Key data on migrant presence and integration in Amsterdam

Figure 0.1. Amsterdam’s geographic location in the Netherlands according to the OECD regional classification

Source: OECD (2018), OECD Regional Statistics (database), .







Greater Amsterdam




TL2: Territorial Level 2 consists of the OECD classification of regions within each member country. There are 335 regions classified at this level across 35 member countries

TL3: Territorial Level 3 consists of the lower level of classification and is composed of 1681 small regions. In most of the cases they correspond to administrative regions.

This section presents key definitions and a selection of indicators about migrants presence and results in Amsterdam.

Definition of migrant and refugee

The term ‘migrant’ generally functions as an umbrella term used to describe people that move to another country with the intention of staying for a significant period of time. According to the United Nations (UN), a long-term migrant is “a person who moves to a country other than that of his or her usual residence for a period of at least a year (12 months)”. Yet, not all migrants move for the same reasons, have the same needs or come under the same laws.

This report considers migrants as a large group that includes:

  • those who have emigrated to an EU country from another EU country (‘EU migrants’)

  • those who have come to an EU country from a non-EU country (‘non-EU born or third-country national’)

  • native-born children of immigrants (often referred to as the ‘second generation’)

  • persons who have fled their country of origin and are seeking international protection.

For the latter, some distinctions are needed. While asylum seekers and refugees are often counted as a subset of migrants and included in official estimates of migrant stocks and flows, the UN definition of ‘migrant’ is clear that the term does not refer to refugees, displaced, or others forced or compelled to leave their homes:

The term ‘migrant’ in Article 1.1 (a) should be understood as covering all cases where the decision to migrate is taken freely by the individual concerned, for reasons of ‘personal convenience’ and without intervention of an external compelling factor. (IOM Constitution Article 1.1 (a)).

Thus, in this report the following terms are used:

  • ‘Status holder’ or ‘refugee’ for those who have successfully applied for asylum and have been granted some sort of protection in their host country, including those who are recognised as ‘refugees’ on the basis of the 1951 Geneva Convection Relating to the Status of Refugees, but also those benefiting from national asylum laws or EU legislation (Directive 2011/95/EU), such as the subsidiary protection status.

  • ‘Asylum seeker’ for those who have submitted a claim for international protection but are awaiting the final decision are referred.

  • ‘Rejected asylum seeker’ for those who have been denied protection status.

  • ‘Undocumented migrants’ for those who decide not to appeal the decision on their asylum seeker status or do not apply for another form of legal permission to stay.

This report systematically distinguishes which group is targeted by policies and services put in place by the city. Where statistics provided by the cities included refugees in the migrant stocks and flows, it will be indicated accordingly.

Source: OECD (2016), International Migration Outlook 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris, ; UNSD (2017), “International migration statistics”, United Nations Statistics Division, migrmethods.htm#B.

In contrast to other countries, statistics on the immigrant population in the Netherlands are often not based on nationality but ethnicity, distinguishing between allochtonen and autochtronen. The terms stem from the Greek term autochtron meaning “native”. Allochtonen are referred to if at least one parent was born outside the Netherlands. Netherlands Statistics (CBS) is aware of the social debate around it the terms allochtoon and autochtron, and introduced in its Annual Report 2016 a new terminology: persons with a Dutch or migrant background.

In this case study, we adopt the statistical categories of the Dutch system. A person with a Migrant background is defined as a person of whom at least one parent was born abroad, this includes “second-generation migrants” or “native-born with at least one migrant parent” (HWWI, 2007[2]). Within this category a distinction is possible between persons with a “western” migration background and persons with a “non-western” migration background. Person originating from a country in Africa, South America or Asia (excl. Indonesia and Japan) or from Turkey are defined as “non-western” migrants.

Key statistics

All the below statistics refer to 2016 (unless stated differently). Numbers and percentages were provided by the city of Amsterdam unless stated otherwise. See Jaarboek Amsterdam (2016), Amsterdam in cijfers 2016 for the most comprehensive overview.

1. Presence of population

1.1 Country subnational government expenditure as a per cent of GDP: 30.1% (OECD average = 40%)

1.2 Total city population in January 2016: 834 713

1.3 Population with a migration background in Amsterdam in 2016:

Including first-generation migrants (foreign born) and second-generation migrants (native born with at least one migrant parent): 51.66% of the total population or 431 237 inhabitants, of which:


First-generation migrants 29.3%

Second-generation migrants 22.4%

Non-migrants 48.3%

Total 100%


Non-western migrants 34.8%

EU migrants 10.1%

Other western immigrants 8.7%

Non-migrants 48.3%

Total 100%

1.4 The most important countries of origin of the migrant population, 2016:*

Morocco 17.4%

Suriname 15.3%

Turkey 9.9%

Indonesia 6.0%

Germany 4.2%

* Share of the migrant population.

There has been an increase of 41% of mobile EU citizens since 2004. The largest number of arrivals over the past two years are: United States (3 014), India (2 560), United Kingdom (2 586), Germany (2 418), Italy (2 390) and France (2 072).

