The economic crisis is having perhaps unexpected consequences in the Netherlands. Fewer babies are being born, fewer couples are getting married and more people are getting divorced.
By Belinda van Steijn and Nick Garlick
These are the findings of the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP), which says the reduced number of births is due to many people's uncertainty about the future. The institute worries that a lower birth rate could have consequences for payments to social insurance schemes.
It also appears that people in times of recession are less satisfied with their lives, which leads the SCP to expect more suicides. People with work are, not surprisingly it says, happier than people without a job.
Changing migration patterns
The SCP's findings are backed by a report from Statistics Netherlands (CBS), which says it expects the population of the country to slow in the coming years. It notes that 86,000 people were born in 2009, a few more than in 2008. But it goes on to predict an annual birth rate of only 60,000.
Coupled with a fall in the birth rate, the CBS believes there will also be a decline in the number of immigrants and puts this down to changing migration patterns. In 2009, 112,000 people left the Netherlands, while 146,000 arrived as immigrants.
But, says the organisation, as the demand for labour in the Netherlands declines, so will the number of people seeking work. (This is a pattern it sees affecting all European countries.) That's why it's projecting no more than 125,000 new arrivals a year in the future, and estimating an annual departure rate of 116,000. Many of those leaving, it says, will be people returning to their country of birth.
Breaking down its predictions, the CBS says it expects migration from Indonesia, Surinam, the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, Morocco and Turkey to remain stable in the long term. It also expects immigration from Asian countries such as India and China to increase slightly and to be a combination of people seeking work and coming to study. At the moment, thanks to the economic crisis, Asian migration is somewhat stagnant.
Although immigration from Latin America had been gradually increasing, it now appears to be stabilising and is driven by people coming here to marry a resident of the country. Immigration from Africa is difficult to estimate, it says, because many African immigrants come seeking asylum, and the need for that can fluctuate as political landscapes shift.
So what does all this spell for the Netherlands? If the CBS's predictions come true, then by 2050 the country will have a population of 17 million. Just half a million more than today.
Photo: Traffic jam in Den Helder, the Netherlands - FaceMePLS at Flickr