Dutch Press Review Thursday 8 March 2012

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

They say that nothing is certain in this life except death and taxes, and articles on both subjects are liberally sprinkled through this morning's papers. Do you know what to do when your PC freezes? While Apple is proudly launching its new iPad, others are counting the cost of digi-illiteracy. There’s also widespread coverage of International Women's Day and news of one small victory for womankind.

Right to choose
In a headline that is certain to get the knickers of some ignorant US politician in a twist, de Volkskrant kicks off with: "elderly demand the right to assisted suicide." The left-wing paper interviews six prominent - and elderly - Dutch people who all agree that folks over the age of 70 should be able to get professional medical assistance to help them die if they are "tired of living."

Mies Bouman, the Netherlands' best-loved television presenter, tells the paper that everyone deserves "respectful and professional help to end their lives if they request it. It is their right."

Later today, Dutch MPs will debate expanding the existing euthanasia legislation to include the right for people over the age of 70 to be given medical assistance if they want to end their lives. The debate was prompted by a petition launched by the Right to Choose, an organisation calling for the law to be changed so as to allow the medical profession to assist people to die if they are "finished with life." More than 120,000 Dutch people signed a petition and got it on to the parliamentary agenda.

Trouw also covers the issue and the Protestant paper subtly comes out against expanding the law. It gives a prominent place to the views of a Christian Union MP and headlines the article, "It's been nice?"


De Volkskrant reports that the Dutch state loses out on around €2 billion a year because the tax office cannot collect the money it is owed. There are several reasons why the tax office cannot collect says the paper, "companies go bankrupt and people go into debt restructuring programmes or they simply vanish."

The paper says the tax office writes off 1 percent of the total amount it is owed as a matter of course; it is simply labelled "uncollectable."  A spokesperson for Deputy Finance Minister Frans Weekers says he recently asked the tax office to investigate ways to reduce that percentage.

According to the paper's own investigation, the state coffers have missed out on €15.6 billion over the last 10 years. It's a bitter coincidence that that amount would cover the additional budget cuts that the current government is considering in order to deal with the ongoing economic crisis in the country.

Digi-illiteracy costs billions
AD writes that the average Dutch worker wastes 30 minutes a day due to minor computer problems, and researchers at the University of Twente have calculated that digital illiteracy costs Dutch society around €19 billion a year. "Companies seriously underestimate the need for good IT training," say the report by the UT team.

"The average employee loses 8 percent of his working day to computer problems and digital illiteracy," says the report, titled, Ctrl, Alt, Delete. UT researcher Alexander van Deurson says, “it’s absolutely shocking that employers and employees aren't hyper-aware of this."

According to de Volkskrant, "workers spend an average of five minutes per hour staring hopelessly at the screen." One of the researchers tells the paper, "Some people spend 15 minutes looking for an option in Word." According to the research, "companies don't consider the benefits of courses. Eighty percent of the 1,400 companies interviewed for the research had never offered any of their employees an IT course."

International Women's Day
It's the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day celebrations here in the Netherlands and AD celebrates with a photo of Princess Máxima on the front page. The populist tabloid asks (quite stupidly and sycophantically) "Three children at home, mornings listening to entrepreneurs and gala dinners in the evening! How does she do it?” The answer is quite simply that she is immensely rich and has lots of servants. Just how Máxima's life relates to that of a single mother working two jobs to make ends meet is beyond me.

"Women's Day is horribly out of date," writes the paper elsewhere. An AD editor - who obviously hasn't done her homework - says "Dutch women don't have anything to complain about; all the opportunities are there and they can do anything they want."

She obviously doesn't realise that the Netherlands still has the lowest number of women professors, the lowest number of women in senior positions in companies and women still earn far less than their male colleagues for doing the same job.

Trouw reports that the percentage of women who work 12 hours or more per week has risen to 60.2 percent although the number of women who work full-time - more than 35 hours per week - is still under 20 percent.

Does my bum look big?
De Volkskrant reports that a former top model has won a case filed against two modelling agencies for refusing to give her work because she was "too fat." Ananda Marchildon won the 2008 edition of Holland's Next Top Model, which gave her a modelling contract worth €75,000. However, the paper tells us that the "fashion gurus decided she was too fat and she was never offered the catwalk work that came along with the prize." At the time her hips measured 92 cm though she later measured 94 cm around the hips.

The contract she signed with the modelling agencies only stated that her hips should not exceed 94 cm and didn't say anything about losing any weight. Despite that, the agencies demanded that she lose 4 cm from her hips. De Volkskrant writes that the fashion world wants models to measure "a maximum of 90 cm because on the catwalk, 94 cm is huge."

Ms Marchildon sued and a judge ruled in her favour and awarded her €65,000 in damages. She tells the paper, "I really hope this makes some people think." I hope so too, it’s one small victory for womankind.