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More than one in three people (36 percent) with a background from (South) East Asia have experienced discrimination in the past year. People with a Chinese background experience discrimination most often, namely one in two. But the proportion is lower among people with an Indonesian background, namely one in six (16%).

This was shown by research from the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Fontys University of Applied Sciences (Pedagogy) and two independent researchers. The research was carried out on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The researchers looked at the scope, nature and extent of the perceived discrimination against Dutch people with a (South) East Asian migration background: people of Chinese origin (81,735 in the Netherlands), of Indonesian origin (352,266), and with other origins from (South) East Asia (130,279).

Discrimination based on origin and skin colour

Researcher Allard Feddes (UvA): 'Large-scale research has regularly been conducted in the Netherlands into discrimination against people with a Moroccan, Turkish or Surinamese background. This is the first representative study into the experiences of people in the Netherlands with a (South) East Asian origin.'

Of the people who indicated that they had experienced discrimination in the 12 months prior this study, the most frequently mentioned grounds for the discrimination were 'origin' (75%) and 'skin colour' (43%). In particular, people who are believed by others to have a Chinese background (even though there is often misrecognition here: in many cases these people have no Chinese background at all) experience being shouted at or verbally abused on the street – things they often heard included: “Ni Hao”, “Spring roll”, “Sambal bij”, “Ching Chang Chong” or variations thereof.

Increase after COVID-19

Many participants in the study said they felt more discriminated against after COVID-19. This mainly concerned people of Chinese origin. Some respondents meant that COVID-19 provided an additional reason to set apart people who look Chinese. They felt like they were being blamed for the pandemic. A number actually felt less discriminated against, because they believed there was less opportunity to be discriminated against (for example, because there was less contact between people during the lockdowns).

Under-exposed but important theme

'Because there is currently little knowledge about the perceived discrimination against Dutch people of (South) East Asian origin, little is known about causes and consequences,' says researcher Yong-Qi Cong (UvA). 'Our research does show that people who experience a lot of discrimination feel less healthy mentally and physically.'

Researcher Iris Andriessen (Fontys) states: 'People with an Asian background are often seen as a 'model minority'. The common idea was that these people are doing well and prospering in the Netherlands. The current research therefore offers reason to adjust this image of a 'model minority', especially when it comes to the idea that they do not experience discrimination in the Netherlands.'

Research method

For their research, the researchers conducted a literature study, a survey study among a representative sample of people in the Netherlands with (South) East Asian origins (2,505 participants in total), an interview study (36 interviews) and a focus group.

Publication details

Allard R. Feddes, Yong-Qi Cong, Bertjan Doosje, Liesbeth Mann, Anneloes van Schaik, Johnny Chan, Tabitha Kinanthik, Helay Jelia & Iris Andriessen. ‘Onderzoek naar ervaren discriminatie en racisme bij mensen met een (Zuid-)Oost-Aziatische herkomst in Nederland.’