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From multigenerational living to tiny houses. And from informal care to residential care homes. The way we live together in society is subject to trends and challenges. Read all about it on this page.

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“We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it”

Published on: 15 March 2023

Was everything better in the past, or does “now” have its advantages? Different generations discuss social issues on the basis of propositions. This time Nazima Ramdin (54) and her daughter Shanna (27) and son Lorenzo (22).


Nazima (54) lives in The Hague, Netherlands with her fiancé. Lorenzo and Shanna are her two kids from her first marriage. Her fiancé has four kids and ten grandchildren. Nazima calls herself a real family person. She works in the central government and sits on various boards. She has also had her own business.

Lorenzo about his mother: “My mom is always there for me and is also my brainstorming partner when it comes to my business. We have a lot of fun together, but we can also work together. My mom is a born networking queen.”

Shanna about her mother: “A bond between a mother and daughter is indescribable. Ours has only grown stronger over the years. I always appreciate being able to ask her for advice.”


Shanna (27) lives near Rotterdam with her fiancé. She works in a hotel in the Meeting & Events department. She is also into fitness and healthy eating.

Nazima about her daughter: “Shanna and I have a strong, loving bond and we look an awful lot alike. She does not live and work in the same place, unfortunately, so we don’t see each other as often as I’d like, but with modern technology we can at least ‘see’ each other digitally, on Facetime. Shanna is a warm and spontaneous person.” 


Lorenzo (22) lives in The Hague by himself. He is a self-employed video/filmmaker. He inherited entrepreneurship from his great-grandfather, his father and his mother, who were all entrepreneurs.

Nazima about her son: “Lorenzo and I not only have a tremendously strong, loving bond, we are also very similar in our actions. Because he lives so close, we see each other often. Once a week we have dinner together. Lorenzo is caring, helpful and spontaneous.”

Proposition: We are looking after each other less and less

Nazima: “In our (Hindu) culture, solidarity is a great thing. Our traditions come from Indian and Surinamese culture, mixed with Dutch culture. In Hindu culture, it is very common for older and younger people to take care of each other. Shanna and Lorenzo helped care for their great-grandfather and great-grandmother when they got older and went into a nursing home; it was natural. In that nursing home, I did see a lot of lonely elderly people. Still, in general, I don’t think we are looking after each other less and less. On the contrary.”

Lorenzo: “I agree with my mom on that. Just look at the pandemic. People cared about each other especially at that time. I think it brought us closer together as people because we experienced what it is like to be isolated from each other.”

Shanna: “Right. Things we took for granted before suddenly became special. I think we value simple human contact even more now.”

Nazima: “We do live in a country where everyone is concerned with ‘how can I create the best life for myself and my family?’ We all strive for greater prosperity, good-better-best. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of our charity. I always try to put that first in my family. Take care of yourself, but also of each other.”


Proposition: In the Netherlands we are behind in women’s rights

Nazima: “I think for the most part, we are doing quite well. We have institutions like SER, and the government provides all kinds of guidelines for including women. I think it is great that we have the option to work part-time, for example. In general, it is really good. But, of course, there is always room for improvement, so that everyone can participate regardless of the differences. And by that I mean man/woman, color, background or religion. And the #MeToo movement also caused a change. Together, we can make sure that it is not taken for granted that men have dominance - referring to the so-called seven check marks. I believe that we can make a difference for the future through the way we raise our kids. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and try to make the world a little better ourselves.”

Shanna: “I agree that we are well on our way, but we are not yet where we need to be. For example, street harassment is still a big problem. Respect for women still leaves something to be desired here and there.”

Lorenzo: “Yes, there are things that could be better. For example, there are still far too few women in top positions in the Netherlands. And worst of all, there is still a wage gap between men and women. Women should obviously earn as much as men.”

Nazima: “It makes me proud to hear my son say that.”


Proposition: The gap between rich and poor is only going to get bigger

Nazima: “I certainly hope not. We are a prosperous country; no one should live in poverty here.”

