The future of the Lowlands in 2025
The future of the Lowlands in 2025
Everywhere around the Western world, the events of 9/11 have triggered the start of significant changes in societies. While the exact impact has been different for individual countries, an increased sense of physical and social insecurity has been shared among most of the Western world countries. In The Netherlands, this effect of increased insecurity was further pronounced by the liquidations of Pim Fortuyn (2003) and Theo van Gogh (2004): both politically motivated murdering acts, which had not been experienced in The Netherlands since the beheading of Van Oldenbarnevelt in medieval ages.
These changes have given rise to heated debates within the wider society about amongst others the critical importance of freedom of speech versus openness and respectful behaviour towards other cultures. Looking at the Dutch: once a proud and outward (sea-)faring nation, they have long been famous for their tolerance, multicultural interests and their openness to publicly discuss and accept what may appear morally challenging dilemmas in other countries (such as e.g. the use of drugs, euthanasia etc.), which now appears to be gradually but fundamentally changing over time. The recent Dutch â€˜Noâ€™ against the newly proposed European Constitution may only signal a symbolical start of what could turn out to be a profound and apocalyptic change in the history of The Low Lands when looking back at history in 2025â€¦
Strategic dilemma: â€˜Where to for the Lowlands?â€™ From this introduction, the strategic dilemma faced by the Lowland societies can be framed as:â€˜Where to for Lowlands: a change from (focus on) integration to ultimately disintegration and segregation?â€™
1. Which are the critical parameters that determine and impact a country's social structure?
2. If it is assumed at this stage that a country's social structure can be impacted by any major change in the external environment (PESTE): then what are the expectations/projections for Western European countries (focus on The Netherlands?) regarding changes in its external environments? More specifically: what are the projections for the following underlying parameters:
Political structure: emergence of new political parties with anti-X-segments (e.g. X = Christians, Gays, others?); terrorism (& ideas on its anticipated impact: maybe political, social, economical?); European divide (& ideas on its anticipated impact: maybe political, social, economical?)
Economical structure: GDP development (including impact of China, expansion EU, others?); increasing pension & health payments; energy/oil crisis; changes in trade agreements;
Social structure: demographic changes (% of immigrants owing to higher birth rates, % of Muslims, aging of overall population); changes in migration;changes in lifestyle e.g. individualism vs collectionism;
Technology:; changes in interconnectivity and teleworking; sabotaging risks;
Environmental: climate changes
3. Which of the above drivers can we expect to have the biggest overall impact on the social structure of Western Europe in 2025? (Based on intensity of anticipated change and the importance of the driver)?
4. What is the possibility of a drastic changing political structure, and what will be the impact (e.g. Two party system, republic, end of democracy)
5. How can the level of education impact the future including the competition of high level academic research with other countries like China, USA?
6. What will be the competitive advantage of the Lowlands/western Europe, or do we loose all competitive advantages?
7. How will peoples feeling of identity (nationality) impact the possible changes within society?
8. How will different ethnic groups (Original Dutch, Moroccans, Muslims, Turkish, Surinam, etc) interact (or not interact):
- Will they integrate or create seperate communities? - What will be the impact on violence and terrorism?
9. Which political issues will be dealt with on local level and which on a European or even global level?
- How does this affect political decision making in the Benelux? - How does this affect the feeling of identity in the countries?
10. How will political and economical decision making in the countries develop, in order to catch up with the decision speed in eastern asian countries?
11. How will the increasing number of mobility problems (traffic jams etc.) influence the economical attractivenes of the Benelux?
12. How will the extensive legal hustle for potential establishing companies influence the economical attractivenes of the Benelux?
13. How will the gap between rich and poor develop?
14. What will an increasing gap between rich and poor do to the Western European society?
15. What actions are governments taking to increase integration? What is the expected outcome?
16. How will the global labour market evolve?
17. In what way would our society be affected by a major financial crisis (crash of real estate prices or stock markets)?
Articles, Concepts, Links
â€œYankee Doodle Lowlandsâ€
Focus on innovation (2005 - 2012)
The Lowlands recognise the need to invest in the future. The government increases the money spent on education and gives incentives to technology students. The trend of declining technology students in the period 1995 â€“ 2005 has been broken and each year the number of technology freshmen increases with 4%.
