Labor market
Close

Navigate quickly through this series:

Close

Share this series:

Labor market

More self-employed professionals. People change jobs more often. Fewer prospects of a permanent contract. The labor market is changing. And the pension world is changing along. The new pension system, for example, taps into these changes. But how do we do that in specific terms? And what other labor market trends are there? More about that on this page.

Theme
Income
Collection Contents
20 Publications

Navigate quickly through this series:

Are there challenges to face when working longer?

Published on: 18 November 2022

Topical issues in the field of economy, (responsible) investment, pension and income: every week, one of APG's experts provides a clear answer to this week's question. In this edition: Senior Pension Educator Fabian Schumans on the question what it entails for both the employer and the employee if someone wants to continue working after the state pensions’ age.

Not everyone retires when reaching the age of 67. About 200,000 Dutch people decide to work longer and that number only increases, as reported by RTL Nieuws. Doesn't that decision to work longer lead to bureaucratic hassle, and not in the least for the employer?

Honor
It's not that difficult, according to Schumans. “It is rather remarkable though that once you reach the state pensions’ age, you are no longer insured for disability to work or unemployment. That's because the assumption is made that you stop working. That is not a bad thing for an employer, because let's say a 68 years’ old employee falls ill, there is no need to start an entire reintegration procedure. And whereas a sick employee usually gets paid his or her wages for two years, that term is only 30 weeks for an employee who has already reached the state pensions’ age.” When the CAO (Collective Labor Agreement) states that dismissal will follow upon reaching the state pensions’ age, the employer has to offer a new contract to the employee who wants to continue working. “But that is mainly an administrative act and usually does not pose any difficulties.”

Yet, in practice, there aren't many employers who are eager to hire people over the age of 67, Schumans says. Whether an older employee is able to remain employed after reaching the age of 67, also depends on the way in which this is arranged in the CAO of the employer. An employer therefore doesn't always have to honor an employee's request to remain employed for a longer period of time. That can be annoying for someone who wants to continue working, for example because his or her pension is insufficient. “In that case, you can only hope that the employer is willing to retain you.”

Commitment
An industry in which it often occurs that an employee chooses to postpone his or her pension, is the educational sector, Schumans has noticed. “In that industry, employees are often highly committed to their profession and their employer. And if they work in a region with a significant shortage of teachers, many teachers decide not to retire straight away but, for example, to finish the school year or to stay on for another year.” By adopting a flexible attitude, an employer can make it more attractive for employees to work for a while longer should they want to.

“If people contact me to say they may want to continue working for longer, they start thinking about what that means to them and they also regularly express the fact that working gives meaning to their lives”, says Schumans. “They are often done with work as an obligation, but if employees are given the freedom to interpret their job in their own way, I believe more people would be inclined to continue working for a while longer after reaching their state pensions’ date. You could think about the older teacher who is still willing to teach but no longer wants to be required to participate in trainings.” What often happens increasingly more often, is for older employees to start their own business. “They then become self-employed and have themselves hired by their (former) employer. That often occurs at municipal authorities, for instance. This typically involves people who run a project on an interim basis.”

Sustainably deployable
If an employee decides to work longer, there are a few things that need to be considered. “At some pension funds, the pension accrual stops after the state pensions’ age has been reached. That means an employee ends up with a higher net income, because he or she no longer has to pay pension contributions.” There are no rules attached to earning some extra money after the state pensions’ age, Schumans explains. “What I do say to someone considering this, is: Look at what you ultimately end up with on a net basis. Let's say you continue to work for your employer for a couple of hours a week, receive state pension and perhaps also pension. That means you receive money from three authorities on which very little tax has to be paid. But the Tax Authorities adds up all of those payments, meaning you end up in a higher tax bracket and you may be presented with a retrospective tax assessment. It is also important to carefully consider whether or not you want to apply the tax-free allowance and, if so, to what income.”

Although employers are not massively enthusiastic about the idea yet, Schumans can imagine that the phenomenon of working persons over the age of 67 will be increasing. “The generation now reaching the state pensions’ age, generally started working sooner than the generations following them. Working longer will therefore be less popular among this group than among the younger people who are now entering the labor market. If you started working later and you were also able to benefit from the labor conditions such as flexible working and sustainable deployability, it will be easier to continue working for a while after reaching the state pensions’ age. I already notice employers trying to keep their employees vital and to make sure they are sustainably deployable.”  

Tightness
In the article of RTL Nieuws, Peter Hein van Mulligen, chief economist at the CBS, states that pensioners who continue to work will not be able to solve the shortage of labor force. Schumans also believes that the increase of the number of working people over the age of 67 will not be enough to limit the current tightness on the labor market. “That shortage is mainly caused by the ageing population and the so-called dejuvenation (decrease of the share of younger people in the population as a result of a declining birthrate, ed), resulting in less new employees entering the labor market.” Even though more people over the age of 67 are working, it continues to be a relatively marginal phenomenon, especially if you compare this with the entire labor population, according to Schumans. “These people usually don't continue to work for many years, it mainly involves shorter periods of time.” Yet, he doesn't exclude that, if employers become more enthusiastic about employees who are looking to continue working after their state pensions’ age and younger generations become more sustainably deployable, working longer could help balance the labor market more.

 

Volgende publicatie:
Is a full-time bonus having the desired effect?

Is a full-time bonus having the desired effect?

Published on: 10 November 2022

Current issues related to economy, (responsible) investment, pension and income: every week an APG expert gives a clear answer to the question of the week. This time: chief economist Thijs Knaap on whether the full-time bonus will lead to more people working full-time. “You should always encourage a trial.”

 

Last year, 9.3 million people between the ages of 15 and 75 were employed in the Netherlands, Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) figures show. Of that total labor force, 48 percent worked part-time, a percentage that has barely changed in recent years. Part-time is defined as a workweek of less than 35 hours. At 70 percent, the percentage of part-time workers among women is significantly higher than among men, 28 percent of whom work part-time. Health care, education and service professions have the highest rates of part-time workers. Because of the significant shortages in education, the government is starting a trial by introducing a full-time bonus in 10 schools. This means that teachers who want to work more will receive a bonus. But does such a financial incentive make sense?

 

Wedge

The Netherlands’ progressive tax system plays an important role in this question, Knaap explains. "The more you earn, the more tax you pay and the fewer allowances you get. That is fine in and of itself, but it means that the last day of the work week, whether you work three, four or five days, is taxed the most; on that day you earn the least, comparatively.” The economic term for this is the wedge, which represents the difference between the employer’s labor costs and the employee’s take-home pay. “That wedge can be as high as 70 percent for some people, which means that out of every euro you earn, you only get paid 30 cents. That’s because you are paying payroll taxes and, in addition, possibly losing benefits.”

 

The question is whether the full-time bonus is the right solution to solve the current labor shortage now. “This is being debated in the House of Representatives and the biggest ambiguity is the size of the wedge.” It is different for everyone and depends on several factors, Knaap explains. For example, on your marital status, whether you have a family and which municipality you live in. “A lot of people also don’t know themselves what their wedge is, some go to a tax consultant to ask what an extra day’s work will get them. So, it’s hard for me to imagine someone deciding to work more hours based on a full-time bonus, when most people don’t know exactly what kind of financial difference that will make for them.”

There are plenty of people who don't have the opportunity to work full time

Homo economicus
This idea stems from the worldview that man is a rational homo economicus (economic man) who calculates the exact costs and benefits of every action. But other aspects besides the financial picture often come into play, Knaap emphasizes. “There are plenty of people who do not have the opportunity to work full-time, even if they wanted to. For example, because they provide informal care for someone close to them, they cannot find child care or an employer cannot offer them more hours. So how are you going to solve that with such a financial measure? It can be done, but I don’t see it as a very effective tool.” Moreover, there is a major drawback to the full-time bonus, the economist said. “It makes our tax system, which we already have little insight into and for which you have to go to a consultant to know what your wedge is, even more complicated.”

Even so, the fact remains that there is an acute labor shortage. “As a macroeconomist, I simply think: if we are all screaming for labor, wages have to go up. That happens naturally, because when there is a shortage in the labor market, wages naturally rise." In the third quarter of this year, collective bargaining wages rose 3.5 percent, according to CBS. Knaap: “And wages may still be raised more than that. We’ve had years when wages didn’t rise much at all. The wage share has certainly not increased in recent decades, so an increase in wages is not that surprising. And it has the advantage of not making the tax system even more complicated and fragile, whereas the full-time bonus does create that risk.”

 

Trial

Despite his impression that a measure like the full-time bonus will have little effect and complicate things further, Knaap welcomes the trial. “If it turns out to be hugely successful, I can adjust my opinion. But if such a trial is tested at your school with a lot of fanfare, you're more likely to have heard of it than if it constitutes yet another measure on your income tax. So it's hard to draw a conclusion based on one trial. Still, it's good that they are trying it first, because too many measures like this just get implemented. Trials like this should therefore always be encouraged.”

Volgende publicatie:
Annette Mosman is Top Woman of the Year 2022

Annette Mosman is Top Woman of the Year 2022

Published on: 30 September 2022

APG’s CEO Annette Mosman has been elected Top Woman of the Year 2022. This was announced on Thursday in the presence of 350 invitees from business, government and non-profit sectors. The jury praised Mosman for her courage and authentic leadership style. Mosman: “This feels like a huge honour. The Top Woman of the Year title is really an incentive for me to continue this leadership style."

