Topic 1 Cultural dimensions of the Dutch workplace

The Netherlands adheres to its own cultural guidelines and the need to understand the etiquette and local culture will have a better chance of successful communication and provision of products that fit in the Dutch market.

After a crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the Dutch economy has quickly recovered. In spite of the fact that there were still a number of restrictions on contact in place in 2021, the economy actually grew by 4.8% in that year.

From a historical and European perspective, unemployment in the Netherlands is low. In 2021, 408 000 people, or 4.2% of the workforce, were unemployed on average.The CPB anticipates a 4% unemployment rate in 2022 (385 000 people).

The Dutch labour market differs in the region, the West comprises the provinces of North Holland, South Holland, Utrecht and Zeeland have the largest share of employment. The Netherlands currently has approximately 400,000 EU migrant workers from central, eastern, and southern Europe. In quarters 1 and 2, the Dutch labout market tension grew to 143 vacancies per 100 unemployed.

The countries of the migrant workers in ascending order are south Africa, Curacao, Morocco, Afghanistan, Iran, Suriname, Ukraine, Eritrea, Nigeria, and Egypt.

  1. Differences in culture and a lack of “soft skills” appropriate to Dutch culture
  2. The inability to speak Dutch
  3. Insufficient (social) networks of relevant employers
  4. Stereotyping (referred to as “statistical discrimination”)
Photo by Christina Morillo:

The ability to communicate in Dutch is a crucial component of successful integration into the Dutch labour market. The ability to speak Dutch is a component of the easy successful integration, therefore it is recommended that migrant workers learn the language through practice rather than through a textbook. For some groups of migrants, employer expectations regarding Dutch language proficiency pose a significant integration obstacle. This is especially true for migrants who fit the following characteristics:

  • Possibility of employment in small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs)
  • Possibility of employment with businesses catering to Dutch customers.

Higher-skilled migrants who work for multinationals (such as tech companies and banks) or businesses serving international clients appear to place less emphasis on the proficiency of speaking Dutch. Depending on their market, multinational corporations that serve clients around the world operate in a variety of languages.

In the Netherlands, access to social networks has also been recognized as a crucial factor in successful integration into the labour market. One of the structural obstacles migrants face when trying to enter the Dutch labour market is a lack of networks. Economic integration and social networks are inextricably linked.

Networking is typically difficult for TCN migrant workers. When they need to use their connections in the network to learn more about a job they’re interested in or get support for themselves as a whole, they usually feel awkward.

It appears that a major obstacle to integration in the Dutch labour market is negative stereotyping based on employer experiences with migrant experiences, both past, and present.

TCN migrant workers’ education levels and productivity appear to be underestimated by Dutch employers, possibly due to their limited prior experience. Migrants’ integration is complicated by stereotyping practices.

Photo by Codigos De Paises:

Employers’ perceptions that it is difficult to work with migrant workers due to cultural differences or a lack of soft skills specific to Dutch work culture are a major barrier to integration that is frequently mentioned in the Netherlands.

The ability to work independently, take initiative, speak up, feel or show responsibility for your area of work and the Dutch work ethic are all considered to be unique to the work culture in the Netherlands. The most important soft skills that migrant workers seemed to lack were flexibility, cooperation, and creativity. Soft skills are also referred to as personal attributes and interpersonal skills.

Religion: Migrant workers’ cultural and socioeconomic integration into the Dutch labor market are influenced by religious affiliation. In addition, different religious beliefs can have an impact on behavior in the workplace, which must be taken into account in a multicultural setting.

Flexibility and working condition

The workplace is being transformed by technological advancements. In order to maintain their business model and remain competitive, organizations are adapting to the new normal. TCN migrant workers must continually invest in their capabilities and competencies to remain relevant. A flexible contract for Dutch workers is about one-third. This equates to approximately 1.7 million self-employed individuals and employees with flexible contracts. Since the Dutch labor market is the most flexible, TCN workers should accept that flexibility in workplace contracts and arrangements is just as important as the ability to switch jobs relatively easily.

The Dutch have a strong work ethic. People want to do a good job and enjoy working. The labour culture can actually be more formal than you might think in many business settings.