Greg Shapiro: make the Dutch sign a participation contract too

The government’s participation contract plan is good for laugh, as long as everyone signs it, says Greg Shapiro.

Last week, Minister Asscher (Social Affairs & Employment) sparked outrage with his proposed ‘Participation Contract’ for all foreigners in Nederland. This week, let the furor continue, as I attempt to play Devil’s Advocate.

For one thing, the ‘Participation Contract’ is good for the joke business. This week in ‘Behind Dutch Headlines,’ I already made a joke about it. Lodewijk Asscher is from the Labor PvdA party, but lately he sounds more like the ‘Law & Order’ VVD. And yet Asscher is proposing a costly new bureaucracy with no clear benefit. What could be more ‘Big Government Labor’ than that?

The one thing I like about the ‘Participation Contract’ idea is that it focuses less on the immigration office and more on the Stadsregister. Every time I go to the Stadsregister (or local office Stadsdeelkantoor), I’m already being bombarded by POSITIVE MESSAGES on how to be a BETTER CITIZEN! For example, there are posters that say:

– ‘Look at me! I recycle!’

– ‘Look at me! I put my trash IN the receptacle not ON TOP of it like an imbecile!’

– ‘Look at me! I helped stop a domestic dispute! How? By joining the WWII-inspired Spy-on-your-Neighbor program called BurgerNet!’

After all this preachy propaganda… really, how different would a ‘Participation Contract’ be?


But here’s the twist: what if the ‘Participation Contract’ actually did a good job at celebrating the Dutch values of Individualism that Asscher talked about? What if they would make it a kind of Immigration Best-of?

‘Spinoza, Descartes, even Willem of Orange van Duitse bloed. They’re all immigrants. You’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill. Do your best! Sign here.’

The Stadsregister has already helped me be a better Dutch citizen. It was at the Stadsregister I learned that – without even being a citizen – I could vote in Dutch local elections (Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen).

Now that I am a citizen, it’s the Stadsregister that makes sure I get my voting pass, at my home, in time for the election. And when I show up to vote, I can actually vote. I can mention some other first-world countries (America) where voting ain’t so well organized.


My favorite Stadsregister experience was when I first registered. I was subletting from a pair of Dutch students, who were gaming the system. They’d been assigned the apartment by some university office. And they were receiving funds to study. So – what did they do? Rent out their place for cash, take the study money & get jobs in Ibiza.

We met them once. Total rich-kid kakkers. They were very clear: ‘Whatever happens, do NOT tell anyone we’re in Ibiza. If anyone comes to the door, tell them you’re houseguests. And – whatever you do – do not let anyone from the city know you’re here.’ So when the city required me to register, of course I gave their address. But don’t worry: I’m sure they’re now very successful in Dutch banking. Or the Building Sector.

In closing, the nice thing about the ‘Participation Contract’ is that is takes place at the government office that affects everyone. Even Dutch people. And if the ‘Participation Contract’ somehow helps me punish antisocial locals, then I’m for it. I’m happy to sign the thing, as long as rent-fraud Dutchie signs it too.

Greg Shapiro performs his solo show Superburger: the Man with Split Nationalities Saturday, 2 March in Hoofddorp De Meerse at 20.30.

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