 

Besides Mosman, Carina Hilders (CEO of Reinier de Graaf ziekenhuis) and Nadine Klokke (CEO of Knab) were also in the race for the title. The jury chose Annette for her authentic leadership style. The verdict of the jury: “The winner is a woman with a mission. You could say she is self-made, because she never really had a role model from her childhood and she has come this far through trial and error. Making mistakes is allowed in the culture she envisions. Her leadership is authentic. She has guts and she will need that for the difficult task that lies ahead of her.”

The jury consisted of chairman Khadija Arib (former Speaker of the House of Representatives), Mariëlle Bartholomeus (Member of the Board of Directors of Rivas Zorggroep and Top Woman of the Year 2020), Janine Vos (CHRO at Rabobank and Top Woman of the Year 2021), Eelco Hoekstra (Member of the Board of Board of SHV) and Dolf van den Brink (CEO Heineken).

 

Authenticity
Annette is happy with the title and is honored: “The more leadership experience I gain, the more convinced I become of the importance of authenticity. By staying close to myself, I can make the most positive impact – as a woman and as a leader. And at APG I can be myself completely. That makes me very proud. Of the organization, but especially of the colleagues."

 

She says about her leadership style: "I believe in new leadership, which starts with involving all stakeholders, where sincere and good listening is a basic condition. After that, weigh all interests, come to a decision and implement it successfully. Winning this title strengthens me in these convictions and encourages me to continue to propagate them in my role within APG but also externally.”

 

Role model

The annual election of the Top Woman of the Year, which took place this year for the eighteenth time, aims to create a platform on which female executives in Dutch companies and organizations receive attention, are visible and can thus fulfill a role as role models. The assessment criteria for this are the weight of the position and the results achieved, but also the courage and ambition in the career to date and the promotion of diversity in one's own organization. The Top Woman of the Year foundation is responsible for the annual election.

Volgende publicatie:
Will the number of working seniors continue to increase in the coming years?

Will the number of working seniors continue to increase in the coming years?

Published on: 15 September 2022

Current issues related to economy, (responsible) investment, pension and income: every week an APG expert gives a clear answer to the question of the week. This time: chief economist Thijs Knaap and Head of HR Strategy Roosmarije Reneman on the increase in the number of working seniors in the Netherlands. 

After a lifetime of being Britain’s crown prince, Charles finally got to assume kingship on Saturday, at the age of 73. A good time to look at how people over 65 are faring in the Dutch job market.


Charles appears to be far from the only person over 70 who is not yet retired. In 2003, 3.3 percent of the Dutch population in the 70-75 age group were still working, CBS figures show. By 2019, this had risen to 8 percent, only to drop to 7.5 percent during the two Covid years. This means that 1 in 13 older people between the ages of 70 and 75 are still working. The increase among 65-year-olds was even greater. In 2003, fewer than 1 in 10 seniors aged 65 were working, before rising steadily to over 4 in 10 last year, which is linked to the increased state pension age.


Pension

Besides the higher state pension age, there are four other reasons why people are working longer than they used to, says Knaap. “Pensions have not been increased for a long time. If you get a higher pension, it is financially easier to retire sooner. On the other hand, if the pension is lower than desired, it is attractive to continue working a little longer. The effect of this will be somewhat smaller than the increased state pension age, but it does play a role.” A third, recent reason, is that labor is currently in high demand. “We are now going through a demographic transition where there are a lot of retirees spending money while fewer and fewer people are working. Therefore, it makes sense that the demand for people is increasing, including for part-time and occasional work. That will continue to increase in the future.”


Reason number four has to do with the transformation from an economy that was primarily focused on physical work to today’s service economy. “Working in the fields or in the factory you could no longer work after the age of 65, which is also the reason retirement was invented,” Knaap said. “A person over 65 will no longer work in the blast furnaces, but will work in the office, for example. Much of the work today is done sitting in the office or at home. That makes it easier for older people to continue working. The last reason is that there are more and more working women. This was a rarity after World War II, but since the 1960s the number has been increasing. The generation of working women has now reached age 65, and among them will be women who are still working at a more advanced age.”

There is also a risk in having an average high age at a company or sector

Experience
Despite the increase in the number of people over 65 working, many employers have a blind spot when it comes to the labor potential of older people, Reneman said. “There is a huge labor shortage right now. The idea that you have four people for every position to fill the vacancy really needs to be abandoned. So as an employer, why not use older people with their experience and life wisdom to fill vacancies?” At the same time, there is also a risk in having an age structure with an average high age at a company or sector. “An aging population has created major shortages in education and healthcare, for example. So, it is important that there is a good mix between the different ages, so you don’t get any surprises.”


Like Knaap, Reneman expects that, among other things, flexible working, which boomed during the corona crisis, will make it easier for older people who want to continue working to stay on the job longer because of a better work-life balance. This does not apply to every sector. “Someone who wants to train as a police officer starts their training right out of high school, and at age 20 starts working as an officer. But you might not be able to run after a thug until you’re 67. Military personnel also start very young, but you can only be in the military until a certain age, then your second career starts. We have to think more in terms of second, third and maybe fourth careers in a working life, and see (part-time) retirement as a vitality tool in addition to a good old-age provision.” 


Several developments will ensure that the number of working seniors will continue to rise in the coming years, Knaap expects. “The increasing (healthy) life expectancy and the pressure on the demand side due to the increasing aging population ensure this. Because continuing to work will not be ideal for everyone, it is good that the retirement age is not fixed.”


Passion

Whether older people want to continue working also depends on their health status and whether a person sees his or her job as a passion, Reneman believes. CBS figures seem to support the importance of work as a passion. For example, more than a quarter of all visual artists in the Netherlands are over 65. Occupational groups such as furniture makers, tailors and upholsterers also have relatively large numbers of older people. Reneman: “If you can be queen until you’re 96, why shouldn’t you also be able to do great things in your working life until you’re 75?” 

Volgende publicatie:
What is causing the huge labor shortage?

What is causing the huge labor shortage?

Published on: 8 September 2022

Current issues related to economics, (responsible) investment, pensions and income: every week an APG expert gives a clear answer to the question of the week. This time: macroeconomist and senior strategist Charles Kalshoven about the causes of the huge labor shortage.

 

Anyone who passes by a café can hardly fail to notice it: many catering establishments are trying to find staff with a poster in the window. But not only the hospitality industry is struggling with a lack of staff. The labor shortage is spread out across several sectors. What are the causes of this? And are there any solutions?

 

Covid and aging

Kalshoven believes there are two main causes. “The most obvious one is Covid. During the Covid crisis, many companies that would normally have gone bankrupt were kept afloat with government support. The number of bankruptcies is therefore much lower than normal. Employees are therefore still working at those companies, when they would otherwise be available for other jobs.” Covid not only affected the demand for personnel, but also caused a shift in the labor market. “In the hospitality industry and at Schiphol Airport there was temporarily less or no work. The people who worked there then started doing something else. Some of them found new work they enjoyed more or that paid better, so they decided to stay there.”

 

The other main cause is aging. “On the one hand, because of the aging population, the need for personnel in healthcare is increasing. If nothing changes in the coming years, 1 in 4 working people will be needed in care around 2040. You might expect that the aging of the population will also reduce the supply of labor, but for the time being this does not seem to be the case. Not only is the number of 20- to 70-year-olds still creeping up a bit, but the proportion of ‘active’ people is also rising. The labor force participation rate has never been higher since record-keeping of that began in 1969.”

 

Kalshoven points out that this is partly due to the increased retirement age, which means that more people over 65 are now working than before. “I think the changing age profile of society, with more older people and fewer young people - in the last decade the over-50s group grew substantially, but the over-40s group has fallen by 17 percent - is playing a role in the shortages in sectors that require a certain level of fitness. These include construction, the police, emergency rooms and baggage handlers at Schiphol Airport. And people who no longer can or wish to practice a profession at a later age will not always have the skills to find work elsewhere. A retiring police officer, for example, is not necessarily a good programmer.”

 

Solutions

Although the causes are obvious, the labor shortage is not easy to solve. “In the past, it might have been a little easier by using labor migration. At that time, the shortages here were filled by Filipino nurses or Polish construction workers. But because of the current housing shortage, you can’t house those migrants now. Just as absenteeism reinforces the labor shortage, the housing shortage contributes to the labor shortage.” Another solution could be for the government or a sector to try to interest young people in a specific study, for example in engineering. “But that too is not always easy. Because supervising trainees requires an investment of time. And if the workload is already too much, who will let the interns gain experience in the workplace?”

 

What can also help is to try to persuade people who are currently working part-time to work more. “This is also where practical objections often come into play, such as expensive or unavailable childcare. Through higher wages, a company can try to attract new people. You might be able to attract new entrants to the labor market, but you often see that people from another sector or company will switch to the better paid job. This mainly leads to a different distribution of labor between companies or sectors. In and of itself, incidentally, that is positive for the economy: workers end up in a place where they are apparently more productive.” When there is a major labor shortage, as there is now, employers often are less adamant about the job requirements when there are openings, Kalshoven argues. “You see vacancies now where it says you don’t have to have completed your education yet. There’s a word for that: green pickings. As an employer, you pick the fruits that are not yet ripe, as it were. But that creates a risk that young people will not complete their education after getting the job, which could affect them later in their career.”  

