Scientific knowledge on immigration for the general public

The borderless welfare state

The Netherlands has a comprehensive welfare state. A welfare state is based on the insurance principle. It revolves around mutual solidarity within a group of people, in this case residents of a country. Such a system must have limits. Not too many immigrants can come in and use more welfare than they contribute to it. In the words of Milton Friedman, “You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state“.

In the Netherlands, however, it seems increasingly likely that we “simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state”. In fact, over the past 10 years, the Netherlands has had a higher migration balance as a percentage of population than a classic immigration country like the United States. We have something that cannot last: a “borderless welfare state”.

Costs and benefits of immigration

The report Borderless Welfare State calculates the net costs and benefits of immigration. This is done on the basis of very detailed anonymised personal data of all 17+ million residents of the Netherlands. The report distinguishes by region of origin and immigration motive (labour, study, asylum and family migration). It also looks at the role of school performance and education level.

The analyses reveal a staggering picture. A few migrant groups contribute substantially to the Dutch treasury, but on average immigration costs the treasury a lot of money in net terms. Asylum migration in particular costs a huge amount of money, but so do family migration and even some forms of study and labour migration.

Reversed welfare magnet

Current immigration is undermining the Dutch welfare state. That welfare state turns out to be an ‘inverted welfare magnet’ to which poorly integrating immigrants in particular are ‘stuck’, while well-performing immigrants, on the contrary, often leave the Netherlands quickly. If policy remains unchanged, the welfare state will gradually collapse under the pressure of mounting costs.

Integration and cultural distance

This is about more than just money. Large net costs mean poor integration in many areas such as work, income, benefits, healthcare, education, youth problems and crime. These integration problems prove intractable, into the second and even third generation, especially among groups with a large cultural distance from the Netherlands.

Repatriation of migration policy

At the heart of the problem is that international treaties mean the Netherlands can hardly select immigrants on knowledge and skills. Asylum law and European treaties prevent this. Therefore, many low-potential immigrants come to the Netherlands, many as uninvited asylum seekers. The solution is ‘repatriation of migration policy’ from the European Union to the member states. Then the Netherlands can again select at the border. The key to that solution lies in the European Union.

The authors

Dr. J. H. van de Beek

Drs. H. Roodenburg

Dr. J. Hartog

Drs. G. W. Kreffer

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