AMSTERDAM—Some 49,000 people emigrated from the Netherlands last year, the highest figure since 1954, Statistics Netherlands said on Monday.
Known commonly in Dutch as the CBS, the statistics bureau said most people emigrate to Germany or Belgium, with 7,200 Dutch nationals emigrating to Belgium and 6,200 to Germany.
Work reasons or to join a partner topped the list of factors influencing people to emigrate to Belgium or Germany. Tax benefits and cheaper housing were also motivating factors.
But there has also been a reported shift in trends as social tension is blamed on the rising rate of emigration.
The CBS said some 3,000 Dutch people emigrated to Britain last year, while 2,100 moved to France and Spain. The latter countries are highly popular with elderly Dutch nationals.
There is a clear link between emigration and economic growth in the Netherlands, with low emigration rates during periods of solid economic growth. The strong economy at the end of the 1990s saw the immigration rate at a peak.
A large number of Dutch people returned to the Netherlands at the end of the 1990s and emigration was low in comparison with the years previously.
But besides the sluggish Dutch economy, immigration and integration concerns are reportedly contributing to pessimism about the future of the Netherlands. This is in turn reportedly leading to a white Middle Class flight away from the Lowlands.
And despite the fact that, emigrants rarely cited a fear of militant Islam as their main reason for packing their bags, the killing of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, a fierce critic of fundamentalist Islam, last November seems to have been a catalyst, The New York Times reported last month.
The number of visitors to the website http://www.emigratie.nl/www.emigratie.nl jumped sharply after the assassination.
Website administrator Buysse Immigration Consultancy said many Dutch people have been toying for some time with the idea of emigrating. “But the murder of Theo van Gogh decided the matter for them,” Rosita Setz said.
Would-be emigrants point to their increasing unease about tolerance in Dutch society as a prime reason in their willingness to leave the Netherlands.
The ‘flight to foreign lands’ has thus been noticeable for several years, but is becoming increasingly prevalent. Economic reasons were the initial motivating factor, but the social climate and living space have since become the main factors.
Canadian, Australian and New Zealand diplomats in the Netherlands told The New York Times that while immigration papers were processed in their home capitals, embassy officials in The Hague had been swamped by inquiries in recent months.
In 2001, there were about 700,000 Dutch nationals living in other OECD countries, with Canada, Germany, the US, Belgium and Australia topping the list.
Turkey is placed just outside the top 10 in terms places of where Dutch emigrants live. People born in the Netherlands with Turkish ancestry form the largest group of people emigrating to the mainly Islamic country.
The large numbers of Dutch people in Canada, the US and Australia is due to the emigration wave in the 1950s. Based on concerns for crowding and unemployment, 33,000 Dutch people departed annually for Australia, Canada, the US, New Zealand and South Africa.
In 1952, some 50,000 Dutch people emigrated to the aforementioned countries. The government encouraged and financially supported such immigration.
The wave of emigration tapered off at the start of the 1960s due in part to a labour shortage in the Netherlands. From that moment onwards, the Netherlands became a land of immigration, rather than emigration.