The megatrends that will shape the future of the Netherlands

An ageing world population, climate change, open borders and the increasing impact of ICT on daily life. How will these global developments impact people and businesses in the Netherlands in the years ahead? And why is Rabobank focusing on them?

Banking for the world of tomorrow and beyond

Rabobank's researchers spoke in 2015 with tens of academics and hundreds of employees, customers and civil society organisation representatives about 'The world of tomorrow and beyond’. Their main finding: The future of the Netherlands cannot be viewed separately from the global megatrends concerning population growth, climate change and ICT. Their research has also brought to light three socio-economic developments that are specific to the Netherlands:

  • Individuals' financial life course (saving, education, buying a home, healthcare, retirement)
  • Companies' earning capacity (from innovation to growth perspectives for companies and entrepreneurship)
  • The living environment (from regional growth and shrinkage to diversity and the government's role)

Rabobank is presenting publications on these developments under the title 'The world of tomorrow and beyond'. They will be published in Dutch on the Rabobank website from early April through mid-June 2016.

Contributing to welfare and prosperity

Rabobank's dialogue partners see it as one of Rabobank's responsibilities to chart these developments. This activity is also part of the bank's strategy. "Our mission in the Netherlands is to make a substantial contribution to welfare and prosperity as a customer-oriented cooperative bank. We can only fulfil this mission if we are aware of the developments that face our customers and wherein the bank can play a role," said Hans Stegeman, an economist at Rabobank and responsible for special research projects. "We don't just chart the relevant economic and social developments from behind our desks, but instead go out into the field to speak with academics, employees, customers and civil society organisation representatives. These conversations reveal that many people in the Netherlands think about the future. They see it as uncertain and consequently either look for an anchor in the past when everything was better or try to hold onto what they’ve got. A good conversation about the future of the Netherlands always leads to the conclusion that it is a great and prosperous country and should stay that way in the future."

"A good conversation about the future of the Netherlands always leads to the conclusion that it is a great and prosperous country and should stay that way in the future."

Hans Stegeman, economist at Rabobank responsible for special research projects


Five megatrends emerge from the studies and conversations that will shape the Netherlands and the Dutch economy of tomorrow and beyond:

  • More people, a different population composition and bigger cities. Half of the world's population currently lives in urban areas and this figure is set to rise to 70% by 2050. The composition of the Dutch population is also changing. While for years it has been less pronounced compared to countries such as Nigeria (where there are lots of children and relatively few seniors), the composition of the Dutch population will become even more evenly distributed across age groups in the coming decades. This means the Dutch population will comprise more seniors and fewer young people and children.
  • Climate change. The Paris Climate Change Agreement reached in late 2015 is important for the Netherlands. Is it also of significance to Rabobank? Coert Beerman, Director of Wholesale Netherlands & Africa: "What is Rabobank's role in relation to reducing climate change? How can we finance the energy transition? Shouldn't we as a bank serve as a linking pin within a changing society?" Climate change is causing the sea level to rise. What will happen in the Netherlands if the sea level goes up? Whether the sea level rises by 0.25 or by 0.50 metre makes a huge difference in terms of the impact on daily life and the economy in the Netherlands.
  • International dependence. The world is one marketplace, with people and goods travelling around the world. As an open country and economy, the Netherlands benefits fully from this development, but this also means it is dependent and required to respond to changes. While Western countries were once leading in the international economy, Asia now holds the leading position. China alone will account for more than 20% of the global economy by 2050, while the share of the US will be just short of 15%. This international dependence also means geopolitical developments that seem far-removed from the Netherlands, such as unrest in the Middle East, have an impact on welfare and prosperity in the Netherlands.
  • Innovation and the strengths and threats of ICT. Experts are convinced that technologies such as 3D printing, self-driving cars, the internet that operates and connects countless devices (the Internet of Things), artificial intelligence, big data, biotechnology and nanotechnology will radically change society in the years ahead. New technologies can make innovative companies big in no time, but can also lead to the rapid demise of traditional companies. "A socio-economic threat is that ICT leads to jobless economic growth," said Heidi van Woudenberg, Chair of the Board of Directors of the local Rabobank Rijn en Veenstromen. "I still, however, believe ICT offers numerous opportunities and can help bring about new prosperity. But the question is: How will we distribute that prosperity so that it benefits the welfare of all of us?"
  • The economy of the future: The economy is where all trends come together. But there are also developments in the field of the financial-economical system that will determine our future. Debt reduction, global economic imbalances, unknown monetary policy; all developments that will determine the economic environment in the Netherlands in the years to come.

For the Dutch version of the long-read version of 'The World of tomorrow and beyond; the megatrends', go to

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