Tag Archives netherlands

Transformative Methodologies | Changing minds and policy through collaborative research?

Transformative Methodologies | Changing minds and policy through collaborative research?

Can collaborative research with marginalised communities be transformative, turning around unjust social relations, and supporting solidarity and rights in a practical sense? In this blog post, we (Jack Apostol, Helen ...

Transformative Methodologies | A reflection on collaborative writing across sex worker organisations and academia

Transformative Methodologies | A reflection on collaborative writing across sex worker organisations and academia

We – members of Empower Foundation – a sex workers’ rights organisation in Thailand – and two scholar-activists from International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS) in ...

Human Trafficking | How anti-trafficking governance is getting it wrong: consequences of the differential treatment of migrant worker groups in the Netherlands

In many countries, including the Netherlands, being an immigrant – or being perceived as one – is a key mechanism used to normalise job precarity and poorly paid work. From this perspective, in theory, the rising attention to exploitative conditions that has paralleled anti-trafficking interventions is promising for migrant workers. Yet, using the case of the Netherlands as an example, this post highlights that, in practice, the exploitation of some workers seems to worry policy-makers more than others. The selective concern for migrant workers’ exploitation has paradoxical consequences, writes Karin Astrid Siegmann.

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In a recent case of human trafficking of Slovak workers on a Dutch strawberry farm, the Netherlands Supreme Court identified “systematic substantial underpayment and provision of poor, far too expensive housing” as indicators of exploitation. While hardly used in the International Labour Organisation’s labour rights framework, the term ‘exploitation’ is central to the 2000 UN Anti-Trafficking Protocol – shorthand for the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The Protocol does not define exploitation, but outlines forms that it can take, such as the “exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”. By 2021, with 178 ratifications, most countries of the world are party to the Protocol.

Having worked with migrant workers in the Netherlands for a couple of years now, I can’t get my head around how Dutch policy discourses on exploitation differentiate between occupational groups. Take migrant workers employed in the Dutch agricultural sector, like the Slovak migrants mentioned above. Agriculture employs the biggest share of the approximately 370,000 migrants from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) working in the Netherlands. Significantly contributing to the country’s Euro 49 billion value added produced in the agri-food industry, they make this small country the largest agricultural producer in EU and the second largest agricultural exporter globally.

These successes are lauded publicly, yet the migrant workers contributing to these successes are commonly invisibilised. While court cases countering the exploitation of farm workers are exceptional, their insecurity, poverty, and dependency are the rule. Even the Dutch Labour Inspectorate speaks of a large grey area of unfair labour practices affecting agricultural workers that are de jure legal. Mostly being workers deployed through employment agencies, they have little say about the number of hours they will work or the resulting earnings – and they can easily lose their job from one day to the next. Given that the employment agency often provides them with housing, too, dismissal simultaneously means losing accommodation.

Then there are migrant sex workers. Other than in many other countries, sex work is a legal profession in the Netherlands. A closer look reveals that this might not be much more than a ‘legal façade’: instead of being treated as work like any other, sex work is handled as a security risk, reflected in the fact that the sector is regulated by the Ministry of Justice and Security instead of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Welfare. A small sector anyway, in which an estimated 4,000 to 4,500 sex workers provide direct forms of sex work on a daily basis, the number of licenses for legal workspaces for sex work have halved since 2000. Based on a split image in which the Dutch sex workers are cast as modern, emancipated on the one hand, and migrant sex workers depicted as exploited and trafficked on the other, the sex industry is the only sector in the Netherlands that does not allow non-EU foreigners to work legally in the sector.

Yet despite their small number, migrant sex workers figure prominently in discourses around anti-trafficking governance in the Netherlands. This becomes evident in the proposed law on the regulation of sex work (WRS), which lists the fight against human trafficking as one of the drivers of the law amendment and argues that the sex industry is more prone to trafficking than other sectors. It is ironic here that for many years, the incidence of forced labour in other sectors, such as horticulture, was actually not included in official reports on human trafficking.

