Young Mediterraneans in the Dutch Labor Market. A Comparative Analysis of Allocation and Earnings
Joop Hartog, University of Amsterdam
Nick Vriend, European University Institute, Florence
Oxford Economic Papers, 1990, Vol. 42, p. 379-401

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Introduction. Interest in the position of Mediterraneans on the Dutch labour market is rather recent. After the Second World War the Dutch economy had to be reconstructed and employment was low. In the mid-fifties a very expansive economic development led to labour shortages in a few specific industries, followed in the sixties by general labour shortages and wage-explosions. The common answer to these problems was the recruitment of Mediterraneans, supported by the Dutch government. The policy makers strongly thought that this immigration was and had to be a temporal phenomenon. The function of the 'guest-workers' was considered to allow a flexible restructuring of some industries and the removal of bottle-necks in the labour market during booms. And indeed, the immigration of 'guest-workers' appeared to be cyclically determined. However, the experience of the seventies contradicted this view. In spite of rising unemployment figures, immigration during the first half of that decade almost equaled the levels of the mid-sixties. Moreover, in the sixties yearly return-migration was about 30% of the number of Mediterraneans residing in the Netherlands, whereas these figures had fallen down to only a few percent in the seventies. Lastly, family reunion appeared as a mass phenomenon. As a result the total number of Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands increased from less than 100 in 1960, via 75,000 in 1972 to almost 250,000 in 1981. All this suggests that their residence is more or less permanent. Thus immigration changed from a business cycle to a more structural phenomenon, and therefore an analysis of their position in the Dutch labour market seems to be valuable.
      Foreign workers can be found in almost all industries and regions. In this no difference exists with Dutch workers. Such differences do exist, however, with respect to some characteristics of the jobs involved. This is stated in a lot of Dutch studies. Usually immigrants occupy unskilled jobs with low wages and low social status. The 'quality-of-work' is often bad or the work is even dangerous, and only rarely there appear to be chances of more attractive work. These conclusions are very clear and unanimous. However, they are based only on frequency tables and merely descriptive by nature. What is lacking is a theoretically structured study, analysing earnings, job capacities required and offered, and 'quality-of-labour' aspects in their intrinsic relationship. Moreover, such an analysis should directly compare immigrants and Dutch workers at a micro-level. This paper pretends to be the first study that tries to fill these gaps in Dutch labour market knowledge.

Nick Vriend,
Last modified 2012-12-07