 

Automation

And then there is automation and robotics as a solution. “You can already see that ordering in the hospitality industry today is a lot faster than it used to be. Now the waitress passes your order to the bar on a smart phone, where someone can immediately start preparing your drink. That prevents mistakes and saves time.” And you can let people do more themselves. “Before, you went to the bank where someone counted out the guilders or dollars for you. Later, you had to take your debit card to a machine to withdraw money. Nowadays you pay with your phone at the cashier. In fact, often there isn’t even a cashier, because nowadays you pay for your groceries yourself. These kinds of technological solutions are also a partial solution to the labor shortage.”

 

And will a recession relieve some of the pressure on the labor market? “The labor market always reacts to the economy with a delay. The economy has to grow for a while first, before people are hired. An increase in wages often follows a bit later. If the economy crashes now, companies will wonder whether it will be short- or long-term. Regardless, the recession will ease the scarcity as more companies go out of business and others wait a while before expanding. I do think that the labor market will be structurally more restricted due to the aging of the population. There are a lot of professional groups where the average age is quite high and an outflow is imminent.”

Volgende publicatie:
“The software I build looks for errors and fraud”

“The software I build looks for errors and fraud”

Published on: 2 May 2022

Who are these people who consciously choose to work in the pension sector? What do they do all day for your pension? And what do they like about their work? We take you behind the scenes.

British Hillary Ovaga (39) is a DevOps Engineer. “I was excited about an adventure like that in the Netherlands.”

How did you end up at APG?

“I used to work at a company in the UK that supplies important software to APG. After about nine years, I was ready for a new challenge and a new environment. I like the idea of an adventure abroad. By chance, APG associates approached me for an expat position. I was instantly attracted to that. In 2019, I applied to APG and was then hired as a Senior Business Application Consultant. Now that’s called DevOps Engineer 4.”

 

What attracted you to the Netherlands?

“My dad lived here for a while in the 1980s on a scholarship, the Netherlands Fellowship Program. He told us wonderful stories about the country and we used to have postcards from his Dutch friends around the house. That made me feel that I had an affinity with the country, even though I am very different from my father. He is much better at language and has learned to speak Dutch, but it’s not that easy for me yet. It is something I really want to do, and APG facilitates language lessons, but I have been so busy with work and fatherhood lately that I just haven’t been able to get around to it so far.”

 

How do you like the Netherlands now that you are actually living here

“I think it is a great country. The people are a bit more relaxed than they are in England. I also really like the cycling culture here. Dutch people are very helpful in many ways, especially when it comes to language. If I had gone to Germany, I would have been under much more pressure to learn the language. But you people are so good at English and don’t expect expats to speak your language. I do have difficulty sometimes with how direct you are though. In England, we carefully ‘wrap’ a message; here you just say it as it is. I had to get used to that. But it does have some advantages. Another thing I like about the Netherlands, incidentally, is the tax advantage expats like me get (the 30-percent scheme for knowledge migrants, ed.) That makes up for the high cost of moving to another county, to some extent.”

 

And so, now you are a DevOps Engineer 4. That sounds like a secret language. What exactly do you do?

“I work with a team that focuses on the design, creation and maintenance of the software around the reconciliation process and corporate action. I’m one of the Business Application Consultants for the reconciliation software.”

 

Pardon me?

“The reconciliation process is the daily mandatory and essential final stage of any asset management and investment business. APG buys and sells; we pay people and people pay us. All those transactions have to be checked. Very simply put: if we sold five shares, did the other party really receive five shares, and were we paid the right amount for them? The software we have built verifies this. This step is essential to detect, for example, errors, discrepancies, inconsistencies and fraud. Failing to do this can lead to losing control of cash and assets, fines, reputational damage and potentially a negative impact on returns, which is ultimately bad news for both APG and pension clients and the hard-working public that contributes to pension funds. I am involved in designing and building that software. I have to make sure, along with my coworkers, that it does what it is supposed to do. If our users encounter a problem, it is partly my responsibility to solve it as quickly as possible.”

It gives me great satisfaction that we are the last watchdog inside the company

What do you like about your job?

“A lot of things. First of all, I love this sector. I happened to get into it after university and initially didn’t know if it was a good fit for me, but over time I’ve become really fascinated with it. The focus on data is also very interesting to me. Data is the new gold, and everything runs within our system. It also gives me a lot of satisfaction that we are the final watchdog in the company. There are multiple departments that keep an eye on everything, but in the end it all comes down to our system to detect errors and potential fraud. That is very satisfying to me. I am also lucky to work with nice, respectful and dedicated coworkers, real team players that are great to work with. And I like the way the company takes care of its employees. As an expat, everything was also arranged for me. I could go on like this for a while, but I’ll leave it at one last comment: I think it’s great that you get a lot of opportunities to learn and grow here, and that this is also encouraged.”

You’re managing people’s pension money, so you need to be sure you’re making good, responsible, and sustainable choices

So, working in the pension sector is not boring to you?

“No, it’s not. As a little boy, it would never have occurred to me to work in this industry, but now that I’m doing it, I like it very much. What APG does is in line with what’s important to me. They invest responsibly and sustainably. Plus, no other company has to justify those investments as much as APG. You manage people’s pension money, so you have to be sure that you are making good, responsible, and sustainable choices. In my view, that is far from boring. And I haven’t even mentioned all the innovations we get to work on, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing. When you hear the word pension, you think of old people with canes, which is probably a boring image, but that’s not at all how I experience it at APG.”

 

What does the average day at work look like for you?

“We are still working from home a lot. I think that’s a shame, because I always liked going to the office. The first thing I do in the morning is check whether there are any problems with the software. If there are, that’s the priority, of course, and we have to solve it as quickly as possible. If there are no problems, we have a daily meeting at nine o’clock. In it, we discuss what we are going to do that day and whether we are experiencing any particular obstacles in achieving our bi-weekly goals. Then we have time to focus on our tasks, in my case mainly designing and building the software. That focus is also important, because you have to be able to concentrate to do your job effectively.”

 

What gives you satisfaction in your work?

“Getting things done. Solving software problems and making sure the company has everything it needs for unimpeded business operations. Completing and finalizing new software that I have built and knowing that it adds value to the business. It gives me a lot of energy to know that I am contributing to that. Being fairly rewarded for doing this also motivates me. Working here broadens my horizon, I am learning so many new things. And being an expat here feels like a big adventure. I am sort of a part of society, even though my Dutch is terrible.”

What do you do when you’re not working?

“I am a single dad with a 7-year-old son, which takes up a big part of my life. Play dates with other kids, watching Boss Baby and Magic School Bus with him and going to soccer on Saturdays. When I can, I go out for a beer with some friends. I also really like to learn new things and enjoy watching documentaries about history, cosmology, nature, psychology and physics. And I watch movies and series when I have time for it. If I want to put my brain at zero for a while, I watch Family Guy, BoJack Horseman or Green Eggs and Ham. I don’t lead as active a life as I would like, simply because as a single dad I don’t have a lot of time for it. I do run a few times a week and I go for a long walk every day.”

 

How are APG clients concretely affected by your work?

“If I do my job well, APG doesn’t get fined and customers don’t get bad news. If I make sure - along with my team - that the system does what it's supposed to do, then no money will be lost due to human error or fraudulent activity. It’s an important step.”

Volgende publicatie:
Is stopping corona support such a good idea?

Is stopping corona support such a good idea?

Published on: 3 March 2022

Current issues in the fields of the economy, (responsible) investment, pension and income: every week, an APG expert provides a clear answer to the question of the week. This time: macro-economist and senior strategist Charles Kalshoven about the end of corona support and its consequences. Doesn't the end come too soon?

 

As of April 1, the government will stop offering corona support. This means employers can no longer make use of, among other things, the Emergency Bridging Measure for Employment and deferral of tax payments. Apparently, they are no longer needed. After all, entrepreneurs can now do business without restrictions thanks to the relaxation of the corona measures and the positive economic outlook, the government reports in a news item. Kalshoven also believes that the abolition of the support packages comes at a good time from an economic point of view, although the situation in Ukraine makes the prospects somewhat more uncertain. "When you walk through the city, you see 'people wanted' signs everywhere. So the economy is doing well, resulting in major shortages in the labor market."

 

Zombie companies
According to the economist, reversing a measure is always difficult but in this case, it is necessary. "They say there's no measure as permanent as a temporary measure. Think, for example, of the French toll roads or Kok's quarter: measures that ultimately turned out to be more permanent than temporary. Significant measures were needed in this case to prevent corona from hitting the economy significantly. But at some point, those measures must be reversed. For example, the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis argued about a year ago to stop the support because it would prevent the transition of the economy. Instead of letting employees of financially unhealthy companies sit at home paid, you want them to work in more promising sectors. The so-called zombie companies then go insolvent while their employees can be more productive elsewhere. That's how it works in a normal recession. But this recession was abnormal. And there has been no transition due to the support measures."