Lorenzo: “I think and fear that that gap is only getting bigger. Now that everything is so much more expensive, more and more people are having financial problems.”

Shanna: “You read so many stories about people who can’t even pay their gas bills. It is terrible that we have to experience something like that in the Netherlands.”

Lorenzo: “But I do think it’s positive that there are now new ways to make money. ‘Wealth’ has become more attainable for everyone, now that an ordinary person can invest in shares or set up a webshop relatively easily.”


Proposition: A good life is attainable for everyone in the Netherlands

Nazima: “Yes, I think that’s true. If you’re open and curious, do your best in terms of getting education and training and work, I believe you can get opportunities and grab them. Nothing comes of its own accord, but if you work at it, a good life is attainable for anyone. Even though it is not by default. I’m seeing that, unfortunately, there is a lot of poverty in the Netherlands and that some old people are not making ends meet, for example. Fortunately, there are agencies that are helping, like the Food Bank, but it would be much better if they are no longer needed.”

Shanna: “I also definitely think that if you get an education, you can work your way up in society. Everyone basically has the chance to develop themselves and make something of it, although that may be a little easier for some than others.”

Lorenzo: “I agree. There is so much work available right now that anyone who can work should theoretically be able to find a job. In some ways, we might have it too good in the Netherlands. Many people are doing okay even though they only work four days a week, while in other countries people often have to work six days a week.”


Proposition: Today’s youth has it too easy

Shanna: “Hmm, I think today’s youth may lack a bit of the hard-worker mentality that used to be there. Trainees at my work are sometimes really less serious, they have an attitude like ‘whatever...’ That seems a bit spoiled.”

Lorenzo: “I don’t think young people have it too easy. In some ways, I'd say we are even an unlucky generation. For example, buying a house is much more difficult for us than for previous generations.”

Nazima: “You’re right about that. Today’s youth has it easy, but not too easy.”


Proposition: Technological advancement is good by definition

Nazima: “It is, if you look at what is possible in the medical world today. But it can get scary when robotics starts taking over human behavior. A doll as a replacement for your partner, for example, should we want that? It also shouldn’t come at the expense of jobs. If everything becomes so automated that people are no longer needed, it will be disastrous for social contact.”

Shanna: “Self-scanning checkouts are already very impersonal. You used to have a chat with the cashier, now you don’t have to talk to anyone. Where will this end?”

Lorenzo: “I do support technological progress. Look at all that has been invented in the last 30 years. It has made many things easier and more efficient.”

Nazima: “Technological innovation is good. If you see all the things that are possible that allow us, for example, to make the world cleaner and more sustainable, medical advances and so on, it’s good. But we have to ask ourselves: where is the limit, how far are we willing to go? I think that is an ethical issue.”


Proposition: Everything was better in the past

Nazima: “Everything was different; not necessarily better.”

Lorenzo: “I think I actually like the present time better. Yes, there are all kinds of crises, but we still have better lives than people used to have.”

Shanna: “It seems to me that there used to be a lot more time. We are on a speeding train and hardly ever have time for ourselves or for doing something fun. Hopefully the Covid pandemic has made us realize how valuable certain things are. Maybe that will bring some change.”

Nazima: “You have a point there. You really have to block time in your calendar now for personal contact. We want to be everywhere, participate everywhere. And technological developments mean we can do much more. But as long as we have an eye for the people around us, our loved ones, friends, family and loved ones, it’s always good.”

Volgende publicatie:
Is criticism of the Dutch business climate by big companies justified?

Is criticism of the Dutch business climate by big companies justified?

Published on: 23 February 2023

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: Thijs Knaap, chief economist at APG, on whether our country’s business climate is under pressure.


When it comes to competitiveness, the Netherlands still scores high in international rankings. However, these rankings are based on historical data, argues VNO-NCW president Ingrid Thijssen in an opinion piece in De Volkskrant and a letter to the House of Representatives. In it she expresses her concerns about the future of the Dutch business climate just as our country is gearing up for the fundamental transition to a new, sustainable economy. Earlier, Boskalis’ top executive threatened that the dredging company would leave the Netherlands if parliament passed the Responsible and Sustainable International Business Act. Is the business community’s criticism justified and is it true that the business climate here is under pressure?

