Monday 22 July 2019

Opinion pieces, columns and insights into Dutch news and current affairs from key commentators

Bird flu: chickens are coming home to roost

Bird flu: chickens are coming home to roost

The Dutch poultry industry has been hit by an outbreak of avian flu, which has been identified on several farms. But don’t blame migratory birds for the failures of the livestock industry, writes biologist and animal welfare campaigner Sjourd van de Wouw. In the last couple of days the government’s extermination service had its work cut out. Hundreds of thousands of chickens on contaminated chicken farms were gassed. The Dutch culling policy is a world-wide standard. As far afield as... More >


This week: Dutch teachers and English, chickens and blood

This week: Dutch teachers and English, chickens and blood

From bird flu to multiplying political parties, and why a Dutch student is learning to be a Dutch language teacher. These are some of the topics was tackled in this week’s newspaper and magazine columns. A round up: Teaching Dutch in English In the Volkskrant, journalist and cultural scientist Sven Poels added his voice to protests at the amount of English used at Dutch universities. Poels discovered that many of the classes for his master’s course to teach Dutch –... More >


Rotterdam is bursting at the seams with unused talent

Rotterdam is bursting at the seams with unused talent

Rotterdam is bursting with ambition and well deserves its growing international reputation, says trendwatcher Farid Tabarki. But the port city, where a teenage Tabarki used to go dancing, could do even better if it made use of its talents, he says. 2014 isn’t quite over yet, but there already is a clear winner: Rotterdam. This became clear in January when the city was included in the annual New York Times list of 52 places to visit. It was also placed... More >


Dealing with debt, Part 3

Dealing with debt, Part 3

Families in debt lose sight of what they owe. A special bank would at least make that problem go away, writes Annemarie van Gaal, in her third article about getting your finances back on track.   In my last two columns I wrote about families in debt who, according to family finance institute Nibud, are costing society some €11bn a year. I’ve met some of these families. They are so behind with their payments they are completely overwhelmed. They don’t... More >


Health insurers’ concern for the patient is skin deep

Health insurers’ concern for the patient is skin deep

Dutch health insurers are busy trying to convince us all to switch to their bigger and better policies, now we’ve reached the end-of-year changeover period. However, says DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe, it all boils down to money, not the interests of the patient. This week I ended up visiting a dermatologist and was confronted by the effect of government efforts to rein in healthcare spending. I was told, bluntly, that I was not covered via my health insurance because the... More >


Labour’s integration policy backfires

Labour’s integration policy backfires

The Dutch Labour party has just expelled two MPs of Turkish origin for not agreeing with the party line. But having antiquated ideas is a prerogative of living in a democracy, says former Amstedam University professor Meindert Fennema.   The Labour party wants to change tack completely. Today’s slogan is ‘bottom-up instead of top-down’. Labour administrators, councillors and MPs should spend at least a quarter of their time ‘among the people’ according to a report from a party  committee on... More >


Stress at work should be employers’ headache

Stress at work should be employers’ headache

Why should workers come up with solutions for workplace stress-related problems? It’s up to the employers to act, and a time management course won’t do the trick, say psychology professors Michiel Kompier and Sabine Geurts Last week, home affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher proclaimed a workplace stress week, and not for nothing: stress at work is a wide-spread and growing phenomenon bringing a range of psychological and physical problems in its wake. More people need to take time off work because... More >


Shoppers: Pushy cashiers are a pain

Shoppers: Pushy cashiers are a pain

Stop badgering shoppers at the till with sweets and biscuits and put some healthy treats on display, say behavioural scientists. Research shows that 6 out of 10 people don’t like the ‘pushy cashier’ phenomenon. Pushy cashiers try to sell you something as you are paying for your groceries and it’s usually something not particularly healthy, like a chocolate bar, or rather two chocolate bars for the price of one. Even if the cashier is not trying to lure you into... More >


TU Delft sells science with sexist stereotypes

TU Delft sells science with sexist stereotypes

Is a sexist flash mob video the best way to encourage links between industry and universities? Delft University of Technology chemistry Phd researcher Aldo Brinkman doesn’t think so. Delft University of Technology has an official Facebook page and earlier this month it endorsed a video aimed at technical studies students. Not only was the video shot on campus but it was ‘powered by the TU Delft’. Screaming blondes, a biker girl in lingerie and a fake Arab with a camel.... More >


