Dutch too PC about the cost of immigration
By Michel Hoebink
The Radio Netherlands News, April 2, 2010
Researcher Jan van de Beek accuses Dutch scientists of ignoring the costs of migration to the Netherlands. For his PhD, he investigated all research conducted on the costs of migration from 1960 until 2005. His thesis has been published, but not everyone is pleased with the findings.
'Are you a right-wing extremist?' Jan van de Beek's colleagues rebuked after the presentation in which he defended his thesis at the University of Amsterdam. His research apparently touched a raw nerve, as he has frequently been labelled a Nazi or fascist.
While preparing a thesis on policies towards asylum seekers in 1999, Mr Van der Beek was surprised to discover that he could hardly find any economic data on the costs of migration. He found this strange, since there has been migration on a wide scale to the Netherlands since the 1960s. He decided instead to focus his dissertation on why economic data on the cost of migration is not readily available.
What were his findings? Since the 1970s, hardly any research has been conducted in the Netherlands on the costs and benefits of migration. Nor did the government collect specific data, for instance on the rate of unemployment among migrants and the number of immigrants on welfare. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the failure to collect data was motivated by what later would be known as 'political correctness'.
'This period saw the rise of the extreme right-wing Centrum Party of Hans Janmaat. This had a traumatic effect on many people in the Netherlands because it reminded them of the Second World War. The Dutch elite decided to ignore everything which could play into the hands of right-wing extremists. Hans Janmaat often used economic arguments in his tirades against immigrants. This resulted in a taboo on economic research into the effects of migration.
Mr Van de Beek avoids the term 'politically correct' in his thesis; he prefers the academic term 'moral reading'. 'What happened was that scientific research was influenced by the social and political effects anticipated rather than a quest to find the truth. This is disconcerting if you consider the fact that the aim of scientific research is to seek facts.
While Van de Beek was defending his thesis, many people praised him for his objectivity as a researcher. During the four years he worked at the 'leftist' Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences he continuously went against the grain. Nevertheless, he was also criticised for attacking the establishment. Jan Willem Duivendak, professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam said: 'You criticise the political correctness of your colleagues. But aren't you doing the same? Isn't your decision to conduct the research related to your own political agenda?'
Mr Van de Beek does not hide the fact that he is not in favour of immigration from non-Western countries, which in his view has not benefited the Netherlands. 'In a knowledge economy such as ours there is little need for unskilled migrants. If more research had been conducted, then we would have probably concluded a long time ago that we should select immigrants on the basis of their level of education. Migrants in the Netherlands are doing very poorly on the job market in comparison with other Western countries.'
However, Mr Van de Beek certainly does not want to be placed in the same camp as the populist politician Geert Wilders. 'Wilders' suggestion that millions of Muslims be deported threatens the Dutch legal system. However, I think there is a connection between the failure of the Dutch elite to acknowledge the facts and the success of the Freedom Party. Research into the economic effects of migration could reduce political tension in the Netherlands.'
In 2009, Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders demanded that the government conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the effects of migration to the Netherlands. The cabinet refused. The then immigration minister Eberhard van der Laan responded by writing: 'Immigrants are members of our society. Their presence cannot be reduced to simple figures of addition and subtraction, with the euro as measurement.' Wilders' conclusion was: 'The average citizen apparently is not allowed to know what mass migration costs.' His own estimate is that the arrival of non-Western immigrants has made the Netherlands some hundred billion euros poorer.