Anti-trafficking interventions heighten rather than reduce risk of exploitation

The selective concern for migrant workers’ exploitation has paradoxical consequences. The skewed framing of migrant sex workers’ realities justifies repressive policies that heighten the risk of sex workers’ exploitation. The conflation of sex work with human trafficking that has been exacerbated since the ratification of the Anti-Trafficking Protocol affects all sex workers. It has been used to justify increasingly repressive regulation of this legal profession, for example through the progressive closure of streetwalker zones across the Netherlands and the criminalisation of the clients of unlicensed workers. Undermining the stated objective of such regulation, the focus on human trafficking pushes migrant sex workers further into informality with greater vulnerability as a consequence.

The underpayment, insecurity, and dependence of a much larger group of migrant workers in the agricultural sector, in contrast, commonly remains out of view in media and policy discourses. This supports the normalisation of their ‘regulated precarity’: they pay for economic success of Dutch agriculture. In this way, both the misrepresentation of migrant sex workers and the invisibilisation of migrant farmworkers’ realities heighten the risk of exploitation that they face.

These examples demonstrate that anti-trafficking governance has not been an effective tool to address migrant workers’ exploitation. Both groups are losing instead of gaining what’s sorely needed – job security, better working conditions, and fair treatment. A more promising road towards fair labour practices for migrant workers involves a shift from a criminal law to a labour approach to human trafficking, including migrant sex work, as María Inés Cubides Kovacsics argued in her recent post in this series. This implies a regulatory environment that considers both migrant workers in agriculture and the sex industry citizens rather than passive production factors or victims – and effectively guarantees living wages and inclusive social protection based on that recognition.


This post is based on the author’s presentation on ‘Paradoxes of Migrants’ Exploitation in the Netherlands’ during an ISS expert meeting with representatives of the Dutch Ministries of Justice and Security and Foreign Affairs on 9 January 2020.

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the author:

Karin Astrid Siegmann is Associate Professor in Labour and Gender Economics at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS)

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EADI/ISS Series | Two faces of the automation revolution: impacts on working conditions of migrant labourers in the Dutch agri-food sector

EADI/ISS Series | Two faces of the automation revolution: impacts on working conditions of migrant labourers in the Dutch agri-food sector

by Tyler Williams, Oane Visser, Karin Astrid Siegmann and Petar Ivosevic Rapid advances in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are enabling production increases in the Dutch agri-food sector, but are also ...

Venezuelan refugees on Curaçao have entered the Kingdom of the Netherlands! by Peter Heintze, Dorothea Hilhorst and Dennis Dijkzeul

Venezuelan refugees on Curaçao have entered the Kingdom of the Netherlands! by Peter Heintze, Dorothea Hilhorst and Dennis Dijkzeul

“Reception of refugees in the region” is a central concept in the foreign policy of the Dutch government. It means that the Netherlands wants to financially support countries that accept ...

The Netherlands and Colombia: A Blurry Alliance by Ana María Arbeláez Trujillo

The Netherlands may have found in Colombia a strategic partner to help expand its commercial activities, but Colombia’s complex social context needs to be carefully considered. Whether this alliance will benefit both countries, or will reinforce the dynamics of the longest conflict in Latin American history, will depend greatly on the Dutch stance towards very sensitive issues that affect the Colombian rural sector.


The Netherlands has found in Colombia a strategic partner to expand its commercial activity in Latin America. In 2017, the exports of the South American country to the Netherlands amounted to 1.542 million US dollars, situating the Dutch economy as the fourth most important destination of Colombian products worldwide, and the first within the European Union[1].

This partnership is presented as a win-win scenario. While the Netherlands could benefit from Colombia’s 40 million hectares of land suitable for agriculture[2], Colombia could fully develop its rural potential through an alliance with the world leader in agricultural innovation. This cooperation holds a great deal of promise. Thus, there are grand expectations regarding the meeting that took place last November in Bogotá between Prime Minister Mark Rutte and President Iván Duque, who came to power in August 2018.

However, some caution is needed. The Prime Minister’s visit occured in a context of uncertainty and digression given Duque’s lack of political will to comply with the peace agreement reached between the former government and the FARC, as well as his dismissive attitude towards structural problems of the rural sector such as the excessive concentration of land, extreme poverty, and inequality.

