Manifesto against work placement discrimination
News item | 13-07-2022 | 13:00
Work placement discrimination is a daily reality for many students in higher education. Some have difficulty obtaining a placement, while others encounter discrimination during their placement. In response, higher professional education institutions (HBOs), universities, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, student organisations and employers today signed a manifesto aimed at tackling placement discrimination. Students should all have equal opportunities to obtain a training placement.
There are cases where an ethnic-minority student is told by a placement provider that they have no vacancies, but then sees the placement go to an ethnically Dutch student. Or where an applicant is rejected after a placement interview in which they referred to their non-heterosexual identity. These are two examples of placement discrimination: inequality of opportunity during the process of applying for a placement or discriminatory treatment during a placement, based on race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender, religion and disability.
Research shows that placement discrimination is structural in character and has a major emotional impact on students. This form of discrimination negatively affects self-confidence and wellbeing, increases the chance of study delay and dropout, and ultimately means a more difficult start on the labour market.
Placement discrimination can only be solved cooperatively. Various organisations are now joining forces to tackle the problem: the association of HBOs, the association of Dutch universities, students’ associations ISO and LSVB, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, and employers’ organisations VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland. They are all signing a manifesto against work placement discrimination higher education and in favour of a joint multi-year working programme. In their manifesto, the organisations affirm their joint commitment to combating placement discrimination, and every signatory’s own responsibility for helping to solve this complex issue.
Up to the end of 2026, the government will work with ECHO (Expertise Centre for Diversity Policy) to boost public awareness about placement discrimination. The aim is to improve the situation through existing measures and by developing new working methods.
In addition, students, education professionals and employers will be trained, supported and activated in tackling placement discrimination. In real terms this means, for example, proper guidance of students looking for, obtaining and retaining a placement, so that each individual has an equal chance of success. Placement discrimination is explicitly addressed by student support services and featured in the curriculum of higher education institutions. Procedures at these institutions for registering and calling out placement discrimination will be disseminated more effectively.
Employers also play a key role in tackling placement discrimination. The Monitoring (Equal Opportunities) Bill for recruitment and selection also applies to the recruitment and selection of placement trainees. To support employers, the government will seek alignment with the VIA programme, which promotes further integration on the labour market, and ‘Aanpak Arbeidsmarktdiscriminatie’, an Amsterdam-based initiative that seeks to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
The manifesto’s signatories will consult regularly on its implementation, progress and impact. If necessary, they will decide jointly on supplementary measures and amendments.
‘Discrimination is unacceptable in any form. It is vital to stamp out placement discrimination because it excludes young people from participating in society and deprives them of opportunities for personal development and improving their prospects. Equality of opportunity is a top priority for me,’ education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf said. ‘That’s why I want to tackle placement discrimination head-on, in higher education and MBO. Only together can we fight this persistent problem. The manifesto is an important step towards doing this in higher education. In MBO various efforts have been made in recent years to combat placement discrimination. This autumn, to improve on the results in that area I am presenting an action plan to tackle placement discrimination in MBO, as part of the Placement Pact. It will set out specific activities and measures that I have in mind for eliminating placement discrimination so that positive and suitable placement opportunities are available for all students, regardless of their background or disability. Schools, training and work supervisors, placement providers and – above all – the students themselves will be actively included in this effort.’
‘The fact that many students with a migration background are still encountering placement discrimination is unacceptable and must change,’ social affairs and employment minister Karin van Gennip added. ‘I know from experience that organisations, managers and teams with a more diverse composition function better. So I am pleased with this broadly supported manifesto and I look forward to taking major steps to abolish placement discrimination in the coming years.’