Disruptions on social media were expected on Tuesday. CBS will stop using the “western” versus “non-western” split. The last term would trigger negative associations. Moreover, it may mean less and less discrimination due to the increasing diversity among immigrants. There is little in common between an Indian-educated knowledge worker and an asylum-seeker from Eritrea, while both are attributed to a “non-Western immigration background.”
“Put it under the rug again” was an online response. It is an expression of concern that the problems that often occur among immigrant groups will not be mentioned soon. What does abandoning these terms mean for sociologists who frequently compare populations in areas such as public health and crime?
There is no need to change much, says Willem Huijnick, a researcher with the Office of Social and Cultural Planning (SCP). Statistics Netherlands continue to track the country of birth of the parents of every Dutch. If researchers want to make their own choices on the basis of the “old” distinction between western and non-western, this is possible. But if we agree as researchers that this is not desirable, less and less will happen. “
At the same time, it is believed that there are still significant differences in health care use, labor market situation, unemployment and crime between groups identified by Western and non-Western immigration background. How might such differences emerge in the future? “This is kind of a contradiction in this. Instead of looking at the group with a non-western immigration background, you can look at the whole group with the immigration background. But this is less specific and therefore does not say much. In practice, comparisons will often be made between a group. Certain immigrants, for example Dutch people of Moroccan descent, compared to the rest of the population. This may actually reinforce the stigmatization of such a group, “says Huijnk.
I would never classify myself as a “non-Western”
Nadia Porras History teacher
Nevertheless, this is what the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) proposes in its draft advice that partly forms the basis of the Dutch Statistical Authority’s decision. “When researching diabetes, it makes sense, for example, to look at certain ethnic groups with a known prevalence of diabetes, such as residents of Surinamese, Hindu, Turkish, or American ancestry. […] If one wants to compare, the Dutch population as a whole is a better alternative, ”writes WRR.
According to WRR Board member Mark Bovens, the research question should always be the one that determines the classification of (migratory) groups. “When looking for overrepresentation in crime figures, for example, it is not clear in advance whether the offenders’ origin is relevant. You must first prove this. Dividing groups based on their socioeconomic background is often more relevant,” says Bovens. .
But what about the Cultural Diversity Index of Statistics the Netherlands? Universities want to use this to measure diversity among employees to see to what extent the workforce consists of one side. The staff is divided into people of Dutch ancestry, Western and non-Western background. “If only people with or without an immigrant background are differentiated later, then the strength of the scale is lost,” says Willem Huijnick of SCP. “Because it is the groups that we classify as non-Western that are at a disadvantage.”
According to Han Entzinger, Professor Emeritus of Immigration and Integration Studies in Rotterdam, this scale should also measure the specific countries of origin of the employees or their parents. Entzinger has been chair of a CBS advisory board for many years. Because of colonial ties and the diminishing importance of the division into Western and non-Western, he says he is “very happy” with CBS’s decision. “If you use such a metric to look specifically at countries of origin, you can define each country of origin, or group of countries of origin, to what extent employees are underrepresented in relation to their presence in society,” Entzinger says. In its report, WRR proposes groups of indigenous countries based on geography, prosperity, form of government, culture, and linguistic convergence.
In universities participating in the Barometer The discussion is lively and in good health About how to do things better than the Western versus non-Western segmentation. There are many calls for “self-identification.” People can refer to themselves as to which category they think they belong to. Nadia Porras, assistant professor of history at Leiden University, also defends it. “I will never classify myself as a person of non-Western origin. But I have no problem identifying myself as a Moroccan-Dutch citizen.”
Porras suggests including employees’ social and economic background as well. “It talks about someone’s social opportunities more than someone’s immigrant background. Actually, you want to measure the income and education level of parents, gender and race all together. Because if you say, say, there are very few women, you usually get white women.” Just … you have to look at diversity on a large scale. “
A copy of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of April 21, 2021