Hit & Run

A Dutch "Exodus"?

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Radio Netherlands reported last week that Holland is experiencing a "bourgeois exodus." According to the state-funded service, "More and more Dutch people are leaving the Netherlands to live abroad." Nearly 50,000 of them left last year, the highest number since the postwar era when the Dutch government was encouraging emigration. The emigrants are identified in the radio report as "highly skilled people . . . the kind of workforce you want to keep."

The story suggests several reasons for the growing emigration. "Escaping the stress of clogged roads, street violence and loss of faith in the country's once celebrated way of life," says the report, "the Dutch are quitting their homeland in droves."

The murders of Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and Theo van Gogh last year are cited as factors: "Some migrants are also voting with their feet against what they see as a multicultural experiment gone wrong," according to the report, "and the increase in violence and social tension they believe has come with it."

An exodus of skilled native Dutch is obviously an important story, though this report raises more questions than it answers. There's little evidence in the piece to back up its assertions about emigration: It cites no surveys, quotes no emigrants. Nor is there any indication of where these emigrants are going.

However, a more detailed report on the same phenomenon appeared on April 24 in the Toronto newspaper, The Globe and Mail (posted on this forum). In fact, the Dutch radio report appears to be a stripped-down version of the Canadian newspaper story. The Globe and Mail interviewed prospective emigrants ("it just doesn't feel like Holland any more"), along with people in the business of helping them relocate. According to the piece, many Dutch have become unhappy with their society. Some cite immigration, others the rise of Dutch nativism. One emigration facilitator (he appears in both reports) says that the numbers of Dutch seeking to exit the country turned into a "full-scale flood" in the wake of van Gogh's murder last November.

The Globe and Mail reports that many Dutch emigrants are going to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Reports in the U.S. press have indicated that a significant number of Dutch dairy farmers and hog farmers have been settling in the American Midwest, though the forces bringing them to the U.S. reportedly involve the soaring value of land in the crowded Netherlands, and European agricultural regulation.