4.4 The post-war Netherlands

4.4  The post war Netherlands

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Slide 1: Tekstslide
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4.4  The post war Netherlands

Slide 1 - Tekstslide


Slide 2 - Video

What is this lesson about?
After World War II, the struggles of the Dutch people were not immediately over: cities like Rotterdam had to be rebuilt and the economy needed to recover.  But after years of hard work and careful budgeting, the Dutch got their economy back on track and began to prosper. In this section, you will read how this happened in the post-war Netherlands.

Slide 3 - Tekstslide

people in this lesson
Willem Drees

Slide 4 - Tekstslide

The beginning of a new era

Like other Western European countries, the Netherlands received a lot of money, supplies and technical help from the US Marshall Plan. All imported goods were shipped through the Port of Rotterdam; this created a lot of jobs and would make the Port of Rotterdam the largest harbour in the world, boosting the Dutch economy.
In 1948, Willem Drees became Prime Minister of the Netherlands. His leadership saw a total reform of the Dutch economy. Drees introduced a number of social laws providing financial security for old people and those unable to work. The government also helped people by building retirement and nursing homes for those who could not live alone anymore. Through such measures, the Netherlands became a welfare state, a state in which the government played a key role in the protection of the social and economic well-being of its citizens.

3 minute schoolTV clip about Willem Drees

Willem Drees, Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1948 to 1958.

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

Growth of the economy

To stimulate further economic growth, the Dutch government intervened in peoples’ wages. For a couple of years, there was a policy of controlled wages. In the 1950s, most Dutch had an income that was just enough for basic needs. But in the 1960s, people started to protest against this situation and the government decided to loosen wage controls: this led to a wages explosion, with most people earning a lot more than they ever had before. Because of this wages explosion, the Netherlands became a consumer society; people started to buy more secondary need items, such as televisions, cars and washing machines.
In 1959, the Dutch economy was further stimulated when researchers found a huge natural gas field under the province of Groningen. The government sold the gas for a high price to gas companies, but the fortunate discovery of the Groningen gas field had a down side: it caused the closure of coal mines in the province of Limburg, so in this region many people lost their traditional work and income.

A Dutch family watching television in the late 1950s. The austerity of the post-war years gradually made way for a consumer society.

Slide 6 - Tekstslide

Dijkdoorbraak in Den Bommel, Zuid-Holland, Nederland, als gevolg van de watersnoodramp van 1953
The North Sea flood of 1953

In the night of 1st February 1953, a gigantic storm brewed across the North Sea. This storm was so powerful that it broke through the dykes, flooding parts of the provinces Zeeland, South Holland and North Brabant. It became a national disaster, with about 1800 people drowning and 72,000 people becoming homeless. The Dutch people all helped: some offered shelter while others sent clothes and blankets. Some survivors of the disaster even turned into true heroes; with a rope around their waist, they would swim for hours saving people who were trapped in their attics or in other places. The government realised they had to improve the dykes to prevent another flood in the future. This resulted in the so-called Delta Works, a serial of construction projects where all the sea entrances of the province of Zeeland were either closed or given the means to close when necessary. In 1988, the Delta Works were finished.

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

The youth changes

Because of the improved economy, Dutch people had more money and more leisure time. Society started to change and these changes were beneficial for working-class youth. Teenagers were now staying in school instead of just working in a factory. After school, they had part-time jobs and earned spending money. Attitudes began to change: work was no longer the most important thing in life. Young people developed new ideas and some rebelled against society (and their parents). Young people became more self-aware and were determined to create their own styles in music, clothes and so on. This was the beginning of youth cultures. Dutch youth cultures were influenced by music from America, like rock and roll or jazz. 
Working-class youngsters in the 1950s were the first Dutch youth culture. They were called Nozems. They wore jeans and leather jackets, had greasy hair, drove on mopeds and were seen hanging around on street corners.
The hippies of the mid-1960s belonged to another group. They were inspired by American youth culture. Hippies protested against the Vietnam War, consumerism and the pollution of the Earth. 

Nozems on a moped. Photo by Jac. De Nijs, April 1965.

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Slide 10 - Tekstslide

Slide 11 - Video

A warm welcome for the migrant workers

Because the economy was doing so well in the 1960s, some industries had to deal with a staff shortage, especially in companies requiring physical labour. To solve this problem, permission from the government was given to attract workers from Turkey and Morocco. The idea was that these migrant workers, at that time called ‘guest workers’, would earn good money in the Netherlands and could send most of the money to their family to support them. The migrant workers were housed in poor, overcrowded accommodations. Nevertheless, most migrant workers received a warm welcome from the Dutch people and employers. Migrant workers would often get a prayer room at work, and extra vacation days for travelling to their homelands.
At first, the government had planned to send the migrant workers home after two years. For this reason they were not required to integrate. However, most workers liked it in the Netherlands and decided, with permission of the government, to stay and bring over their families. This is one of the reasons why so many people from different cultural backgrounds live in our country.

A Turkish migrant worker at a Dutch textile factory, 1971

Slide 12 - Tekstslide

Time to work...
  • HW par 6.4 and 6.5
  • open lessonup
  • prepare for the final test
  • etc.

Slide 13 - Tekstslide

  1. welfare state
  2. policy of controlled wages
  3. wages explosion
  4. consumer society
  5. groninger gas field
  6. youth culture
  7. migrant worker 
a. influenced by culture from America
b. closure of coal mines in Limburg
c. Loosen wage controls
d. television, car, washing machine
e. financial security for old people
f. stimulate economic growth
g. an effect of economic growth

Slide 14 - Tekstslide