Inequality damaging democracy, says departing social planning boss
The government must do more to combat inequality of opportunity and improve support for people in a vulnerable position, Kim Putters, the departing director of the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP), said in his farewell speech. "This is to prevent confidence in the functioning democracy in the Netherlands from coming under further pressure," he said.
Putters is saying goodbye to the SCP on Monday, May 30, after nine years. In his essay titled The human state, Putters said that "there are considerable challenges in the Netherlands in the field of equality of opportunity, trust, and how we live together in a country with more and more people of different origins, with different views and customs."
The outgoing director believes that the Netherlands needs a government that shows that it is there for its people. "If we strive for a more conclusive and sustainable society, then policy must more emphatically reflect citizens' perspective," said Putters.
Putters argued that the government should "make its assumptions about what citizens can and cannot do more realistic" and "should take more account of people's daily lives, in which you are not just a student or employee, but also a caregiver or volunteer."
Furthermore, the government should "make clearer to citizens what they can expect from the government and vice versa, but also who has what role when and who they can fall back on if things go wrong. It must be prevented that people run into prejudices or the government's unrealistic assumptions in their lives. That requires a different attitude from the government, institutions, companies, and citizens themselves, to work more from people's perspective and the impact government policy has on their daily lives."
Finally, Putters argued for more opportunities for participation and citizens' initiatives to prevent the government from making incorrect assumptions about what people find important. "That also requires the joint formulation of a lower limit, a social baseline, which we believe no one in the Netherlands should fall below. And then make sure that doesn't happen," said Putters.
Reporting by ANP