The number of corporate insolvencies is therefore still very low. "That is partly thanks to the corona support, which was aimed at all employers, financially healthy or not," says Kalshoven. "In a normal recession, insolvencies skyrocket. But this was more of a kind of artificial coma of the economy, in order to fight corona. A year ago, we were still afraid of a wave of insolvencies but fortunately, this hasn't happened so far. This may also have to do with the fact that people have been able to save for a long time and now like to spend that money, for example in the catering industry."

Investors consider the chance that a company will not be able to repay a loan is more likely than before

Back to normal
Even if the number of insolvencies is not rising yet, investors are now clearly taking this more into account. The interest on corporate loans is rising faster than the interest paid by creditworthy governments. The difference is the credit spread, which is growing. And you can partly see that spread as an insurance premium, in the event no repayment is made or is made too late. Investors demand a fee for this. The rising credit spread is a worldwide trend, Kalshoven points out. "It was very low, and is now rising to normal values again. This means investors consider the chance that a company will not be able to repay a loan is more likely than before, and therefore demand more interest on corporate bonds." That's a direct result of stopping corona support. The higher credit risk spread also has a monetary cause. "Central banks are withdrawing from the bond market and announcing rate hikes. Those are signs we're going back to normal."

Consumer confidence
Could the war in Ukraine still affect the positive economic outlook? "That's very difficult to predict. If Russia turns off the gas tap or we say we no longer want Russian gas, energy prices will rise further and the availability of gas will be jeopardized. This could have consequences for greenhouse horticulture and industry, for example. And also for consumer confidence. If gas and petrol remain expensive or even rise in price, we will be hit in our wallets. Perhaps there will be economic support again, this time in the form of a war package." 

If such a support package is needed again, due to the conflict in Ukraine or a new corona outbreak, it is fairly easy to set up such a package again. "The bottleneck isn't whether you can implement it quickly, but whether you as a government have the resources. In the Netherlands, the national debt has increased as a result of the corona support packages, but it's still not that bad. In other countries, the national debt is much higher. Although you may also wonder what is high in this case. What matters is whether the market thinks a country can repay its debt. When corona struck, the European Commission bought up debt securities from EU Member States. This created market confidence in European bonds and more unity in Europe. That unit seems to have grown even larger by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As a result, I think that a lot is still possible in terms of European support measures, if that turns out to be necessary."

Volgende publicatie:
Can we expect a Great Resignation in the Netherlands as well?

Can we expect a Great Resignation in the Netherlands as well?

Published on: 17 February 2022

Current issues related to economics, (responsible) investment, pensions and income: every week an APG expert gives a clear answer to the question of the week. This time: Chief Economist Thijs Knaap and Head of Policy Peter Gortzak on the question of whether there will also be a Great Resignation in the Netherlands. “People in America are more sensitive to economic stimuli.”

The Great Resignation is the term coined in the United States to describe a recent trend in the labor market: millions of Americans (there were 47 million last year, 10 million more than in 2020) are resigning. They are generally not doing this so they can sit on the couch at home and do nothing, but because they can get a job elsewhere with better working conditions. Can we expect the same wave of resignations in the Netherlands?

Terms of employment
Gortzak and Knaap see little reason for that at this time. And there are two main reasons for this. First, Gortzak mentions that the United States has a completely different labor market than the Netherlands, which has stricter regulation through collective bargaining agreements, among other things. “Those collective agreements prevent poor working conditions. What also differs from America is that the Dutch government prevented a lot of misery with its support packages, ensuring that employees had no reason to resign. Some economists do think that those support packages were too hefty here, keeping some companies alive artificially. They may have a point, but because of that there was no reason for workers here to resign en masse, as they did in America.”

 

Like Gortzak, Knaap sees collective bargaining agreements as a major cause that there is less movement in the labor market here than in the United States. There, companies often don’t have a collective agreement, and terminating an employment contract is easier. This leads to dynamism: companies are more likely to lay off, and employees are more likely to look at opportunities elsewhere. “For the service sector, which is big in the Netherlands and regulated by collective agreements, this is often more difficult. A factor like a wage increase therefore affects the labor market sooner in America than in the Netherlands. What you do see here is that, for example, healthcare personnel leave salaried employment and become self-employed for more money. In the Netherlands too, there are ways of negotiating better employment conditions outside of the collective bargaining agreement.”

Bitter fruits
There was some movement in the healthcare sector, as well as in the Dutch hospitality and events industry. “There they are now reaping the bitter fruits of having been closed down by Covid for a long time,” Gortzak states. “Many people who worked in those sectors on temporary or zero-hours contracts found themselves out on the street. Many of them subsequently chose to work at the Covid test stations. That is really different from America, where people start looking for a new, better job while they’re still at an existing job. Because in the Netherlands it only involves specific sectors, you can at most speak of a Resignation, not a Great Resignation.”

In the Netherlands, people are less quick to move, but the pressure on the labor market does exist here too

According to Knaap, the shift in the American labor market is also related to the retirement wave in that country. “In America, people were laid off and given a check by the government, whereas in Europe the companies were kept afloat by the government. The Americans who got such a check just before retirement didn’t go back to apply for jobs. They disappeared from the labor market, creating jobs. In Europe, everyone with a permanent contract stayed employed because they continued to be paid anyway.” That’s another reason there hasn’t been a wave of resignations here. “Because why would you quit if you are still getting your wages? It’s also much easier to fire employees in America. We’ve all seen the image of the American leaving the office with a box in his hands. People there are also more sensitive to economic stimuli. Americans are willing to change jobs for just a small difference in pay. This creates scarcity and then, before you know it, there is a Great Resignation. In the Netherlands, people are less quick to move, but the pressure on the labor market does exist here too.”

More people working more
This pressure, incidentally, is a fairly recent phenomenon. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a surplus of labor and not enough jobs could be created to put all the unemployed to work. “Now we’re in a reverse situation,” says Knaap. “The baby boomers are retiring and continuing to spend money, so more labor is needed. At the same time, the influx from below, for example through labor migration, is not large enough. Labor market participation has increased dramatically over the past 20 years, in part because older workers are now working until they get their state pension and are no longer taking early retirement. The data therefore does not support the image of a Great Resignation. If anything, it’s the opposite: more people are going to be working more.”

 

Yet employers are struggling to fill their vacancies. According to Knaap, this has four consequences. “There is more labor migration heading towards our country. Consider the English-speaking lady who speaks to you in the coffee shop. Secondly, it leads to higher wages, at least at the companies that can afford it. The companies that are not able to don’t make it or at least, they can’t grow. And third, it encourages automation. For example, if a restaurant can’t find staff to take the orders, they’ll put a QR code on the table so the customers can order from their phones. A fourth consequence may be that the government comes up with measures to increase the participation of women in the labor market, such as more affordable childcare.”

Volgende publicatie:
"The smallest design changes can make a big difference"

"The smallest design changes can make a big difference"

Published on: 7 February 2022

Who are the people who choose to work in the pension sector? What do they do there all day for your pension? And do they really like their job? We take you behind the scenes.

Brettney Vlieland-Pijst (33) is a marketing & communication consultant and visual designer at APG. "It's a challenge for me to make information as simple as possible, so that it's accessible to everyone."

What exactly do you do at APG?

"Officially, I'm a marketing & communication consultant, but that's actually a catch-all term. One is a marketer, the other a content specialist. I'm a bit of an odd one out. The work I do is very diverse. I'm now a visual designer, because I'm now also involved in graphic design."

 

So what kind of work does it involve?

"For example, I prepare reports, but also the welcome card that pension participants receive and much more. The visual identity of a fund is extremely important. We manage people's money; a reliable, recognizable appearance is essential. Within APG, I mainly work for bpfBOUW, the pension fund for the construction industry."

 

How did you get here?

"I started at APG more than five years ago at the customer contact center, which is a good place to get to know the company and its customers. I then switched to the employers' desk, where I helped employers with collective agreement-related questions. After that, I became a content specialist at the marketing & communications department. In this position, I secured more and more graphic work. I was hired for that purpose too, I think. I've previously worked at an educational publishing company." 

 

What made you think: I'm going to work in the world of pensions, that's where it happens?

"Before APG, I was self-employed. I was constantly busy getting new assignments. Once I had children, I needed a little more security. In addition, I missed colleagues around me. I didn't have a lot of affinity with the pension world as such, but I do have a soft spot for construction. My now retired father worked in construction, and other family members still do. That's great fun, because they're my sounding board. If I have an idea, I present it to them; after all, they're the target group."

"Family members of mine work in construction. That's great fun, because they're my sounding board"

What did you do when you were self-employed?

"I was a photographer. I'm quite a careerist and that has taken me far. That's how I ended up in a book as one of the hundred best emerging photographers in the Netherlands. That was awesome."

 

Don't you miss your photography work?

"A bit, but luckily I still shoot regularly in my spare time. For bpfBOUW, I also take care of photography and video recordings with external parties. For example, we made a video about how a divorce affects your pension. I thought that was really fantastic, to find people who wanted to talk candidly about such a sensitive subject."

 

What gives you job satisfaction?

"I want to be able to make a difference. Taking photos is fun, but when I design something that makes people suddenly understand how to fill in something, I make a lot more impact. I have a weakness for target groups that, for example, have difficulty reading. It's a challenge for me to make content as simple as possible, so that it's accessible to everyone. You don't just do that in text, but also by using - say - two columns instead of one, so you get shorter sentences. And you can also make a huge difference with symbols and infographics. All information we provide must be clear, simple and well-arranged. It gives me satisfaction to contribute to that."

