that in such multicultural society which Netherlands presents it is unnecessary to sign this contract, because modern cultural pecularities, caused by globalisation, can not be taught at schools. While Eva Braak from the International office at Hogeschool van Amsterdam considers the idea of a contract as not concrete at the moment and thinks that some corrections should be made.
All in all, it seems like nobody has a notion about what exactly this “contract” is about. It seems like there are still several question marks in the project of the “participation contract” which must be answered. It looks like the whole idea is still up in the air.
The debates in the country tend to continue until the government comes up with the concrete idea of this “contract”.