Skip to main content

An equal and inclusive society

Progressive, liberal, open, free-spirited – all terms frequently used to describe the Dutch character. The Dutch strive to protect and promote human rights, such as equality, non-discrimination, freedom of speech and freedom of sexual orientation, both at home and abroad. For centuries, many people have found a place in the Netherlands to be themselves and develop new ideas. We hope you do, too. When moving to another country we often check specific things off of our list; Is the weather nice? How's the food? Does the job market fit my profile? However, you may be forgetting one of the most important parts. Is the country inclusive? Are the human rights of all people that live in the country respected? We’ve collected all there is to know about inclusivity and the Dutch and how we perceive and protect human rights.
Crowded shopping street in city center of Amsterdam.

Inclusive Development Index

The Inclusive Development Index (IDI) is an annual assessment of 103 countries’ economic performance under three important pillars: growth and development, inclusion and intergenerational equity, and sustainable stewardship of natural and financial resources. We’re proud to say that the Netherlands is one of the highest-ranking countries. But inclusivity is a broad topic, so this guide to Dutch society aims to break it down into the key issues.


Equal rights and opportunities at work

Dutch law prohibits any and all types of discrimination in the workplace. This includes discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, personal beliefs, political opinions, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, age and ability. Employers are also obliged to actively prevent harassment in the workplace. If they don’t, they may receive a fine or be held liable for damages resulting from the discriminatory behaviour.


IN Amsterdam

Women’s rights and empowerment

How can the world truly grow if half of its population is marginalised? Gender equality is essential for a strong economic position and an inclusive society, which is why the Dutch government aims to help women gain more financial independence and support them in gaining genuine equality. There are incentives that increase opportunities for women in the labour market, encourage more women to hold senior positions, and actively fight street harassment.



As the first country to legalise gay marriage, it should be no surprise that the Netherlands is known for its open attitude towards sexual orientation. The country ranked in first place for ‘Acceptance of gays and lesbians’ on the Social Progress Index of 2020, and this stance is evidenced by the huge Pride celebrations that take place every summer. The belief that everyone should have the right to be themselves (no matter who you are or whom you love) is a sentiment engrained in Dutch culture.


Women with her little girl at the pride.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Freedom of speech and expression

Freedom of speech is a very important article of the Dutch constitution, and one that is often proudly quoted. We are known for our directness, never shying away from saying what we really think and using our freedom of expression to the full, so long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others.


Freedom of religion

Dutch society is mostly secular. Around 20% of the population belong to the Catholic church and another 15% are Protestant. Five percent of Dutch citizens are Muslim, and there are people adhering to Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, and other faiths. The freedom to express yourself also includes the freedom to believe in whatever you want (with certain limitations, as this mustn’t infringe the rights of others). We strongly believe that everyone has the right to practise their religion without being persecuted or discriminated against.


Picture of various flags.
©Hans Kouwenhoven

Refugees and migration

With our open economy and privileged position, we take our international responsibility very seriously. The Dutch are masters of consensus and compromise. Our policies exist to give those fleeing dire circumstances a new home, whilst ensuring that we do our best to tackle the root causes, too. Peace initiatives, global dialogue, and plenty of cooperation are ways the Dutch seek to mitigate the effects of natural and environmental disasters, as well as water and food scarcity, which can lead to displacement.


Foreign policy

Human rights are the foundations of a democracy in which every person counts, in all places, at all times. The Netherlands strives to protect and promote human rights all over the world. The development of international law is an integral part of foreign policy here, enshrined in the Dutch constitution. The Hague is known as the international law capital of the world. As such, the city has become the seat of many international legal organisations such as Europol, Eurojust, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the European Court of Human Rights. 

The Netherlands has long had a reputation for stability and justice. It plays an active role in preventing armed conflict worldwide and strengthening the international legal order by participating in peace missions and supporting reconstruction in post-conflict countries. The Dutch government also seeks to strengthen security and the rule of law in countries where governance is poor.


Discover what it's like to live in the Netherlands