From a materialistic point of view, the situation is good. Yet people feel insecure. At this moment the Dutch economy is not doing well, and prospects are little better. In general youth is not interested in politics. Voter-turnout in this age-group is low. There is also a growing fear against Muslims which became very visible in the media, both in 2002 with the rise and assassination of Mr. Pim Fortuyn (when everyone was ‘˜relieved’ he was killed by a Caucasian male) as well as last week, when a student of Turkish descent stabbed his Dutch teacher to death at school.
The main thought and practical point about youth in the Netherlands is that they are the future of Europe. Adolescents in the Netherlands more or less believe in a future in Europe. The situation in the Netherlands for young people is very good. We have a good education system which is the key to development of young people. Youths are enjoying and practicing their freedom of speech and are more aware of their fundamental rights.
There is no uniform situation for youths in my country, like I expect that there is for youths in many countries. On the one hand, people say that young people in my country have a lot of money and choice, and they lead an easy life. That is the case for some youth. Also there are more deprived youths and youths with serious problems like unemployment. What I see is that young people, like older people, do not mix much with the different classes. Such as with different ethnicities, there are mixed friendships and marriages, but many white people do not have friends from Turkish or Moroccan backgrounds (to mention the most prominent other ethnic groups). This creates misunderstanding and less respect towards each other. There have been many negative things about Turkish and Moroccan people in the Netherlands, which I regret. When talking about the situation of youth, in short I think that it is different for every individual, that there is some interaction between different backgrounds of youths, but that this should be more.
For Dutch young people there are a lot of opportunities in which they can involve themselves and be part of various youth groups and organisations, to learn different skills, to engage themselves into projects, to be stimulated to discover one’s talents and strengths. Young people often do make use of these opportunities as they are stimulated by parents and school to do so. Dutch young people tend to be very busy like their parents with an agenda full of activities. Still, the Dutch youth is very much used to individuality and it is quite usual for young people not to have a fixed group but to engage themselves into different activities and therefore be in contact with different groups or individuals. The standards for youths on how to spend their free time are high in Holland and many activities are taking place within an organised frame involving youth, sports and cultural organisations. When youth is meeting up, this happens mostly in places created for the purpose, e.g. youth clubs, not at home or in the street. Dutch young people, although using soft drugs normally, are receiving an extensive drug education and they are usually handling drugs well. This situation is different for immigrant youth. Not only do they tend to have their own youth clubs and institutions, but they are also more bound to fixed groups meeting up in more informal settings such as on the street and in public places. They tend to have their own youth cultures too which differ from the habits of non-immigrant youth. Immigrant and non-immigrant youths do not mix easily. Still there are several organisations dealing with the issue of youth integration. The engagement of youth also depends on its socio-economic background and education level and the stimulation by the people in their surroundings.
In the Netherlands, all citizens aged 18 and over are eligible to vote. The Government recognizes the right of national youth movements to organise on a non-governmental basis for political and non-political purposes. The Department of Youth Policy in the Ministry of Social and Cultural Affairs and Health coordinates the national youth policy of the Netherlands in cooperation with other youth-serving ministries and youth organisations, especially in partnership with the Dutch National Youth Council. Organisations on a national scale may receive funding from the national authorities, whereas youth organisations at local level are financed by the local authorities which define priorities for funding youth organisations themselves. The government set out the following priorities: youth policy in terms of local crime prevention, promoting youth participation at national level, improving child protection. The government is keen on the policy on youth affairs to be implemented primarily by local authorities. There is very close co-operation between schools and youth services to deal with a number of problems. The local and regional platforms for the prevention of juvenile crime provide a structure for co-operation among health, education, psychiatric and care services.
In the Netherlands, there are many activities for youth. Young people are active in all fields of society, from political parties, to sports and arts. Access to education is easy for everybody. However, the number of unemployed is on the rise and there is an increased stigmatisation about young immigrants, especially Moroccans. Jordan is another story; youth activities are limited to the ‘urban elite’ and opportunities for young people are limited. Education is expensive for many people, especially university.