I’ve written several times in this space about the anecdotal evidence for an increased rate of emigration from the Netherlands, without having any specific data on the scope of the outflow. But now Vox EU has a report on the statistics from last year, and it shows that the hemorrhage of the Dutch population is accelerating.
Last year 123,000 Dutch citizens left their home country for good, which comes 7.5 emigrants for every thousand inhabitants. A comparable outflow from the United States would be 2.3 million people — in just one year.
Dutch media has repeatedly reported this phenomenon because it caught demographic forecasters by surprise. The last emigration wave occurred fifty years ago, and at present the Netherlands is the only Western European country experiencing net emigration, although similar trends are visible in the UK (Salt and Rees, 2006) and to lesser extent in Germany.
People leaving the Netherlands on such a large scale has worried the media and politicians. The big Dutch puzzle is that it contradicts common knowledge and economic logic. The reason why immigrants come to the United States or Europe has been widely, studied and the general driving force behind these migration flows is thought to be a higher standard of living (cf. Hatton and Williamson, 2005). The Netherlands is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, so why are people leaving a country that has been immigrants’ destination for so many years?
To answer this question, we examined national data to see who has left and surveyed a representative sample of the Dutch in 2005 to learn who had emigration plans. To generate more in-depth insight into the characteristics of the Dutch emigrant, we also carried out a survey among a focus group of potential emigrants who had visited an emigrants’ fair. In 2007, with the help of Statistics Netherlands, we tracked the whereabouts of all those surveyed in 2005.
Most of the emigration is to other European countries, but significant numbers of Dutch people are also moving to the Unites States, Canada, Australia, and other destinations outside of Europe.
It’s no surprise that the best and the brightest are leaving, and taking their wealth-generation skills with them:
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National emigration figures for 1999 to 2006 show that men are twice as likely to emigrate as women, and it is mostly the young (under 30) who emigrate. Furthermore, it is the Dutch in the top decile of the income distribution who are most likely to emigrate.
And what reasons do the emigrants (or would-be emigrants) cite for their departure?
Definitions of the categories shown in the above graph:
|Dreamers:||Dutch who intended to emigrate but have not (yet) done so|
|Stayers:||Dutch who did not intend to emigrate and have indeed stayed|
|Movers:||Dutch who intended to emigrate and have done so.|
The authors of the study draw conclusions about the data, confirming the widely-held intuition that the deterioration in the quality of government and the lack of civil order play a large part in the desire to leave the Netherlands:
The results of our study reveal that both the private and the public domain of life are important to understanding emigration from a high-income country like the Netherlands. The more negative one is about the public domain, the more likely it is that one will actually emigrate (see Figure 1). Of course, the Dutch who stayed are also negative about large parts of the public domain, but emigrants (“movers” and “dreamers”, i.e. those who intended to emigrate but have not yet) are far more negative than those staying behind. The biggest difference between emigrants and those staying behind is the evaluation of the quality of public space. Without knowing how people feel about the quality of the public domain, large-scale emigration would remain a mystery.
Our study suggests that the quality of the public domain is an important part of quality of life, and those Dutch who have moved are implicitly casting a vote of no confidence in those who govern the nation. This lesson may also be of some relevance to other European countries where emigration has taken off and crowdedness has become a concern. For example, England’s population density is similar to that of the Netherlands (394 inhabitants per square kilometre), and British surveys seem to register the same type of dissatisfaction witnessed in the Netherlands.
Those Dutch who have moved are implicitly casting a vote of no confidence in those who govern the nation…
Hat tip: ZZMike.