Trouw: We cannot do without migrants

We have begun a new century but we are longing for the certainties of bygone days. It would be much better to focus on a positive vision for the future instead of continuing the present mood of pessimism and distrust, writes Maaike van Houten in Trouw.

That was the consensus at a conference last Saturday on innovation and society at the University of Utrecht. A negative, anxious, backward looking attitude is not going to help society. But what can be done to diminish the distrust between the public and politics, the tension between different population groups and the depletion of the earth’s resources?
New approach
Sadik Harchaoui, chairman of multicultural development centre Forum, is convinced we need a new approach to immigration. The debate is centred around what migrants must do, he says. Harchaoui does not think this is unreasonable; society can only be stretched so much. But telling migrants to adapt should not be the whole story.
Harchaoui thinks migration should be looked at from a social economic perspective. In 2040 half the population in and around the main cities will be made up of immigrants. Their knowledge and efforts are needed in a time of an ageing and diminishing population. ‘If they do not access the job market now, we are going to miss out on a large labour potential. Immigrants need to maximise their talents, not just for themselves but for society as a whole.’
In order to tackle distrust, politicians will also have to change their points of view, says SP leader Jolande Sap. They will come up with ideas which will be evaluated and implemented by professionals who, within reasonable bounds, will be given plenty of leeway to do the work.
That implies a responsible society. Herman Wijffels, former RABO bank boss and now professor at Utrecht university emphasises the importance of flexible organisations. ‘Moreover, every member of society should take his responsibility in order to achieve this. People often leave the best of themselves at home when they come to work!’ Wijffels also feels that management should become leadership so people can be lead from the old order to the new.
There should also be an ethical change. ‘Ethics and culture are centred on themselves. If we are to have a sustainable way of living we must look at how we are living together, and to ecological questions’. According to Wijffels lifestyle choices will have to be in accordance with what the earth can give us.
Capable of change
That will not be an easy task with a growing world population and increasing wealth. But the last century has shown that we are capable of great social change, says Paul Schnabel, director of socio-cultural planning office SCP.
The number of people in education has risen spectacularly, more people are in work and unemployment is relatively low. That means there’s hope for the future, Schnabel thinks. ‘All this we have achieved because we wanted to. We can take courage from that.’
This is an unofficial translation

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