In this regard, a study conducted by Oxfam in 2017[3] revealed that currently, concentration of land in Colombia is much higher than it was in the 1960s when the conflict started. The statistics show that while 80% of rural land in the country is controlled by 1% of the large estates, small farmers have lost most of their territory. As evidence, 80% of small peasants have a landholding smaller than 10 hectares, which do not occupy even 5% of the census area. Moreover, official data shows that the Gini coefficient of rural property is 89,7% (with 0 corresponding to complete equality and 100 corresponding to complete inequality)[4].

The government’s approach, however, has been to neglect the multidimensional character of the rural problem. Since his presidential campaign, Duque has been skeptical of the peace process. Therefore, although the first point of the peace agreement is to push forward a comprehensive agrarian reform, the policy of the new government has focused mainly on supporting agro-business, implementing modernisation measures, and protecting the property rights of large landowners[5].

This official position has raised a deep concern among many civil society actors who have fears pertaining to the success of historical compromises reached in La Habana. The initiatives that are at risk include: the creation of a Land Fund for the distribution of land that was illegally acquired; the development of procedures to formalise property rights of small and medium farmers; and the establishment of ‘Territorial Spaces for Training and Reincorporation Spaces’ (ETCR in Spanish), which are places dedicated  to training the former members of the FARC for their reincorporation into civil life through productive projects[6]. To this day, the government has not shown a serious commitment to advance any of these strategies, threatening the future of the post-conflict phase.

Most worryingly, the Office of the Ombudsman in Colombia reported that 331 community leaders were killed between January 2016 and August 2018[7], and that the number keeps growing[8]. The seriousness of the situation led the UN[9] and IACHR[10] to urge the Colombian government to strengthen protection measures to guarantee the integrity of social leaders. Although the government has denied the systematic character of these killings,  in the face of strong national and international pressure, the creation of an integral policy to tackle this urgent situation was announced[11].  It is worth noting that 80% of the leaders that have been killed were involved in the defense of the territory and restitution of land efforts[12].

 

In this regard, on 5 April more than 500 Colombians gathered in The Hague to march peacefully from the Colombian Embassy to the Headquarters of the ICC[13]. Their aim was to denounce that the lack of action of the Colombian State is leading to impunity of crimes against humanity, and to raise awareness among the international community[14].

This complex social context must be seriously considered by the Dutch commission that will advise the Prime Minister on his negotiations with Colombia. Whether this alliance will foster both countries, or will reinforce the dynamics of the longest conflict in Latin American history, will depend greatly on the Dutch stance towards these very sensitive issues that affect the Colombian rural sector.


References
[1]http://www.mincit.gov.co/loader.php?lServicio=Documentos&lFuncion=verPdf&id=80988&name=OEE_MA_JM_Estadisticas_de_comercio_exterior_ene-ago_2018.pdf&prefijo=file
[2] https://www.elespectador.com/economia/colombia-tiene-40-millones-de-hectareas-para-producir-alimentos-articulo-795814 and http://es.presidencia.gov.co/noticia/180621-Gobierno-definio-Frontera-Agricola-Nacional-para-avanzar-hacia-el-desarrollo-rural-sostenible-y-proteger-la-biodiversidad
[3] https://d1tn3vj7xz9fdh.cloudfront.net/s3fs-public/file_attachments/colombia_-_snapshot_of_inequality.pdf
[4] https://www.eltiempo.com/economia/sectores/desigualdad-en-la-propiedad-de-la-tierra-en-colombia-32186
[5] https://lasillavacia.com/silla-llena/red-rural/historia/los-programas-agrarios-de-los-candidatos-en-campana-un-analisis  and https://semanarural.com/web/articulo/elecciones-presidenciales-2018-las-propuestas-para-el-campo/504 and https://www.portafolio.co/economia/propuestas-de-los-candidatos-presidenciales-en-el-agro-y-lo-rural-son-incompletas-517480
[6]https://semanarural.com/web/articulo/que-le-espera-a-la-colombia-rural-en-la-presidencia-de-ivan-duque/550 and https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/08/30/planeta_futuro/1535660220_091882.html
[7] https://colombia2020.elespectador.com/pais/agresiones-contra-lideres-sociales-antes-y-despues-del-acuerdo-de-paz
[8] https://www.rcnradio.com/colombia/durante-el-gobierno-duque-22-lideres-sociales-han-sido-asesinados
[9] https://colombia.unmissions.org/en/un-rejects-and-condemns-killings-human-rights-defenders-and-leaders-colombia
[10] http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2018/065.asp
[11] https://www.elheraldo.co/politica/no-podemos-decir-que-asesinato-de-lideres-sociales-sea-sistematico-mininterior-543998 and https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/gobiernos-de-santos-y-duque-coinciden-asesinato-de-lideres-sociales-no-es-sistematico-articulo-813250
[12] https://www.rcnradio.com/colombia/durante-el-gobierno-duque-22-lideres-sociales-han-sido-asesinados
[13] https://paxencolombia.org/la-cpi-recibio-documentacion-sobre-asesinato-de-lideres-sociales-en-colombia/
[14] https://www.resumen-english.org/2019/04/march-to-the-international-criminal-court-to-stop-the-murders-of-social-leaders-in-colombia/

