State of the Region is the annual event in which the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area looks back and looks ahead at how we can continue to work together on investing in societal challenges. The annual Economic Outlooks show that the economy of the MRA is vulnerable, but also resilient and flexible.
Henri de Groot, professor of Regional Economic Dynamics at the VU University, and Victor Everhardt, Amsterdam’s alderman for economic affairs, sit at the table with presenter Marijke Roskam. The tight labor market is a concern for both. “We are getting older together and we live in a country where the average number of hours worked per person is very low,” says De Groot. “We therefore need to look at the potential of immigration, among other things.”
– Het Parool on the Economic Outlook 10 December 2021 –
Everhardt also mentions the people who are not yet participating in the labor market. “We have to help them get over the threshold to participate,” says Everhardt. “And luckily that already happens a lot: the education world, the business community and the tech sector are all working on it.”
At the same time, perspective is also important for everyone who participates in the labor market. De Groot calls the report Borstlap: In wat voor land willen wij werken (. “The flexible workforce is now absorbing the major blows of the crisis and that has to change. The summary of that report is crystal clear: flex should be less flexible and fixed should be less permanent. We must invest in flexibility with perspective. I am curious what the new cabinet will take from this.”
For all information about the Economic Outlook MRA 2021, access to the database for a tailor-made search, the link to the booklet and for requesting a paper copy, click here.
– NU.nl on the Economic Outlook 10 December 2021 –
Everhardt and De Groot are hopeful about the future of that economy. “We have to invest ourselves out of the crisis,” says Everhardt. “We can help entrepreneurs with the ROM InWest that we have set up as a region. And those investments are again a flywheel to be able to lay claim to larger national and European funds. In this way we can expand sectors and use new techniques even more for important issues such as health.”
The Inverted Mentor
When we talk about investing in the future, we are of course also talking about young people. The Amsterdam Jahkini Bisselink, former UN Youth Representative, takes us into the world of Generation Z. “If you are gone, we will keep everything going here,” she begins. She refers to the entrepreneurship within her generation and to their activism.
“Being an activist no longer feels like a choice for many young people, but a necessity,” says Jahkini. “No problem. We understand that you cannot change your entire production process within a day and we also understand that you are not carbon neutral within three working days.” As long as you do something and as long as you are transparent about it — also about what is not going well yet.
Her message is that older generations can learn a lot from Generation Z. For example: talking about mental health. Laughing, she challenges her audience: “After the weekend, we’ll all look for an inverted mentor. Grab a generation Z ‘ by the scruff of the neck and ask: how would you improve mental health within our organization and ultimately how do we ensure a liveable metropolitan region?”
Nikky Hofland, director of and Artie Ramsodit, program director of the Board program show that many great things are already happening on the labor market in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. TechMeUp provides interest-free advances to people who want to retrain in the tech sector. “There are many retraining initiatives, but retraining takes time,” says Hofland. “Sometimes you have to go to school full-time to retrain and not everyone can afford to be without income for six months. We want to take that money worry away.”
Transferpunt Zorg & Welzijn (Healthcare and Welfare Transfer Point) is one of the newest programs of House of Skills, in which people can investigate whether the care sector is something for them. “We help them to orientate themselves properly,” says Ramsodit. “They can experience, see and feel what that other work looks like. They can discover which part of the care appeals to them and which does not appeal to them. They can then obtain a basic care certificate within 20 weeks.”
The two call on employers in the region to focus on sustainable retraining and to show a little more courage when hiring people with a distance to the labor market. “Engage those lateral entrants and invest in someone else,” says Hofland. And Ramsodit: “Give them a contract that offers perspective.”
A new kind of metropolis
Greg Clark offers us the outside perspective today. He is a senior advisor at bank HSBC, a professor at the University of London and has been researching cities for decades. On a global level, European cities are often pushed aside, he notes. “As if they have no future. But we should not prioritize quantity over quality. The secret weapon of European cities is their ability to reform. It is their social capital. To develop a new city together with their citizens.”
As far as he is concerned, Amsterdam has the opportunity to be a leader, especially because of the region. To become a reality, the region must do five things. Contribute to the growth of affordable housing, stimulate the green economy, protect the quality of life, continue to provide equal opportunities for all and continue to provide a good home base for start-ups. “With this, Amsterdam can become a new kind of metropolis, with a focus on the clean economy.”
Thijs Kroese is an alderman in Purmerend and a member of the transition committee of the MRA. He emphasizes that for good cooperation, municipalities must continue to work on their own profile in the MRA. “In Purmerend we have the Creative Tech Campus for e-sports, in IJmond you have a lot of industry. Know about yourself what you are good at and also know what your population is good at. If everyone focuses on their own strength, our collaboration will only benefit.”
This regional cooperation does not only exist at government level, but we are also seeing more and more at companies. Take Rabobank, which recently merged several regions into Rabobank Metropolitan Region Amsterdam. “We have been in existence for six months and we are really enjoying it,” says CEO Erik Versnel. “Investments go beyond municipal boundaries. We are now able to link good initiatives together.”
Versnel argues for a redefinition of the we. “We from the municipality, we from Rabo, we from education: I think we should let go of all that. If we want to work together in this region, then the we is the MRA. Let’s keep each other focused on that.”
Three MRA Beliefs
MRA chairman Femke Halsema concluded the afternoon as always with her State of the Region. In it she mentions the reclamation of the Haarlemmermeer, a project that only came about centuries after Leeghwater’s first idea, thanks to viscous management and endless discussions. “Today we presented the new cooperation agreements between municipalities and provinces in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area,” she continues. “A venture more modest in size than one of the greatest reclamations in our history, yet a modest success, worth raising a glass together.”
The MRA works together on the basis of three shared beliefs. “That through better cooperation we can have the most inventive region with the best-educated population in Europe, that we have to be a region for everyone. For example, we work together with MBOs, HBOs, universities and programs such as TechConnect, which trains hidden talent in different cities of our region in a way that suits a new generation of city dwellers. And that we distinguish ourselves internationally in feeding on a human scale.” The third belief is that the region must be sustainably connected. “Our digitized economy is leading the way. By working on a data agreement, we will also show that this can go hand in hand, with the protection of digital rights, autonomy and privacy.”
The reclamation of the Haarlemmermeer was finally completed just before the industrial era. “Once again we are at the beginning of a new era, once again we are confronted with threats and uncertainties”, concludes Halsema. “Fortunately, there are now people with good ideas and vision and the most advanced technology is making possible what was thought impossible. Ultimately, we decide together what we are going to do with it. I am looking forward to that with great hope.”
Have you missed the State of the Union 2021 broadcast or want to watch it again (in Dutch)? See below.