What qualities make you suitable for this job?

"My enthusiasm and creativity. I'm also someone who always thinks in possibilities: how can I achieve this?"

 

What does a working day look like for you?

"First, I check my email to see if anyone needs help. It could be anything; from editing a photo to posting a video to YouTube. People also often ask me whether I can check to see if something fits with the house style. Then I continue with my projects, such as the pension handbook. I don't have a specific daily routine. That also brings challenges; you have to plan everything well, because it's easy to be overwhelmed by the work. If you accept every small job, you no longer get to the most important work. But it wouldn't be like me to do the same thing every day. I like variety and change, I thrive on that."

 

What do you do when you're not at work?

"My son (6) and daughter (4) take up a lot of time. I like to take them on day trips, to the zoo for example. Other than that, I prefer to work. Yes, I'm a real workaholic."

 

How do people around you react when you tell them about your job?

"There's always a discussion about pensions and that there's nothing left for them. I then try to explain to them the importance of collectivity. That usually helps. If I tell them exactly what I do, they will understand why I'm here at APG. My friends will never think I have a boring job, they know me too well for that."

 

What do pension participants notice about your job?

"A lot, in my job, I make information more accessible and understandable for them. For example, we're currently working on a pension manual for employers. Many employers in the construction industry are informal. They're the first to know if something changes in the personal situation of their employees. For example, if someone is getting a divorce, the employer can provide a to-do list, including the aforementioned video, so that his employee knows exactly what to arrange. The smallest changes can make a big difference. To cite another example: forms were often not signed because they didn't have a specific field for that. Adding something as simple as that, and making a checklist with ticks - 'you must do this, you must hand it in this' - should improve things in the future. This also prevents forms having to be sent back and forth."

Volgende publicatie:
“Is the end of the trade conflict between Europe and the US good for the economy?”

“Is the end of the trade conflict between Europe and the US good for the economy?”

Published on: 4 November 2021

Current issues related to economics, (responsible) investment, pensions and income: every week, an APG expert provides a clear answer to the question of the week. This time: chief economist Thijs Knaap on what the end of the year-long trade dispute between the US and the EU means for our economy.  “It is a step in the right direction but the bigger picture around trade is globally negative.”


The trade war unleashed by US President Trump partly ended on 31 October 2021 - the fight with China is still in full swing, but on the US-European front tempers have calmed somewhat.  The conflict began on 1 June 2018 with the introduction of import tariffs by the US - 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum from the European Union, among others. The EU did not let that move go unanswered and raised import tariffs on a large number of US products from 5 percent to 31 percent. In addition to steel and aluminum, this also included products like motorcycles, cranberry juice, whisky, shoes and clothing.


With the suspension of these EU tariffs (which, additionally, were to be doubled on 1 December 2021) and the removal of a substantial portion of the US import duties on European steel, the hatchet seems to have been buried. How will we notice this in our economy?


Dirty steel

Knaap: “An economist is not happy about import tariffs, because they protect a country's industries artificially, which leads to inefficiency. If a country with a certain industry cannot compete in the world market on its own, it is better to import those products from countries that can make them cheaper. Economically, it is always better if everyone focuses on what they do best. In this respect, the recent agreement between the US and the EU is good news. At the same time, it is only a step in the right direction. Because the bigger global trend is that continents are actually sealing off their markets.”


And according to Knaap, it is not like all trade barriers between the US and Europe have disappeared. “The Harley-riding bourbon drinker can breathe a sigh of relief, because the import duties on it will disappear completely. But the Americans are more reticent when it comes to steel: the import duty will only disappear for a certain quantity of steel. Moreover, the US and the EU have indicated that they no longer want ‘dirty steel’. That may have to do with the environment - steel from China has a bigger ecological footprint - but they seem to be doing it mainly to protect Western producers from cheaper Chinese steel.”

 

Confrontation with vulnerabilities

Knaap is referring to the agreement that steel must be produced entirely in the EU/US trading bloc in order to qualify for duty-free status. This should prevent Chinese steel from undergoing the final minimal processing in Europe before being exported to the US.

 

“Protecting the Western world” seems to be related more to a strategic pursuit of independence than to protecting jobs. Knaap: “During the pandemic, countries were confronted with their vulnerabilities. Masks, for example, had to come from China, it was difficult to get respirators, and so on. People reconsidered whether they wanted to be dependent on others for such strategic products. Steel is a particularly strategic product, especially in military terms. China, too, aspires to this independence - as do Europe and the USA - and wants to be able to manufacture aircraft, cars, microchips, etc. itself. In any case, this will not lead to the protection of national jobs - one of Trump's political promises before the introduction of import duties on steel. Employment in the US steel industry first saw a modest upturn from 82,000 to 88,000 during the Trump administration, but then fell again and is now back to 82,000. Moreover, in the 1980s, it still employed 200,000 people. And this decrease has everything to do with increasing productivity per employee through automation. That effect is much stronger than that of an import tariff.”   


The real problem

The geopolitical factor, then, is where - from an economic point of view - the real problem for the global economy lies. “It is becoming more and more important. There is less and less understanding of globalization and trade in goods. Globalization is also less and less popular with politicians. As an economist I prefer to see it differently. It is certainly a sign of the times that we’re going to put more and more partitions between different parts of the world. So yes, the effect of ending the US-European trade conflict on the economy is positive, but limited. The larger trend shows declining economic globalization. That’s always inefficient and inconvenient. It’s at the expense of jobs and it will have a negative effect on global trade.” 

Volgende publicatie:
“Will our economy suffer from the tight labor market?”

“Will our economy suffer from the tight labor market?”

Published on: 26 August 2021

Volgende publicatie:
“Pension funds bear a huge responsibility, for the Netherlands of today and the future”

“Pension funds bear a huge responsibility, for the Netherlands of today and the future”

Published on: 29 July 2021

Annette Mosman took the reins as CEO of APG in March. She is hoping to gain as many inspirational insights as possible in the first months of her new job. That is why she is holding 25 meetings on her hike from Amsterdam to Heerlen. This was a journey through the Netherlands of Tomorrow, with a different person accompanying her on each leg of the trip. Her companions were colleagues, but also people from outside APG, like Tuur Elzinga, chairman of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation.

The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay and Pink: they all performed here. The Malieveld was their outdoor concert hall. That said, protesting trade unions also regularly take over the “Haagse grasveld,” the famous field in The Hague. There’s no doubt that Tuur Elzinga has also left many footprints in that field. His history with the trade union movement stretches back to 2002, when he was appointed as a policy officer at the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation. Almost twenty years on, he is now chairman of the trade union and employers’ and employees’ organizations since March 10 of this year, to be precise. He also represented the Socialist Party (SP) in the Upper House of the Senate for nine years. This means that he is as familiar with the green polders of the Netherlands as the green benches of the Senate.

 

Getting fat on the bones

Elzinga believes that things need to change in the Netherlands. In his opinion, the pandemic is a tipping point: the market-driven approach that has gone too far must make way for a revaluation of society. The pandemic has revealed how indispensable certain sectors are to our society, like health care, education and childcare.. “It is precisely those vital sectors that have fallen behind in recent years,” Elzinga reckons. Schools, hospitals and kindergartens have been run like businesses, and cut backs have been the order of the day. This has led to a shortage of ICU capacity, protective equipment and staff during the pandemic. “We need to get fat back on the bones again; we need proper reserves. That may not be very efficient, but it stops the whole of society from grinding to a halt when times get tough.”

 

Fears for the future 

The pandemic has also widened the gap between the poor – those with few prospects – and the rich. The Netherlands has become more prosperous in recent decades, but not everyone has benefited from this. The flexible labor market has put permanent jobs at risk and wages have not risen enough in line with profits. “Inequality has widened, and imbalances have occurred,” Elzinga tells us. Not to mention the climate crisis, from which there is no escape, both literally and figuratively, as we face extreme weather, forest fires and floods across the planet. Elzinga points out that this leads to unrest. “People are concerned about their own future and that of generations down the line. As a country, your sole aim may be to make as much money as possible, but what kind of home will we be leaving to our children and grandchildren if social cohesion is under pressure and our planet is being eroded?”

 

Plus another one million permanent jobs

Fortunately, the pandemic has also prompted politicians – from left to right – and some employers to realize that the Netherlands of Tomorrow demands change, believes Elzinga. He believes that we can start rebuilding the country without delay. We already have the blue print: broad-based prosperity for the whole of the Dutch population. That is the approach underlying the Social and Economic Council’s draft advice that trade unions and employers presented together this spring: a package of measures for the new cabinet. First and foremost, the labor market must be reformed: we must return to more permanent contracts, instead of flexible employment. Elzinga would like to see at least another one million permanent jobs. “People need job and income security. They want bread on the table, they must be able to pay the bills and have enough disposable income for their leisure time.”

The climate change price tag

Broad-based prosperity also calls for greater investments in public funds for vital sectors, like health care and education. For example, better terms of employment must stop the trend of having unmotivated employees: it may be more enticing to get out of bed in the mornings and take up the task of teaching if wages rise and work-related pressure is reduced. More must also be invested in the quality of public services, such as the Employee Insurance Agency, the tax authorities – here we have in mind the childcare benefit scandal – and yes, also pension administration. Elzinga says, “Better performance from institutions may also help to close the current gap in confidence.” For the long term, there needs to be substantial investment in tackling climate change. “We have to stop procrastinating and start addressing the issue. The longer we kick the can down the road, the higher the price tag will be.” So we need more funds to accelerate the energy transition, while at the same time being socially accountable by helping people who lose their jobs to get other work.  