Ana Maria ArbelaezAbout the author:

Ana María Arbeláez Trujillo is a recent graduate from the Erasmus Mundus Program in Public Policy. She is a lawyer and a specialist in Environmental Law. Her research interests are the political economy of extractivist industries, environmental conflicts, and rural development.

 

 

 

Striking for a transformative university by Karin Astrid Siegmann and Amod Shah

Striking for a transformative university by Karin Astrid Siegmann and Amod Shah

Budget cuts in higher education limit universities’ transformative potential. A big strike is therefore planned in the Netherlands for all sectors of education on 15 March 2019. This strike follows ...

The battle for Zwarte Piet: Everyday racism in the Netherlands by Dorothea Hilhorst

The battle for Zwarte Piet: Everyday racism in the Netherlands by Dorothea Hilhorst

Every year around this time, a major cultural and identity clash emerges in the Netherlands as proponents and opponents of Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of Santa Claus) clash over Zwarte ...

The university of paleness by Willem Schinkel

In a recent attempt to address the underrepresentation of female professors in the Netherlands, the Dutch government made extra funds available to universities to appoint women. To the dismay of many people at Erasmus University, the university refused to fill over half of the available positions and sent the money back. This triggered Willem Schinkel’s personal essay in which he explains how he feels alienated from a university whose masculine dominance is closely tied to its corporate character.


 

If an alien from an exoplanet came to Erasmus University, or to any other university in the Netherlands, and if that alien considered the composition of the university in terms of gender and race, it would most likely draw one of two conclusions. One, this space has been invaded by white men. Two, the model that best describes the spread of white men through institutions of higher learning is that of some kind of plague or epidemic. Of course us earthlings would be quick to explain to our alien friend that the unequal distribution of men and women, of white people and people of color, is normal – even though it is not a normal distribution in the statistical sense! You see, we would tell this alien, the principle that governs our distribution over institutions of knowledge and power, is what we call quality. To which the alien might rightfully respond: ‘I see. And what is the principle that governs the distribution of your quality?’

At this point in time, I don’t think administrators at Erasmus University have a good answer to this question. Recently, our university refused government money for the appointment of so-called Westerdijk chairs for female professors. The dean of the Rotterdam School of Management, Steef van de Velde, made a classic patriarchal move and wasn’t shy about it: in an interview with Erasmus Magazine he said he hadn’t appointed any women because he wanted to “protect” them. After all, an appointment on a Westerdijk chair would be perceived as “stigmatising”, since people would think ‘that they needed this type of appointment because they could not get an appointment on their own merits.’ Moreover, he said, this was not at all a question of money – the RSM has plenty and doesn’t need such money to appoint women. To top it, he said there were plenty of upcoming women in tenure tracks – and why give some women some money (in Dutch, he spoke of a “sweetener”, or douceurtje) and others not?