1.5 Irregular migrants: the city does not have any official statistics.

1.6 Number of refugees/status holders, 2016:

In 2015 the number of refugees and asylum seekers to Amsterdam increased by 38% compared to previous years.

In 2016 there were 3 412 refugees in Amsterdam, representing 0.8% of the total migrant population. 38% of these refugees are considered “recently” arrived (in the preceding two years), another 34% settled in the city less than five years ago. There were approximately 200 asylum seekers.

2. Employment

2.1 The main industrial sectors where migrants work:

1. Wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, transportation and storage, accommodation and food service activities

2. Information and communication; financial and insurance activities; real estate activities; professional, scientific and technical activities; administrative and support service activities

3. Human health and social work activities

2.2 Per cent in paid employment1 of Amsterdam population aged 15-74, 2015:

Non-western migrants 57.1 %

Western migrants 70.0 %

Non-migrants 70.2 %

2.3 Per cent unemployed2 of Amsterdam population, 2012-16:

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

Non-western migrants 12.8% 14.4% 14.5% 12.4% 10.2%

Western migrants 5.4% 7.4% 6.4% 7.2% 6.1%

Native born 4.6% 5.9% 5.7% 5% 4.7%

Total population 7.3% 8.9% 8.5% 7.6% 6.7%

2.4 National Dutch statistics for unemployment, 2016 (CBS, 2017[3])

Native born 4.9%

Western migrants 8.6% (2015)

First-generation non-western migrant background 12.5%

Second-generation non-western migrant background 14.3 %

Total population 6%

3. Education

3.1 Educational attainment for population groups in Amsterdam aged 15-74 years old in 2013:

Lower education includes primary education, intermediate preparatory vocational education or level 1 of secondary vocational education. Intermediate education is secondary vocational education, senior general secondary education or pre-university education. Higher education englobes higher vocational education or academic education.

Lower education Intermediate education Higher education

First-generation migrants 41% 33% 26% 100%

Second-generation migrant 30% 40% 29% 100%

Non-migrants 17% 33% 50% 100%

Surinamese 41% 43% 16% 100%

Antilleans 33% 43% 24% 100%

Turks 57% 32% 11% 100%

Moroccans 57% 33% 10% 100%

Other non-western migrants 39% 35% 27% 100%

Western migrants 17% 34% 49% 100%

Non-migrants 17% 33% 50 % 100%

3.2 Level of education for refugees, 2011-14:

Without elementary education


No elementary education or elementary education not completed


Completed secondary education


Completed intermediate vocational education


Completed higher vocational education


Hold a master degree


Source: Gemeente Amsterdam (2015).

4. Income

Net annual household income for migrant population in Amsterdam, 2015*

Non-western migrants EUR 24 600

Western migrants EUR 39 300

Non-migrants EUR 37 200

4.2 Net annual household income for migrant population in Amsterdam, 2015*

EUR 0-20 000: 39%

EUR 20 000-40 000: 41%

EUR 40 000-60 000: 13%

EUR  60 000-80 000 : 4%

> EUR 80 000: 3%

* Wage earner is of migrant origin.

4.3 Recipients of social benefits in Amsterdam by immigrant background and gender, 2017*

Men Women

Non-western migrants 51% 49% 100%

Western migrants 47% 53% 100%

Non-migrants 54% 46% 100%

Unknown 64% 36% 100%

* N = 39 978.

5. Political participation

Right to vote: Active and passive (to vote and to run for office) voting rights follow after naturalisation (newcomers have to pass the Civic Integration exam - Wet Inburgering Nieuwkomers- within three years of receiving their legal residence permit in order to be naturalised. Once the exam is passed, and within five years of receiving their residence permit, they can be naturalised). All voters have to be 18 years and older.

5.1 % of Amsterdam’s population with a migration background has the right to vote during general elections in 2017:

First-generation Second-generation Total

Non-western migrants 72% 98.8% 80%

Western migrants 24.1% 97.5% 48.5%

The threshold for voting in local elections is lower as since 1985 non-EU citizens have the right to vote if they have at least five years of legal residency in the Netherlands. This results in higher voter turnout of immigrants compared to other European countries and allows considerable levels of political representation in the City Council (de Graauw and Vermeulen, 2016).

5.2 % of non-western migrant-origin voters in Amsterdam, 2014 (Kranendonk et al., 2014).

Morocco 24%

Suriname 26%

Tukey 34%

Overall turnout in municipality 51%

6. Housing

6.1 Key figures for the housing sector (total population):

Housing stock of Amsterdam, January 2016:

Owner-occupied 29.5%

Rental social housing (corporation owned) 44.5%

Private rental 25.9%

Average net rental costs for social housing in Amsterdam (2015): EUR 496

Average net rental costs for private rentals in Amsterdam (2015): EUR 745


← 1. At least one hour paid employment per week.

← 2. Unemployment rates here follow the definition of the International Labour Organisation (ILO): the share of people aged 15-74 years old in the total labour force who are not in paid employment or self-employment, who have been seeking work recently and who are currently available to work.