   

Strong government required

Given the long societal wish list, the government can no longer keep its distance, Elzinga believes. Since the eighties, the maxim in The Hague has been: strong market forces, small government. “A market is a good for ensuring that there is enough to round, but you can’t leave everything to market forces,” Elzinga reckons. “We are now faced with the mess that the mantra of liberalization, privatization and deregulation has left us in.” Rebuilding the Netherlands calls for a stronger state, one that actively helps shape the society of the future through public participations and targeted investments, and legislation and regulation must ensure that market participants accept their social responsibility. This need for a government with a firm hand on the rudder does not stop at the borders. For example, Elzinga welcomes the G7 plan for a global minimum tax rate of 15 percent for multinationals. It will make tax avoidance through tax havens more difficult because it will put an end to competition among countries that lure foreign investors by having the lowest tax rates.

  

Tech giants

It is also crucial to have international regulations that curb the influence of Big Tech and Big Data. Elzinga adds, “Big tech companies are capitalizing on data that we as consumers are producing ourselves. They are using existing digital infrastructure, without giving anything in return.” The same is true of multinationals that are getting patents for innovations that they were not solely responsible for conceiving. After all, their smart employees are educated at publicly funded universities and draw on the body of knowledge that our knowledge-based society has accrued in centuries past-. We are standing on the shoulders of giants. “Data, knowledge, but also for example raw materials and energy sources such as the sun and wind and ultimately our entire planet: it belongs to all of us. What gives a handful of companies the right to claim ownership? Why should managers and shareholders be allowed to become wealthy beyond description from it, while employees and the rest of society have to make do with the crumbs?” says Elzinga.

I hope that one day it will no longer be necessary to strike

“Give employees control”

The pyramid must be turned upside down. That doesn’t call for revolution; instead it calls for a radical change in direction, through gradual, democratic means, according to Elzinga. He believes that the first tentative steps down this new path have been taken. Governments are slowly starting to take back their traditional role, companies are taking more responsibility for their environment and consumers, citizens and major investors are more inclined to hold them to account. The next step is to give employees and society a real say, Elzinga argues. “'Give those people who come up with all those innovative ideas a voice, the ones that do the real work, who are the actual rightful owners of companies’ products and services: all of us, in other words. Who’s the boss? Who decides? As it stands now, they are managers and shareholders; in the future we should all be able to be in charge.”

 

From shareholder return to social gains

In recent years, Elzinga has been conducting the negotiations for the pension agreement on behalf of employers’ and employees’ organizations of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation. It’s a historic agreement; designed to keep old-age provisions affordable going forward, without abandoning the principle of solidarity. “In the new system, the contributions you have accrued are reflected more directly in your own pension accrual, but we will still ensure that people who are not so fortunate in their careers will also be able to have a good pension, and we will spread the risks across the generations.” That said, Elzinga believes that the pension discussion is far from over. If interest rates remain this low in the coming years and investment returns structurally decline in the future, as predicted, then it will not be possible to keep the promise of an indexed-linked pension and the trust gap in society will widen. Pension funds could then take the next step: from shareholder return to social gains.

 

Pension benefits in kind? 

Elzinga explains, “Pension funds should examine the needs people have later in life. Do they then only need money? Or would they rather have a nice place to live, good care and quality of life? Invest in that directly as a pension fund; put pension money into new kinds of housing for senior citizens, good care for the elderly and restoring social infrastructure, so that it is to hand when people need it.” This would be a type of pension in kind. And why only invest in provisions for old age? Pension funds can also be used to improve today’s society. Here we have in mind investments in the tight housing market – which mainly affects young generations – or in good education, for a robust Netherlands of Tomorrow. Elzinga adds, “Pension funds have major assets and that means they bear a huge responsibility, for the Netherlands of today and the future.” 

 

An end to strikes

During the pension agreement negotiations, the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation, together with the National Federation of Christian Trade Unions in the Netherlands and the Trade Union for Professionals, halted train traffic for a day to apply pressure for a slower rise in the state pension age. What does Elzinga think: will there still be strikes in the Netherlands of Tomorrow? “I suspect so. In the meantime, there will be conflicts of interest between employers and their workforces. But I hope that one day it will no longer be necessary to strike: if employees are given a real say, they can be part of the decision-making process and conflicts of interest will become a thing of the past. If you are the boss, there’s no need for you to strike.” So the Malieveld of the future will be solely for the successors of The Stones and Coldplay, in other words: the ultimate festival grounds? Elzinga laughs, “Yes, that’s where we’ll gather to simply have a good time, do stuff we enjoy or celebrate together, for example, the great pension system that we have in the Netherlands.”      

Volgende publicatie:
“I quickly put aside all the letters I receive on my pension”

“I quickly put aside all the letters I receive on my pension”

Published on: 27 January 2021

How do you deal with work and money for now and in the future? Do you live from day to day or are you deliberately planning your financial future? And do you arrange ‘later’ yourself or are you a member of a pension fund?

Marielle van Ramshorst works as a manager at a location organizing daily activities, is the owner of a dance school and a trainer.

 

Marielle van Ramshorst (35)

Profession: manager at a location organizing daily activities, dance teacher and trainer/coach

Weekly works: more than 40 hours (in non-corona times)

Income: between 1875 and 4375 euro per month

Savings: 13,000 euro

Pension is arranged? Partly

How did you arrange your pension?

“I am a member of a pension fund through my employer. In addition, I have created a pension pot on my savings account. That account holds some funds, but I have not yet delved into the purpose of that money.”

 

What kind of work do you do?

“I manage the team working at a location organizing daily activities for people who, for any reason, are unable to perform paid work. Besides that, I am the owner of a salsa dance school where I also teach lessons and I started working last year as an independent trainer and coach. In that latter capacity, I help single women looking for a relationship to find out why they are still single. I met a lot of ladies at the dance school struggling with questions in that area and that’s how the idea was born. I use plenty of movement during my trainings because that’s the way to experience and feel things differently than if you would only look at it rationally.”

 

So, you started your coaching business in times of corona?

“That’s correct and it’s not the most ideal time. I was only able to finish one training in full so far. The next one was scheduled for January, 2021, but we had to postpone that training as a result of the corona restrictions.”

 

How many hours do you work a week?

“Twenty hours per week at the location organizing daily activities. Usually about twenty hours per week at the salsa dance school as well, but that work has come to a standstill due to corona. I spend approximately four hours per week on the training and coaching activities and a bit more when a training is about to happen. My goal is to provide a training once every three months.”

 

That is more than fulltime.

“Yes, but it doesn’t really feel like work. I work long hours, but a large part of it involves a hobby that got out of hand.” 

 

How much do you earn?

“Around 1875 euro net per month at the location organizing daily activities. My income varies somewhat at the dance school. At the moment, I earn approximately 300 euro per month which used to be around 1000 euro per month. A training earns me between 1000 and 1500 euro, depending on the number of participants.”

 

Are you satisfied with that income?

“Yes, it’s enough to make ends meet. I believe it should be possible to earn more money offering coaching, but it’s a difficult time for those activities right now. Of course, you earn a lot less having three participants in your training instead of allowing twenty people to join.”

How much do you pay on fixed costs?

“Around 1400 euro if I add up my mortgage, electricity, internet and insurances.”

 

What else do you spend your money on?

“Spotify, Netflix, that kind of things. My girlfriends and I also have a pot for ‘fun things’ in which we deposit 20 euro per month. We organize something fun to do when that account holds enough funds. A day to the sauna or a wellness resort for example, with an overnight stay in a cottage surrounded by nature and great food. It feels good to have already saved that money, so you no longer miss it.”

 

How much money do you have on your own savings account?

“Around 13,000 euro. That really makes me happy, I never had that much money saved before. I probably still have to pay a large part of it to the tax authorities though.”

 

Do you think about your old age often?

“Not really. I realize things have to be arranged, but I always worked a lot more hours in paid employment previously and never had to worry about my pension. The topic is discussed sometimes in the business club I meet once a month. Expressions such as ‘pension gap’ and ‘annual margin’ are uttered which makes me think: Well, that’s really interesting, but I don’t put my thoughts into action. I really have to start making arrangements this year.”

 

How much pension would you receive on a monthly basis should you be 67 years old now?

“Good question, not a lot I presume. I always quickly put aside the letters I receive on that topic. Wait, I will get one of those letters… Right, I have been accruing pension since 2002 and the statement says I will receive a gross amount of 18,000 annually. I believe my annual income is much higher right now, so it doesn’t sound as if that payment allows me to do plenty of fun stuff. It also doesn’t frighten me because I didn’t expect it to be a huge amount. This amount will not be enough to make ends meet, but I have hopefully paid off my mortgage by then which makes a bit of a difference. And I will also receive a state’s pension (AOW) of course.”

 

What could be arranged better?

“I still have to arrange a pension plan for my own business. I want to find out the options that are available. What is a wise thing to do in my situation, being partly in paid employment and partly self-employed? I really have to delve into the topic much more.”