This kind of reasoning and rhetoric is an affront on so many levels, including the level of intellectual discussion befitting a university. I have no intention to counter it with all the good reasons for the appointment of women. I don’t think it’s my place in particular to make that case, and I also think that the case has been made over and over again. We know all the arguments – that is, if we choose to pay due attention to the scientific study of “diversity” – but they run aground in the morass of the white male dean-dominated powerhouses that university faculties are in this country and elsewhere in the world. So this essay is not a case for diversity. If anything, it’s a case for a university that may be gone, and that more likely may have never existed.

The alien in my hypothetical example might assume that an invasion had occurred. And in a way, of course, the invasion has always already taken place. We are in a state of occupation. Getting serious about undoing it is what is called “decolonising the university”. Here’s another way to think about what it means that our appointments are so one-sided. If I often feel alienated from the university  it has something to do with the model of living together we embody.

The university, like any other setting, is always also one answer to the question how to live together, how to be social, how to practice sociality as being in the world together. And I guess it just keeps on being disappointing that this – the current composition of the university – is the modality of sociality that keeps on being reproduced. Ours is a conditioned stupidity. It is conditioned by an imagination limited to market-based modes of finding value in life. But being so conditioned is not a condition; it is a constraint that is enforced, but over which we might have control.

So whatever happens, let it be obvious that our “diversity”, that is, the composition of our togetherness, is a choice. And the university as it is produces what might be best called a form of paleness. By this I mean a uniformity and homogeneity, a desire for and expression of an order of looking and working alike, an order of whiteness and masculinity, in which “I don’t recognize this picture of the university” even counts as an argument. This paleness is of course a form of whiteness. But the paleness I’m alluding to is also an intellectual desolation or drabness, an achromatics of thinking. And it is a submission to neoliberal procedural routines in the ways we work, as well as a general appreciation of mediocrity sold as “excellence” – remember that, after appointing men on half the positions available, we’re tapping into the lower tiers of intellect and creativity if we continue to appoint men.

And what a bleak picture it is to see those with a ticket to inclusion! What has happened when students (they are not to blame for this!) don’t even think to criticise the curriculum set by the order of pale sameness? What has happened when technocratic markers of achievement that are “evidence based” take precedence when in fact most have no clue what a genuine spirit of inquiry would be, what intelligence might be as a mode of sociality beyond individuated IQ indicators, or how study might be a shared venture to recompose the world in ways that subvert the pale order of sameness to which we currently sacrifice ourselves, but mostly others, for the noble cause of producing “knowledge”?

If anything is clear, it’s that the university is invested in state and corporate power, including criminal fossil fuel companies, and divested in diversity. And when we keep on seeing how diversity basically functions as what Sarah Ahmed calls a “non-performative”[1] – something designed not to produce its stated goals – the only way to move forward is to step up our critical reflection on, and our subversion of, the university at large. The point is thus not to consider the university as basically fine as it is, and to just grant access to it to a greater number of people, or by people of a variety of gender and “race”. It’s not about letting others get a piece of the pie, of sharing in the otherwise unchanged corporate paleness that marks the university today. Much more fundamentally, it is a matter of living as such, of living together. After all, this is what we do on campus: during the day, ours is a specific modality of being together, a selective, tilted, and pale form of intimacy. So the question who gets to be there is pertinent, and concerns us all.

[1] See: Ahmed, S. 2012. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, Durham: Duke University Press.


An earlier and longer version of this piece was published in Erasmus Magazine: https://www.erasmusmagazine.nl/en/2018/05/19/opinion-the-university-of-paleness/?noredirect=en_US


willemschinkeloverracismecensuurenpolitiekecorrect-0-0-820-540About the author:

Willem Schinkel is Professor of Social Theory at Erasmus University Rotterdam and a member of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

 

 

Diversity in the Dutch local elections by Kees Biekart and Antony Otieno Ong’ayo

Diversity in the Dutch local elections by Kees Biekart and Antony Otieno Ong’ayo

‘Migrant-led’ political parties are on the rise in the Netherlands—a natural reaction to extreme anti-migration populism of the past decade. Insights into the local elections held on 21 March 2018 ...