To answer this question, Knaap cites the framework by which APG, as an institutional investor, determines whether or not to invest in a country. He says this involves three questions. “In a nutshell, the first question is economic in nature: is there money to be made? Suppose you want to open a factory, for example, you want to know what raw materials are available and whether the labor force is well-trained. The second question is about who has the power. If you invest in something, you want certainty in advance about the political climate, taxes and regulations. And then there is question three: how much does it cost to open or invest in a business somewhere?”


The first two questions, about economic conditions and who has the power, are reflected in VNO-NCW’s letter, Knaap observes. “It talks about the infrastructure, the level of education of young people and the regulatory pressure from the government, among other things. But what they don’t mention is the cost of establishing a business here. That is a change though, because previously, the employers’ lobby always pushed for wage restraint. That resulted in many companies moving here in the 1980s and 1990s. Now the wind seems to be blowing from a different direction, and the employers’ organization is arguing that we should focus on knowledge, innovation and infrastructure, among other things. The fact that the issue of cost is not mentioned is also not that surprising. There is a record shortage in the labor market, so it makes sense to focus on how people can work as efficiently as possible and pay less attention to (wage) costs. It does say something about what hurdles currently need to be overcome in the Netherlands.”

Thijs Knaap

On a number of points, VNO-NCW certainly has a point, Knaap suggests. “For example, they are concerned about the declining PISA scores (international comparative research that tests the skills of 15-year-olds, ed.) of Dutch students in terms of reading and writing. Those scores are indeed falling, and you could also say that there is quite a lot of regulatory pressure in the Netherlands.” What the employers’ lobby proposes for maintaining the business climate is fine, the economist continues. “After all, no one will object to people being better educated or new clean energy networks being built. At the same time, however, you then fail to recognize that other social aspects are receiving less attention. VNO-NCW looks at the world as an entrepreneur. However, most people are consumers and employees and other things are important to them, such as equality. If many people feel disrespected, the high trust society can be put at risk.”


It is precisely this high trust society, a scientific term, that is one of the reasons why the Netherlands ranks so high in international rankings, Knaap said. “Social trust is positive for the business climate. It ensures that as an entrepreneur you don’t have to worry so much about whether a counterparty will keep the agreements made. This trust is an important public good that we have all built up together. It comes under pressure when there is great inequality in society.” That is going on now to some extent, according to Knaap. “There’s a tension there. If, as a government, you invest in infrastructure and put little in the way of businesses, that can conflict with the aim of using higher wages and taxes to help lower income groups get ahead financially. The danger of only listening to companies is that you only hear one side of the issue, even though as a government you have a responsibility for the whole of society.” While VNO-NCW's concerns are justified on some points, “ultimately it is an interplay of many, many factors that determine whether a country is attractive,” Knaap concludes.

Volgende publicatie:
Does it make economic sense to tax big fortunes more heavily?

Does it make economic sense to tax big fortunes more heavily?

Published on: 26 January 2023

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 the pros and cons of a higher tax rate for wealthy people, called for at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “A higher tax rate for big fortunes can be an effective means of reducing wealth inequality and stimulating economic growth.”

“End the age of extreme wealth. Tax the ultra rich.”
The open letter from The Patriotic Millionaires, a group of more than 200 American millionaires, left no mistake about the solution to the widening gap between rich and poor worldwide. The group pointed out that the ten richest men in the world doubled their wealth in the first two years of the pandemic, while 99 percent of the world’s population saw their income shrink. Their proposal: a progressive wealth tax worldwide - 2 percent for wealth over $5 million, 3 percent for wealth over $50 million and 5 percent for those who amassed more than a billion dollars.