Volgende publicatie:
APG once again Dutch Top Employer

APG once again Dutch Top Employer

Published on: 26 January 2021

APG can also call itself Top Employer Netherlands in 2021. The title has been awarded to the pension provider by the Top Employers Institute for the fourteenth time in a row. This organization conducts independent research worldwide into good employment practices, HR policy and employment conditions.

 

Compared to 63 other certified organizations, APG scores well in the field of leadership and workforce planning, i.e. deploying the right employees with the right skills in the right place.

 

Read more about working at APG

Volgende publicatie:
APG addresses cause of pay gap between men and women

APG addresses the cause of the pay gap between men and women

Published on: 11 November 2020

Pay gap caused by less steep career path women

 

Equal work has to be equally rewarded. That was the reason for closing the appeared salary gap between men and women at APG in one go in June 2019. This required a salary increase for 125 women. And to prevent a new gap from arising, APG then conducted an extensive investigation into the causes. The explanatory factor appears to be that women at APG are less often and less quickly promoted, meaning their salary also increases less quickly. HR director Marloes Sengers provides an explanation.

 

APG want to close the salary gap of 2.2 percent durably and fundamentally. The organization therefore had to assess the underlying causes. Both quantitative and qualitative (interviews) have been conducted to find out the reasons behind this pay gap.

 

What were the results of the investigation?

Sengers: “First of all, it appeared that this inexplicable difference in pay does not arise upon commencement of employment. In other words: women enter APG with the same starting salary as men. Second, the difference also doesn’t appear to arise as a result of the annual performance reviews. Women are assessed equally well compared to men. However, where we do notice a difference is when it comes to promotion. Female APG employees appear to be promoted less often than male employees. That is less the case though for women who are working under the leadership of a female manager. Moreover, women appear to be promoted less quickly than men, so it takes longer for them to get a promotion. And in the latter case, it doesn’t seem to make a difference whether they have a male or female manager.”

 

What is the conclusion APG draws from these results?

"The conclusion we draw is that the salary path of women runs less steep because their career path runs less steep.”

 

Shouldn’t you rather talk about a career or promotion gap instead of a salary gap given these outcomes?

“Yes, you could call it that in a way, and the one is related to the other. But that was not the primary focus of our investigation. We focused on explaining the pay gap of 2.2 percent between men and women, and that resulted in this difference in promotion perspective. 

 

How do you explain that less steep career path of female employees?

“We are safe to say that this is not caused by the promotion or internal recruitment policy. That policy is no different for women as it is for men. However, we were able to conclude based on the interviews that a man is more likely to consider himself a good candidate for a higher position, compared to a woman. Women are less focusing on getting promoted. On the contrary, women who get promoted often indicate to be asked for or made aware of the higher position. Women are less likely to feel qualified for a certain career move. Slightly exaggerated: where a man already dares to apply if he meets four out of ten job requirements, women don’t even consider themselves to be sufficiently qualified if they meet nine out of ten.”

 

APG has closed that gap of 2.2 percent last year by raising the salary of 125 female colleagues. Could we say that they received a salary increase for a promotion not made?

“In a certain sense you could indeed say that they were compensated for the difference in promotion perspective. That has been rectified one time. And because it is so important for this not to happen again, we conducted this follow-up investigation.”

 

What will APG do with these results?

“We take this very seriously, especially because we also want equal pay for equal work in the long term. Anything different simply doesn’t fit the APG we want to be. In order to close that gap structurally and durably, we have, to begin with, entered into a dialog internally. We present a few questions, such as: why is it that women with a male manager are less likely to get promoted than women with a female manager? What’s the reason behind it? Based on the answer to those kinds of questions, we look at possible interventions, aiming at awareness among both women and managers. We are already paying a lot of attention to equal opportunities. Internally, we are organizing unconscious bias trainings and the senior management commits to the theme. We encourage managers to apply diversity to their teams and to be a role model in that respect. Moreover, we explicitly include the theme succession planning, promotion and attracting talent. As of 2021, we will apply a new HR cycle in which we also want to include the conversation on future perspective more explicit.”

Volgende publicatie:
People in their thirties see work satisfaction sooo very differently than people in their fifties

“People in their thirties think anyone who works more than 40 hours a week is nuts.”

Published on: 23 September 2020

This week is National Vitality Week. That means: a lot of attention for vitality and work satisfaction. Younger and older employees sometimes have very different views about the latter. Overall, what are the biggest differences? “People in their thirties think anyone who works more than 40 hours a week is nuts.”

 

Work satisfaction is a flexible concept. Generation X (born between 1955-1970), has a different understanding of it than the millennials (1985-2000), or Gen-Z (2000-2015). The older generation, to a greater extend, lives to work, while younger people really value their private life and their lifestyle. Generation strategist Marjolein Risseeuw knows all about this. She helps teams to bridge the differences in the workplace, gives online and offline workshops (corona-proof), and wrote the book Zó X! Hoe de Nieuwe Leiders Talenten in Organisaties Verbinden (So X! How the New Leaders Connect Talents in Organizations). We asked her what the views of people in their thirties and fifties are regarding the various aspects of their professional lives.

 

Sense of duty and authority

30: “Young people don’t want a hierarchy; they want equality. They want to use their talents. They want trust and freedom. Inspiration instead of commands. Not a job for life, but to make an impact. They’re happy to do something for you, but you have to gain their trust first.”

50: ”They want power, but they also need to show the capacity for empathy, find out what occupies the minds of young people and not just issue orders. They still lean heavily towards procedures and meetings. They make deliberate decisions based on much more information than people in their thirties. They see this as being committed to the company. Lifetime employment is still a thing for many in this age group.”

Young people want freedom, trust, inspiration and equality

Reward

30: “They value the internal more than the external. Company cars are out. They are increasingly opting for more of a self-employment existence and temporary contracts. An employment contract is no longer a status symbol for them; the work atmosphere is much more important. They are looking for an inspiring work environment.”

50: “Older people, particularly people in their sixties, are often the breadwinners. They need their salaries to support the family. The traditional nuclear family, where (usually) the husband works to pay the mortgage and the wife (usually) takes care of the kids. There is a bit of a reversal around age 50; many women are gradually becoming the breadwinners at that age.”

 

Leisure time

30: “They think anyone who works more than forty hours a week is nuts. They really manage their own work time. For them, work and private life are divided 24/7. They are ambitious enough, and they also want personal appreciation, but only when the time is right for them. I call it restrained freedom. To start with, they’re already working three or four days a week, instead of five. They use their leisure time much more concretely, for example, by fundraising for good causes, or other social-societal initiatives.”

50: “They feel that if they’re working forty hours a week they’re doing well. The work-private life balance is very important to 80 percent of them and they keep the two separated. They often see leisure time as time to spend with the kids. There is a difference between men and women. Men who go and watch a soccer match on a Wednesday afternoon call that leisure time during work, whereas mothers will take a day off for it. In this way the woman is often a thief of her own wallet.”

 

Working from home

30: “People used to move for their work, but that’s no longer happening. Young people think it’s enough that they are available and accessible. Self-direction and personal development are very important to them. With the great increase in working from home, currently, we are seeing that they are developing some physical and mental issues; the traditional mouse arm is back. They really need to protect the boundaries of the work-private life balance. When they’re working from home, they need to learn to take a step back from their work.”

50: “In the past, many senior managers believed that working from home was not possible. They wanted coworkers to be absolutely available, so that they could just walk over to their office for a meeting. That has really changed since corona. Now they like working from home, particularly because of the freedom. They do need very clear goals and a strong footing. Phone contact is very important to them; they like to hear a voice.”

 

Retraining and further training

30: “They choose a company for the development opportunities they will get there. But, because of their individualism, they keep having to motivate themselves. You have to offer them an environment where they can easily learn and develop themselves.”

50: “They like coaching and many seniors are good at it too. They certainly have a degree of curiosity to keep learning. But it does have to fit in with their frame of reference. Among people in their sixties we see less capacity for self-reflection; after all they have hardly ever done any coaching.”

 

Retirement

30: “They look at retirement very differently than people who are now in their fifties did when they were in their thirties. Young people are mostly focused on how things fit into their lifestyle and definitely not on their retirement. They switch jobs often and get a lot more satisfaction from social projects. Only the ones that already have a family and a mortgage are thinking a bit more about their financial future.”

50: “Twenty years ago they were much more focused on their career planning, salary and steady job to pay the mortgage. That also included a contribution to their pension. And if you changed jobs, they used the term pension loss. Young people are not familiar with that term.”

Work satisfaction: what exactly does that mean, now and in the future? We asked Roxy and Rob, two people from different generations.

 

“Certainty, hard work and enjoyment”

 

Roxy van Dijk (27) is a consultant/mortgage broker at Viisi.

“Work satisfaction to me is first and foremost certainty That includes a good salary and benefits. Next, self-development and work culture are very important to me. At Viisi, you have the freedom to pick up other work in addition to your position. Working hard and celebrating successes together are part of that culture here. We are all there for each other when it’s busy, but also for personal challenges. I obviously have a long way to go before I retire, but I’m consciously working on my pension. Purchasing my own home is a good step. I also contribute to an additional pension plan through Brand New Day on my own. But it’s also very important to me to live in the moment and enjoy life. Sometimes it takes a bit of exploring to find the right balance.”

