The Daily Telegraph carries a front-page report today about how an exodus of native-born Dutch in search of a new life abroad has reversed immigration flows for the first time since the post-WW2 era.
The report says that, last year, more people left The Netherlands than arrived as migrants or asylum seekers, even though unemployment remains low at 4.7 percent and per capita income is higher than any major country in Europe.
Lawyers, accountants, computer specialists, nurses, and businessmen are lining up for visas to the English-speaking world, looking to Australia, New Zealand and Canada as orderly societies where people have the space to breathe, the Telegraph said.
Requests for visa information have exploded since the murder of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film-maker and acerbic critic of Muslim views on women. He was gunned down in Amsterdam on 2 November.
The Netherlands has been transformed in barely 30 years from a tight-knit Christian society into a polyethnic state, with three million people of immigrant background out of a total population of about 16 million.
The Daily Telegraph | Dutch desert their changing country (registration required)
I've lived in Amsterdam - a truly polyethnic city - for over five years. My neighbourhood, in the Oud-Zuid part of the city, reflects the multicultural aspects of life in this homogenous city. Just about every western European country is represented in this area as well as Americans and Canadians. Indeed, you hear more English spoken around here than Dutch, and not just by the foreigners - tram drivers, shopkeepers, the postman... they're Dutch and they all speak fluent English.
Of course, this is just my neighbourhood which isn't representative of the full cultural diversity in the city as a whole.
And, I'm talking only about Amsterdam which isn't the same as the rest of the country, particularly in the north and the east. Far more traditional there. What's been happening around the country since the murder of Theo van Gogh is indeed cause for deep concern: mosques and schools fire-bombed, demonstrations, other shootings.
I'm no sociologist, but it often does look as if the very fabric of traditional Dutch society is under seige. This is not to say that you go out in active fear for your personal safety. Far from it - this is still one of the most pleasant and safest places anywhere in the world in which to live.
Nevertheless, if you then consider the bleak economic outlook reported by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis a few days ago with what the Telegraph reports today, there is much food for thought - especially as there are plans to make a sequel of van Gogh's controversial film.
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