Technology based companies like Philips, Shell, ASML and ESA benefit from the increasing economic situation. They increase their R&D budgets with 35% to ensure their leading positions in the world. They focus on globalization and attract top scientists and top (inter)national PhD students for their innovation projects. Many of these PhD students are from the millennium generation, which means they developed excellent communication skills besides their technology skills. Universities and technology companies conduct combined research programs, where they develop new technologies. Since the technology companies and the universities work intensively together, these companies can select the best students to work for them.
Social integration becomes a major issue. The population is aging and the forthcoming financial challenges put pressure on the incomes for the elderly and the unemployed. Although the population in the middle and high segment incomes have good perspectives, the low income class has difficulty catching up in the technology based economy. The unrest is strengthened by international Muslim conflicts and terrorist threats.
People either flourish or miss the boat (2012 â€“ 2018)
The Lowlands gain a dominant competitive position in the world economy. They have outperformed the rest of Europe in terms of an annual 3% GDP growth. They flourish in technology and they keep their economical position in logistics and trade. The Lowlands also continue to be the main port of Europe.
Philips and ASML have become dominant global players for logistical solutions. They have patents on tracking- and tracing solutions. This technology is licensed to Asian countries, and the consulting segment greatly benefits from this. ESA conducts an ambitious space program, based on the technology of Philips and ASML.
The government identifies three pillars for further development of the economy.
â€¢ Water management - The number of floods in the world increases dramatically. The government believes its traditional competitive advantage in fighting the sea, can be exploited further. An â€œInstitution of Water Managementâ€ is established and crown prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands is the main ambassador of it.
â€¢ Green energy - Shell holds strong patents on hydrogen cell technology. The traditional energy sources are likely to deplete in the near future, and hence new and green sources of energy will be vital.
â€¢ Medical equipment for heart deceases - Hearth diseases are increasing dramatically. ASML and Philips Medical have already invested heavily in this sector. They have invented new scanning and â€œdotterâ€-technologies.
International leading pharmaceutical companies have invented new drugs. The academic hospitals in the Lowlands have been appointed high budgets for the application of the technologies in combination with the new drugs.
Although the economy is booming, the Lowlands face serious problems in their societies. The income inequality has increased tremendously. The reason is both evident and concerning. The new technologies and spin-offs in licensing and consulting only benefit the highly educated. The less educated have difficulties to cope with the changing economic dynamics, and consequently have missed the boat. The society resembles the free market American model with all its social challenges. The lower class regards society as unfair, but they have no choice than to develop themselves.
Ethnic groups have established political parties to support their communities. As a counter reaction of the upper class, new right winged political parties have emerged. Many rich are completely fed up with the fact that â€˜theirâ€™ money is being spent on security and (ethnic) unemployment payments.
Religious fundamentalists have grouped to make a fist against the evil western society. Terrorist attacks on public transport have taken place and the AIVD has grown tremendously to enable infiltration.
The government identifies the need to focus on additional education, especially in the area of technology. A large portion of its funds are allocated to education. An additional annual export of 3 billion Euros of gas makes this investment in the future possible. Many youngsters take the education opportunities seriously and the Universities grow into globally recognized expert centers for technological developments in logistics, aerospace, water management, hydrogen cells and medical solutions.
Segregated but wealthy Lowlands (2018 â€“ 2025)
The economies in the Lowlands are flourishing. The technology companies are booming in the exploitation of their technological products. Consulting companies are also leveraging on the technologies and many consultants of the Lowlands are participating in major international projects on green energy, water management and logistics. The Lowlands have above average GDP growth in a flourishing world economy.
The social challenges are still increasing in the Lowlands. The additional funds for education of the less educated have not led to a significant improvement. The big4 cities segregate along ethnic lines; the autochthones account only for 20%. The crime rate is high. Upper class people move to wealthy villages, where they establish their â€˜ownâ€™ society with high level entertaining facilities in new hip places. A separate Ministry of Security is established for the increasing crime in the cities and the ongoing threat of terrorism.
A main public debate is taking place on how to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. The Ministry of Security is highly concerned about the media power. The media is abused as a communication medium of right winged elements to display unethical, sometimes even racist, messages. The Ministry has launched campaigns to convey the message that the new extreme right winged parties do not offer a solution for the disintegrated 2-class society.
The ageing population, at its peak as of 2020, has not become detrimental to economic growth. Utilization of private funds on security, education, healthcare and unemployment, has enabled the increased spending on social security. Older people with limited spending power are frequently taken care of by relatives. The few rich oldies can enjoy their old days in nice private institutions, where they have all kind of facilities and many nurses to take care of them.
