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Debate over new coalition: Concerns over inequality, social division


Debate over new coalition: Concerns over inequality, social division

Today, the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, will debate the new coalition of PVV, VVD, NSC, and BBB and their plans for the coming years. Opposition parties are critical of planned cuts and a lack of attention to social inequality in the right-wing parties’ “main lines agreement,” concerns also raised by two of the government’s policy advice bodies.

Very little attention is given to social cohesion and combating inequality in the new coalition agreement negotiated by the PVV, VVD, NSC and BBB, said the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP). The government agency said the emphasis is mainly on stimulating work and social security and less on other resources.

The agency believes that the reason that many people cannot survive financially usually has to do with these issues. “The danger is that the structural inequality between groups and people will increase because of this.”

The agreement mainly targets people’s basic needs, such as accessible health care, good education, and an increase in housing, according to the SCP. The focus is also mainly on employed Dutch people. The agency hopes for general measures that would benefit everybody instead of mainly civilians in vulnerable situations.

The agency also thinks not enough attention was given to strengthening social solidarity. “Even though for a diverse country society, the connection between people and solidarity is essential,” the SCP added. “Firstly, to prevent the dividing lines that emerge in society from becoming too great. Secondly, to ensure that everybody can participate and has opportunities.”

It is positive that the main points of the coalition agreement include plans to combat discrimination and ensure more safety, the agency added.

The SCP also noted that the agreement does not mention improving people’s psychological well-being, “while the psychological complaints of especially young people have increased lately as has loneliness for elderly people.”

The agency also lamented the lack of mention of the psychological consequences that a stricter migration policy will have on migrants. The main points of the coalition agreement conclude that slowing down the number of migrants will be a positive factor for social cohesion in the Netherlands. “That does not necessarily have to be the case,” the SCP added.

According to the agency, the agreement is strongly committed to employment and the security that comes with it. “Other forms of participation, like volunteer work and informal care, remain in the background while they are very important in a society where the government is increasingly calling on the help of its civilians.”

The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) calculated that the right-wing coalition’s plans will slightly increase purchasing power and slightly improve government finances. But it stressed that many of the plans still need to be elaborated, and it had concerns about the legality and feasibility of some planned cuts, including that to asylum shelters.

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