Greg Shapiro: ‘Benefit Tourism,’ meets ‘Brain Drain’

It’s not benefit tourism that should be worrying Dutch ministers but how to keep highly-skilled immigrants, says Greg Shapiro.

The Dutch government wants to crack down on Benefit Tourism: welfare cheats sneaking into the country to sponge off the system. In fact, these thieves may even be coming from within Europe! But a new report from the Dutch statistics bureau says most Europeans in the Netherlands are supporting themselves, thank you very much.

Is the Netherlands being overrun by waves of immigrants? I don’t think so. There are too many natural defenses. Like the Dutch dunes protect us from the sea waves, we are protected from the waves of immigrants by the Dutch language.

Ask anyone getting off the boat: ‘Would you rather say bon jour, good day, or goedemiddaggggg?’ These welfare moochers are – by definition – lazy, yes? Then why would they subject themselves to the Dutch language?


Granted, there are a bunch of asylum seekers in De Vluchtkerk in Amsterdam. I was there, speaking to an activist friend of mine. She said, ‘Don’t worry! Most asylum-seekers do all they can to avoid the Netherlands. Even among human traffickers, the Netherlands has a reputation as the most inhospitable system. Indefinite detentions, prison brutality, and sometimes your prison burning down – with you in it (Schiphol Prison fire).’

Knowing all this, I wondered why the Dutch government isn’t more relaxed about immigration. She said, ‘I think they have no idea.’

The Amsterdam Expat Center would seem to agree. I was talking with the Expat Center director about the expat tax incentive ‘the 30% rule.’ The previous government wanted to scrap the rule, saying that expats don’t need such an incentive.

The Expat Center director went to talk to the Minister to complain. Apparently, the Minister was under the impression that most ‘expats’ are Shell employees on an expense account, spending half the year in Singapore and playing golf. Really.

But elsewhere, the message is getting through. I went to a seminar at Randstad Recruiting, where old, white men are preaching diversity. The seminar was hosted by Dutchversity (as in Dutch Diversity.) Dutchversity was started by a young woman named Dionne Abdoelhafizkhan (as in Abdul, have a scan).


Dionne made a name for herself with a little experiment. To test the Dutch job market, she applied for 10 different jobs with her birth name. And she applied for the same jobs with her mother’s name De Vries. De Vries got six responses. Abdoelhafizkhan got zero. After making her experiment public, she now has the attention of multinationals, such as Randstad.

Mr. Randstad, Ton Hoopmans, is a good ol Dutchie. He’s as white and late-50s as you can get.

‘Looking at me, you’d think I voted for (ruling party) VVD, right?’ (That’s exactly what I’d thought.) ‘Wrong!’ And he came out swinging with a wake-up call for the Dutch government: ‘We are dying!’ And it’s well-known: the Dutch population is getting older, having less babies, and shrinking. The Dutch call it vergrijzing – literally ‘The Greying.’ And this trend is affecting the whole of Western Europe.


According to Hoopmans, by the year 2030 – probably sooner – every country in Western Europe will be ‘competing for immigrants.’ Not kicking them out; inviting them in. The solution to vergrijzing? I guess you could call it verbruining.

And now we’re seeing a debate between VVD and Labor PvdA. Not long ago, VVD politician Frits Bolkestein suggested that Jews might want to leave the Netherlands because Islamic anti-Semitism is getting out of control.

That same day, I happened to be at an event called Jewish / Moroccan Comedy night. They said the mayor might show up. (They always say that.) But that day the mayor did show up. PvdA Mayor Eberhard van der Laan gave a speech, blasting the VVD ‘scare tactics.’

He even ended with a personal plea: ‘If anyone here is so afraid you’re seriously thinking of emigrating, please talk to me first. Call my office. I’ll take the call, 24 /7.’ It wasn’t a great way to end a comedy night, but the crowd liked it.


While ‘Benefit Tourism’ may be a real issue for the Dutch government, one hopes they’ve also head of the problem of ‘Brain Drain.’ Talented immigrants may come here to study, but soon after, they leave.

Enter NUFFIC – the Dutch organization for international students in the Netherlands. Recently, they organized an entire trade fair with the explicit goal of keeping these students in the country. I spoke at the event and did a quick poll. ‘How many of you are hoping to stay after you graduate?’ Most of the 500 people had their hands up.

Come to think of it, there were a lot of Europeans in the audience at NUFFIC. I spoke to a Polish woman studying psychology. A Greek woman was studying Business Management. A Romanian woman was doing research at an NGO. She was with some other Romanians.

I asked if they were worried about next year, when the floodgates of Romanians and Bulgarians are due to open wide. The Romanians said ‘YES! Bulgarians are stupid!’ I spoke to some Bulgarians, who said ‘UGH! Romanians think they know everything!’ So, in the Netherlands / Belgium – these guys should feel right at home.

I’m sure there are Europeans and immigrants coming here and gaming the system. But most of the people I talk to are classic expats: highly educated people who are happy to live somewhere other than their home country. I say let’s keep them.

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