Dutch Language Blog

Dutch Politics and Government: What is het poldermodel? Posted by on Apr 19, 2010 in Dutch Language

Let’s discuss it. Let’s discuss it some more. And some more. And now let’s discuss the results. Maybe I exaggerate a little, but this is what we call ‘het poldermodel’, the economic political way of ruling based on discussion.

After World War Two The Netherlands  were taking in by the consultation system,  in which the government and the unions of the employers and employees played a great role.  Halfway the nineties this way of ruling got reformed and called ‘het poldermodel’, which was a success. Even so, over time this term changed into a synonym for the consultation system and often has a negative connotation.

Two organizations were established to play an important part in the consultation system:

–          De Stichting van de Arbeid  (STAR – the establishment of work)

This private establishment was created in 1945 and the voice of the employers and employee organizations.

–          De Sociaal-Economische Raad (SER – the social economic counsel)

The public SER was created in 1950 and has 33 members: 11 from the organization of the self-employed, 11 from the organization of the employees and 11 independent crown-appointed members. This establishment advised the government about the social economic policy. The SER still exist, although it has less importance than it once had.

In this climate unions, employers, organizations and the government came together often to discuss social economic subjects. Especially the development of earnings got discussed a lot. Because of this model, unions and employers organizations had a great influence on social economic topics and the welfare state. This is why political parties like the CDA and the PvdA took a lot of advice from the SER.

In the early years of the nineties the consultation system was criticized more and more. The more liberal party’s like the VVD and D66 were especially not happy with this form of politics. The main complaint was the syrupy way of decision-making, which was created by long lasting processes of advisement. This led to weak compromises. The SER got the cynical name the ‘Sociaal-Economische Rem’ (the Social Economic Break).

At the elections of 2004, the PvdA and CDA, the traditional advocates of het consultation system lost a lot of votes. The winners were the D66 while VVD got the main spots with the CDA and the PvdA lower on the ladder of influence. The combination of these political parties was called het paarse kabinet (the purple parliament). This parliament reformed the social economic condition greatly and officially got the name poldermodel, which improved the economic climate. The unemployment decreased and Holland became an example for other European countries.

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  1. ellen:

    Wonderful post again, I learn so much from you two!

  2. Age Smies:

    It is interesting to note that in other dealings, the world seems to go more and more towards a consultative model, mediation, med/arb but talking it out doesn’t work?