246.3 Increasing social capital in the Netherlands

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 11:15 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Hans SCHMEETS , Division of Social and Spatial Statistics, Statistics Netherlands, Heerlen, Netherlands
Saskia TE RIELE , Division of Social and Spatial Statistics, Statistics Netherlands, Heerlen, Netherlands
In the Netherlands, issues related to social capital feature prominently on the political agenda. There is a general feeling and belief that social cohesion in Dutch society is eroding. This goes together with a shift in political behaviour: an increasing popularity of populist parties such as the ‘Party of Freedom’ (PVV), and a growing concern about the impact of Islam and non-western ethnic minorities on Dutch society.
This paper provides an overview of the findings of Statistics Netherlands’ research programme on social capital. First, a framework of social capital will be outlined which consists of three dimensions:  (1) participation; (2) trust; and (3) integration. Second, developments in participation and trust over the past 20 years will be presented. These findings are based on various large-scale surveys (e.g. the Labour Force Survey based on some 900,000 cases and the Permanent Survey on Living Conditions based on 360,000 cases) and on population registers in which a wide range of information on the Dutch population is available, such as gender, age, ethnicity, disposable income and regional variables. Third, differences in social capital between subpopulations are discussed.

Results show no decline in social capital in the Netherlands: social contacts with family and friends increased, and this is also true for social and institutional trust. Volunteer work, informal help and political participation were stable. There are, however, large differences between subpopulations: the lower educated and minority groups participate less and show lower trust levels. Certain religious groups, on the other hand, show higher levels of social capital. In addition, a clear regional divide is demonstrated. Furthermore, similar patterns between subpopulations and regions reveal when comparing various indicators of wellbeing, such as life-satisfaction and happiness.