It’s cool up north

It’s cool up north

The northern Dutch province of Groningen is unfairly being written off by some because of economic problems and the earthquakes. But it is a vibrant place to be and deserves to be treated fairly, says Sandra Beckerman, a candidate for the Socialist party in next year’s provincial elections. When I decided to study archaeology I had already made up my mind to go to a university in the one of the four big cities. My school at the time made it... More >


Dealing with debt, Part 2

Dealing with debt, Part 2

Last week I wrote that family finance institute Nibud calculated that Dutch families in debt cost society €11bn a year. That amount would cover the cost of redesigning and implementing a new tax system twice over with something to spare for education and health care innovation. And that’s just a single year’s worth. Work The standard solution for families with problematic debts is debt relief. After the debts have been written off families are free to carry on as normal.... More >


Manure hits fan in Dutch dairy farming

Manure hits fan in Dutch dairy farming

Dairy farming shouldn’t go the way of pig farming and poultry farming, say Cees Veerman and Herman Wijffels. Dutch dairy farmers have a good reputation. Their grazing cows represent a number of important values: an attractive landscape and care for the wellbeing of the animals. Grass fed cows also ensure short cycles of nutrients (grass – manure – grass) and some biodiversity. The dairy farmers are doing very well indeed economically. In short, it’s a sector to be proud of.... More >


Bring on the robots

Bring on the robots

Don’t fear robotisation but prepare to enjoy the benefits it could bring, says GroenLinks leader Bram van Ojik. Even brilliant economists can’t always be right. In 1930 John Maynard Keynes wrote an essay called ‘Economic possibilities for our grandchildren’ in which he predicted that in two generations’ time a 15-hour working week would be enough to produce whatever we would need. Those grandchildren are us, but instead of working fewer hours we’re putting in more. If we have a job,... More >



Thou shalt live a healthy life

Thou shalt live a healthy life

The government is telling us to lead healthy lives but who handed over the pulpit to the authorities? Mind your own business and let people worry about their own salvation, says Patrick van Schie.   Not a week goes by without some newspaper article telling us that scientists have found that a certain food is harmful – or beneficial – to our health. The effects of exercise – how much, what type – are also explored in detail. Those who... More >


Fight radicalisation but stay cool (and tolerant)

Fight radicalisation but stay cool (and tolerant)

Amsterdammers must fight intolerance without becoming intolerant, says the city’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan. A week and a half from now, on November 2, it will be 10 years to the day since film maker and television presenter Theo van Gogh was murdered. Much has happened in Amsterdam since that sad event but lately it seems as if we’ve come full circle. Tensions in the city are growing and radicalisation has become much more visible because of the recent... More >


Share value of a hospital? Between 0 and a second home in France

Share value of a hospital? Between 0 and a second home in France

If the tax office has anything to do with it, medical specialists will have to become entrepreneurial. But that might jeopardise that second home in France, writes Barend van Lieshout. By January 1 self-employed medical specialists will have to choose between a contract with the hospital or a bigger financial share in the hospital. The tax office thinks the present structure for specialists isn’t entrepreneurial enough. Behind the scenes furious negotiations are taking place between specialists and hospital managers. The... More >


Uberpop is the solution, not the problem

Uberpop is the solution, not the problem

Uberpop is only doing what others have failed to do: promote competition, improve quality and lower prices, writes Dutch Uber general manager Niek van Leeuwen. The Dutch transport Inspectorate (ILT) thinks new private driver service Uberpop contravenes the law governing the transport of persons (WP2000). Uber disagrees. Not only does it disagree, it maintains that Uberpop is the only organisation which actually fulfils the main goals set out in WP2000. These include ‘strengthening the role of the taxi in the... More >


Fatal flaw in the benefits system

Fatal flaw in the benefits system

Many over fifties are playing a flawed benefits system and this means they are in no hurry to find a job, says Annemarie van Gaal. As unemployment figures are down slightly in the Netherlands, unemployment among the over-fifties is rising. Almost 200,000 older people are on unemployment benefits and half of them have been unemployed for more than a year. According to social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher, this presents ‘a grave and worrying problem’. Since last year Asscher has been... More >


Royals: thrifty or spendthrift?

Royals: thrifty or spendthrift?

It is fine to spend money on the king as a symbol for unity but not on the king as a man in need of a private jetty, writes D66 leader Alexander Pechtold. When queen Juliana visited a school in The Hague on the occasion of the centennial of the vocational education association those present noted she arrived in a smaller car than was her wont. The Ford Continental had been swapped for a more modest Ford Granada. At a... More >