Stagnating economy: 2005 - 2015
The Lowlands increasingly suffer from international competition from low-cost countries, and become internally i.e. European mainly focussed The export stagnates, and the government applies a restrictive trade policy on imports from specific non EU-countries. European economical cooperation, predominantly with the original EU members, becomes dominant., as the Lowlands are historically an appreciated EU member. Whereas intra-EU trade remains stable, limited growth is realized outside the EU. The Asian economies continue to boom, and benefit greatly from Eastern European and Russian growth. As a result of the protective measures, lack of technical students and limited influx of a highly skilled techno workforce, technology innovations stall. Big multinational companies such as Philips consider moving out of the Lowlands. Productivity growth consequently declines from 1.9% pa to 1.2% pa. Intrinsic GDP growth is limited to c. 0.7% pa.
Migration is only allowed from the Central and Eastern European countries and from family reunions and marriages within the existing immigrant base (mainly Morocco & Turkey). .Partially because of the restrictive migration policy, the overall population remains constant. The labour supply however starts to decline by 0.4% p.a. due to the ageing of the population. The existing social welfare system remains in tact because of strong labour market opposition. The government faces increased expenditure on pensions and publicly provided health care. Public spending as a % of GDP increases from 42% to 46%. To enable this spending, wage taxes are increased for both higher and lower incomes, which in turn further negatively impact the employment situation. The fear for inflation increases, which raises the risk premium on interest rates and it hampers investments. The overall social atmosphere becomes tense: higher income people consider migration, while lower class people perceive a deterioration of standard of living (despite the actual minor GDP growth per capital). New international conflicts against Muslim countries, specifically the invasion of Iran by USA in 2010, result in a further increase of social tension. The first, second and new generation immigrants continue to settle mainly in segregated areas within the Big4 cities, increasing the immigrant ratio in these cities from 43% (2004) to almost 50% in 2015. Unemployment remains high at 8.5 % and reaches levels of 50 % amongst younger immigrants. Riots between immigrants and police occur more frequently in Big4 cities. Crime rates increase. The gap between rich and poor consequently increases.
Major terrorist attack: 2015
Rotterdam harbour is hit by a massive terrorist attack in 2015 resulting in great social unrest, devastation and tremendous economical consequences. After some months of paralysis, emotional debates and riots in the Big4 cities, the government - short of funds - approves an accelerated exploitation of it gas fields to re-establish the infrastructure. Total costs are in excess of â‚¬10bn. As a consequence the depletion of the gas fields approaches rapidly: new research confirms that the majority of the fields, responsible for c. 3% of GDP, will be totally depleted by 2020 unless new gas sources are explored and exploited. This results in further unrest in society since some people fear the exploration of ecosensitive areas while others fear negative longer term economic developments.
In and out of the valley of despair: 2015 - 2025
On the back of a general feeling of despair and fear for loss of wealth, newly elected politicians rise to the occasion and manage to change the existing welfare system and labour legislation. The pension age increases to 70 years, and participation of older people, women and immigrants increases mainly in service and healthcare related employment. The government shifts its focus from social welfare towards education. It fosters collaboration between private and public universities, and promotes the value of diversity and inclusion. Training in language skills and basic health care services are offered to low skilled people. Consequently, labour supply increases with 0.4 % - combined with a small productivity increase, this suffices to partly negate the negative impact from declining gas revenues in 2020.
The responsibility of the emerging income in-equality is shifted from 2015 onwards by the government to the private domain: voluntary communities emerge, firstly in the form of extended families (eg. children live under one roof with their parents and grandparents). The Millenium generation, a new group of youngsters in the age of 25 to 45 with a focus on the wider well being of society, are alerted by the increasing gap between rich and poor and start actively participating in these communities and thus manage to institutionalize voluntary communities. Their communication by means of easily accessible web logs slowly start to result in improved feelings of (digital) connectivity. National awareness around the social difficulties spreads rapidly, and leads to a wider feeling of involvement, inclusion and positivism. The traditional media channels complement and trigger a genuine and constructive national and social consciousness based on trust and respect. A new Muslim political party promotes and participates in the voluntary communities, which reduces ethnic distances. New legislation promotes immigrants to settle and concentrate outside the Big4 cities into local communities. Crime levels reduce owing to stronger social control, and terrorist breeding space is limited thru the inclusiveness.
With the institutionalization of the voluntary communities, GDP starts to recover moderately again at around 2025 thanks to improved productivity behind entrepreneurial local communities. Combined with a national feeling of social cohesion, there is a feeling of great hope for further growth.