Share My Voice, a new initiative set up by a wide variety of Dutch organisations aims to give a voice to the international community in the Netherlands by finding out more about the issues that matter to them.
It’s not unusual to read Dutch newspaper articles about rich expats pushing up property prices in Amsterdam, or eastern European fruit pickers annoying their neighbours in a Gelderland village. But what is the truth behind the headlines?
Now a group of unions, employers organisations and academics have set up a new research institute with the aim of giving foreign workers in the Netherlands a voice, carrying out independent research into the complex issue of labour migration and developing, sharing and distributing expertise.
The Kenniscentrum Arbeidsmigranten – or migrant labour expertise centre – is focusing on the key areas of work, housing, integration and culture. It aims to make companies, politicians and the man in the street more aware of the crucial role foreign workers have in the Dutch economy, and to maintain a database of research which is available to everyone.
‘Policymakers and companies often have a one-sided view and many Dutch people have no idea what the real issues are when it comes to labour migration,’ said spokesman Lars Hennisen. ‘So the aim of our approach is to develop expertise, to process that expertise and to spread and communicate it to companies, to policy makers and to the man in the street.’
Part of this involves setting up a special panel which will be involved in at least four research projects a year and covering the four key issues. The first survey, which starts in January, will focus on housing and integration.
‘That means the sort of accommodation people are living in and to what extent they feel at home,’ Hennissen said. ‘We also want to know about their future plans.
‘Do they want to stay here, for example, or to return to their country of origin? So we would appeal to all foreign workers. “Do you want to help improving the living situation, employment conditions and quality of life of migrant workers? Let your voice be heard via www.sharemyvoice.nl“. ’
The field of research is not confined to the traditional migrant workers who come to the Netherlands to pick fruit and vegetables in season or to work in a distribution centre for a year or so.
‘By migrant workers we mean everyone who has come to the Netherlands to work,’ Hennissen said. ‘Many, for example, are European Union nationals who have come to the Netherlands for a job, but others come from India and China under the highly-skilled migrants scheme.’
In total, the group which the centre is targeting runs to between 800,000 to one million people, if you take the widest possible definition.
‘We want to find out what all foreign workers themselves want,’ says Hennissen. ‘There is a lot of talking done about foreign workers, but not enough actual talking with them. We are urging all foreign workers to take part in the panel and share their voice. Have your say, because we are interested in what you think.’
Sign up for the panel here
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