We like to see ourselves as an egalitarian country where everyone has the opportunity to climb the social ladder. This is true, but for some the ladder is made of rotten wood, while others stand on a strong steel ladder with a trampoline in front of them, and jump directly to the fifth step. It was different, when we weren't all standing equally still, but the difference was smaller.
At least that's what you can conclude from the latest social mobility figures. Since 2008, the Netherlands has ceased to be a leader and has become more unequal than, for example, Finland and Norway. Even in the stratified society of the UK, social mobility is better. “We see the decline starting in 2010, the year in which the effects of the 2008 financial crisis really became felt,” says Anne Gehlen, professor of economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam, in Volkskrant. She's seen it happen in more countries, but not everywhere. “Countries like Finland and Norway have been able to maintain mobility.”
The reason lies partly in developments that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, young people had much greater educational opportunities than their parents, and thus earned more. In subsequent generations, the difference in education level was much smaller, and thus income differences also declined. Daniel van Vuuren, professor of economics at Tilburg University: “Now that our economy has developed well for decades, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the next generation of children to outperform their parents.”
But more important is whether young people are able to rise socially and economically, for example, from the lower class to the middle class. “Unfortunately, we do not see such good development in this area,” says Van Vuuren. “Certainly, in the Netherlands it is still quite possible to convert a dime into a quarter. But we see the possibilities for that decreasing.” Data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development show that fewer children from the poorest quarter of families are rising to the richest quarter. Although the Netherlands has achieved better results in this area than Belgium, the United States and even Germany, it has become worse than before. So maybe the ladder isn't too messed up for some groups, but they're missing the trampoline.
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