The study has the following messages for Dutch policy makers.
New migrants will have a major impact on new land use, in particular
for housing, infrastructure, recreation areas and industrial land use.
Demographic and economic growth are mostly determined by future immigration
After 2020 traditional issues regarding the natural and built environment
may lose urgency. Congestion growth will level off, air quality will
generally improve, and the need for new housing, industrial estates and
business parks may disappear. The impact of these trends will be felt
at a regional level first. The effects may be both negative (abandoning
of residential areas and industrial estates) and positive (opportunities
to improve living quality).
Other issues in the built environment may become more urgent.
The growing share of non-European migrants in the Dutch population may
increase the existing mismatch of the urban housing and labour market
and generate social conflicts. Climate change will continue to be a persistent
environmental problem; in the long run the rising seawater level and river
runoff will create a water safety problem.
There is a risk of overinvestment.
New infrastructure, residential areas and industrial estates require long-term
planning and once established may last for tens of years, if not more.
In a population decrease scenario these investments may become obsolete
within a decade after realisation, leading to local problems of decay
of the built environment. Given the duration time of these investments,
the social cost of public investment policies bases on continued growth
may exceed social benefits.
The composition of the population and households will alter due to
demographic developments, like ageing, immigration, and household size
Single, old-aged and migrant households will grow considerably, especially
in the main cities. This will affect regional labour markets, housing
demand and the nature of commercial and social services.
European policy will become more influential.
Further integration of the European labour market and a shift in the European
immigration policy influence the size and composition of the Dutch population
and the demand for housing, employment, recreation, etc. The common EU
agricultural policy will change the agricultural landscape. In addition,
European environmental policy may have an influence on future spatial
developments. In the Dutch situation, which is characterized by high population
density and intensive land use, European environmental regulation and
standards may cause local conflicts between housing and infrastructure
or agriculture and nature development. Finally, the national gas reserves
will gradually run down; Dutch energy supply will be more dependent on
imports and thus on international political cooperation.
This study does not intend to make policy choices. Instead it presents
an approach that may support policy makers in developing robust policies
and setting priorities.
Some trends are relatively certain, such as the demographic change after
2020, the proportional increase of the ageing population, the household
size reduction, increasing personal incomes and climate change. Other
trends, such as the effects of immigration, economic growth and EU policy,
are more difficult to predict. Policy makers are challenged to apply flexible
and robust strategies that allow for such uncertainty.
Balancing social costs and benefits
In the absence of a robust strategy, policy makers will have to make a
choice. Such a policy choice should include an analysis of future social
costs and benefits of both options, the assessment of short and long term
risks, and the effects for different generations, population groups and
regions. The four scenarios and the quantitative data presented in this
study provide useful instruments for such a cost-benefit analysis.