 

 

“Going home feeling satisfied at the end of the day”

 

Rob Monissen (59) is personal aide in social care at Koraal.

“Work satisfaction is the conviction that you’re doing something that helps others. It also means you have nice coworkers and that you go home feeling satisfied at the end of the day. In practice, this means that it varies from day to day and it depends on a number of factors. Although my work gives me a lot of satisfaction, I am looking forward to doing things I enjoy, when the times comes for me to retire. I will combine this with volunteer work, as much as body and mind will allow it. There are things that I’m already looking forward to now. The count-down has begun, despite the fact that I have a varied job right now.”

Volgende publicatie:
“Getting a taste of the Champions League of Asset Management”

“Getting a taste of the Champions League of Asset Management”

Published on: 3 April 2020

A new group of trainees will start at APG on October 1st. And despite the current situation caused by the corona crisis, the vacancies for this traineeship have been unfulfilled since April 1st. The feisty procedure takes a few months to complete. Hans Rademaker, starting as a trainee himself in 1987 at Van Lanschot Kempen, meanwhile holds the position of Chief Fiduciary Officer and is a member of the Management Board of APG AM. In addition, he oversees the traineeships.

 

What does a traineeship at APG Asset Management involve?

“This is a two years’ program where trainees sign up for a certain process, for example at Portfolio Management, Operations & IT or Finance & Risk. They carry out four assignments in these two years, which means they get to know APG pretty well. Not only the way in which we work, but also our standards and values. Apart from the substantive knowledge required, a great deal of attention is also paid to personal development. They go through the entire process with the other trainees who joined us this round and such group often continues to be tight for quite some time. The program results in valuable contacts for the remainder of your career at APG. This means we have very powerful people at the end of those two years who we are happy to employ as colleagues.

The ultimate goal is for these trainees to be employed by APG after two years and this job guarantee is offered by us. This assures the trainee that he or she doesn’t have to apply for an internal vacancy once the traineeship has ended. We obviously pay close attention to the match between the needs of the trainees and those of the organization when offering a job.”

 

Why should a young professionals choose APG?

“APG offers amazing opportunities as the trainees gain experience at one of the largest pension providers in the world. Specifically, when you look at Asset Management, the trainees will be dealing with portfolio management on a scale only a few organizations of this size have. We conduct business with parties belonging to the top of the world, ourselves included. As a trainee, you are allowed to get a taste of the Champions League of Asset Management. That may sound a bit arrogant, but that’s just the way it is.”

 

What type of trainees are we looking for?

“We are looking for people who, first of all, are able to identify with the social role of APG. Someone who preferably engages in commercial goals is not a right fit for us. The people at APG are ultimately working for our participants and, besides good financial returns, we also have the obligation to realize a good social return.

 

In addition, and no less important, the trainees must be able to help us digitalizing further. Affinity with digitalization is a must to move forward in the digital world. We have to achieve a situation in which everyone can work anytime, anyplace, anywhere at any device and with the same information. Not only for us, but also for our clients. That calls for an entirely different way of handling information. Take, for example, annual reports and news articles: instead of analyzing these manually, we want to start the process of using algorithms to scan the annual reports and other news articles after which the particulars are presented to us. That has to be something a trainee is interested in and he or she must have the competence to contribute to similar initiatives.

 

Motivation, passion, interest and drive are just as important as a good education and good basic skills. If you are a digital illiterate, it will become very difficult to keep up and to make a valuable contribution.”

 

What does APG itself want to achieve with this?

“One of the goals we are also looking to achieve with the trainee program is more diversity in the broadest sense of the word. Not only the ratio between men and women, but also the ratio between young and old is important. We also strive to employ people from different cultures and so it’s very convenient that also English-speaking trainees from different countries and cultures are more than welcome at Asset Management.”

 

What would you like to say to future trainees, do you have a tip?

“My advice is: invest in yourself during the trainee period. Don’t expect to be handed a great job on a platter without having to work for it really hard. I always say that you also have to perform certain chores, show endurance and have patience to eventually end up in the position you strive for. And I don’t mean that disrespectfully. Every job will involve tasks that need to be done and that nobody really likes. But by taking on also those less desirable tasks, you can learn a lot and are able to prove yourself. And if you do, I’m sure you will make it!”

Volgende publicatie:
APG Top Employer for the twelfth time

APG Top Employer for the twelfth time

Published on: 8 February 2019

APG has been named Top Employer Netherlands for the twelfth year..

 

APG has been named Top Employer Netherlands for the twelfth year. The award is only given to employers who demonstrate that they offer the best career opportunities, organizational culture, working conditions, development opportunities and working conditions. And we're proud of that

 

This year APG scored particularly high on leadership development and career opportunities. Wondering about the career opportunities at Top Employer APG? Go to www.werkenbijapg.nl.

Volgende publicatie:
Variable compensation at APG

Variable compensation at APG

Published on: 16 May 2017

There’s a lot of talk at the moment in the media and the political world about variable compensation at APG. We´d like to offer an explanation about the developments, background and coming changes on this subject.

 

Variable compensation at APG only for investment company employees

Partly due to social discussions held earlier, APG decided, together with its stakeholders, to adapt its remuneration policy. Since 1 January 2016, APG Group no longer offers any variable compensation for the vast majority of its over 3,300 employees. Only some employees in the Asset Management business unit qualify for variable compensation. That business unit also has offices in the United States and Hong Kong, where variable compensation constitutes a larger share of overall compensation than at APG in the Netherlands. For the compensation-of these employees abroad, a balance is sought between what is acceptable in the Netherlands and what is typical in the local job market and thus necessary for binding good employees to APG. The level of the variable compensation is therefore higher abroad.

 

Investments made as much as possible by own employees in order to save costs

APG Asset Management’s policy focuses on making investments as much as possible using internal professionals, firstly in order to have tighter control over the implementation and secondly, in order to keep the costs of investments as low as possible for our clients and their participants. For this we have to attract and retain qualified employees and therefore assume relatively higher wage costs, but in so doing we save substantially on the costs compared to external implementation. This requires a remuneration policy that fits the local job markets - which happen to be two of the world´s most important financial centers.

 

In 2016 APG achieved a net return of over € 40 billion

The reason why APG also has offices abroad and wishes to invest as much as possible internally is to be able to achieve the maximum return for participants. In 2016, for the pension funds on whose behalf it invested, APG Asset Management attained a net return of more than € 40 billion, which directly benefits the participants of those funds. Good investment results in turn have an impact on the level of the variable compensation that is paid out. The net return obtained for the funds ABP, bpfBOUW, SPW and PPF APG over the past five years (2012-2016) amounted to more than € 164 billion.

 

Variable compensation in 2016 virtually equal to 2015

Over 2016 the variable compensation for employees of APG Asset Management amounted to € 31.5 million euros. Because for the most part this concerns employees in the foreign offices, fluctuations in the dollar’s exchange rate have an impact on the amount of this compensation. Measured in local currency, the relevant compensations are in line with 2015.

 

Further tightening of variable compensation

Partly in connection with the social discussion on variable compensation, APG is currently looking at whether the bonuses in the Asset Management business unit in the Netherlands can be further tightened.

Volgende publicatie:
Self-employed (zzp'er) does not use an average of 1,450 euros in tax credits

Self-employed (zzp'er) does not use an average of 1,450 euros in tax credits

Published on: 2 November 2016

ZZPs (Self-Employed Person without staff) hardly make use of the tax scheme designed to make pension savings more appealing. Independent entrepreneurs not making extensive use of this scheme means they miss hundreds to thousands of euros in tax credits. This scheme is worth considering at incomes exceeding 1,000 euros per month. Over 70% of the ZZPs is not aware of this scheme. This is apparent from online surveys of ZZP Pension, conducted among 200 ZZPs in late September.

 

Not aware of pension solutions

In the survey, ZZPs indicate they do not know much about the various pension solutions. Only 15 percent of the entrepreneurs surveyed assesses their own knowledge on this theme as ‘good’.  A vast majority of ZZPs (70%) is not or hardly at all aware of the so-called annual margin scheme. Within this scheme, it is possible to use an amount for supplementary pension accrual. This amount can subsequently be deducted from the income in the tax return. Of the independent self-employed and freelancers surveyed, 29% makes use of this scheme, among others via ZZP Pension.

 

Click here to read the full press release on the ZZP Pension website (only available in Dutch).

 

About ZZP Pension

ZZP Pensioen (ZZP Pension) is initiated by Stichting ZZP Nederland (ZZP Foundation Netherlands), Zelfstandigen Bouw, FNV Zelfstandigen and Vereniging Platform Zelfstandige Ondernemers (PZO-ZZP) and Loyalis. These organizations have joined forces in Stichting ZZP Pension with the objective of encouraging pension accrual for and by self-employed people employing no personnel. ZZP Pension is a non-mandatory retirement pension, including the accrual phase up to retirement date and the pension benefit / annuity process. The participant personally determines the pay-out period of the pension scheme and how much or when the premium amounts are paid in. This scheme’s competitive edge are its life cycle accrual and its low cost, which is comparable to the cost of a group pension scheme. ZZP Pension offers the participants insight into the value of their accrued pension through an online portal.

 

Visit www.zzppensioen.nl for more information.