Concentrated wealth

What is the effect of more taxes on big fortunes? Does The Patriotic Millionaires’ proposal make economic sense? In principle, yes, says Knaap. And that has a macroeconomic and a political reason. “First, it is important to ask: what do people do with their money? Those with large fortunes appear to save and invest a large part of their wealth and thus spend only a small part of it. An ECB survey of French families shows that this effect occurs starting from 181,000 euros in assets. The more wealth is concentrated in a small group, the greater the risk of an economic situation where too little is spent. In that case, economic growth is jeopardized because there is a lack of demand. Therefore, if you succeed in reducing wealth inequality, you can stimulate economic growth. After all, people with less wealth spend a relatively large portion of it. For a measurable macroeconomic effect, though, a broad measure is needed. Taxing only the ultra rich will not have the desired effect.”

Influence for sale

The second argument for taxing big fortunes more heavily, according to Knaap, lies in the fact that political influence can sometimes be bought.


“Particularly in the United States, very wealthy people are disproportionately able to influence the political process. That results in government policies that at least don't make the rich any less rich. And what is good for a minority does not necessarily benefit the majority.”

So, a higher tax rate on large fortunes can be an effective means of reducing wealth inequality and stimulating economic growth. But there are a number of caveats to that tax approach, says Knaap.


“Multimillionaires are unlikely to work less hard if you tax their last million more heavily. But they are more likely to try to move those assets to Monaco, the British Virgin Islands or other places where tax authorities can't get to them. Incidentally, that has become a little more difficult by now. Thirty years ago, you could take a suitcase of money to Switzerland and then those assets were invisible. But more and more countries have converted in this respect. People who want to hide their wealth now have to go much further with it. Government pressure is increasing, partially because of the digital capabilities available today to track assets. But the higher the tax burden, the greater the incentive to get out from under it. People are inventive, and the really wealthy always have an army of tax experts to help them accommodate that wealth as favorably as possible from a tax perspective.”

Billions in assets

So, all in all, a progressive tax rate for very large assets is economically a good idea?

“Yes, but it will only be effective if that rate is applied not only to billion-dollar assets, but also to the group below that. Moreover, if you want this to happen it should be done globally, as much as possible, because wealth always finds its way to the place with the most favorable conditions. In any case, it seems that we are moving more and more in the direction of globally uniform rates. The same applies to the Netherlands. The positions of almost every political party reflect the need to increase tax revenues. And these are highest when opportunities to move assets to tax havens are limited.”

Volgende publicatie:
“Economically speaking, this is not a bad time to consume less for a while”

“Economically speaking, this is not a bad time to consume less for a while”

Published on: 24 November 2022

The latest iPhone. A bigger flat screen, with an even clearer picture. ‘Ultra-fast fashion’ with 52 collections in a year, made to be worn for a short time. As a consumer, it can be hard to resist temptation sometimes. And eager buying is good for the economy. But we are also increasingly running into the limits of our consumerism. What are those limits? And what does all that consuming get us? In this series, we invite people from various backgrounds to discuss these issues from their specific point of view. Episode 1: the economic perspective - explained by Charles Kalshoven, macroeconomist at APG. 


“Discounts of up to 90%”, “Bizarre” discounts, “Exclusive one-day deals!”. If there is one day when consumer temptations lurk, it is Black Friday. Some chains even stretch the concept into “Black Weeks”. How big an effect does Black Friday actually have on our economy? And how important is Black Friday to Dutch retail?

Kalshoven: “The fourth quarter is an important quarter for retail, because of the Sinterklaas and Christmas period, among others. In the third quarter, consumption growth stagnated this year. Consumption of durable goods, such as furniture and cars, even slumped, but this was disguised by the fact that demand for services held up. Black Friday may give sales a push in the right direction. In that sense, from a retail perspective, the phenomenon is important. Moreover, the sales on Black Friday provide an indication of what the rest of the fourth quarter will look like.”

How big do you expect the Black Friday effect to be this year?  

“In October, consumer confidence reached a record low of -59 (see box). In November, it reached -57. But that is still well below the average of -9 over the past 20 years and lower than around the time of the euro crisis or the credit crunch in 2007/2008. While this figure is based on consumers’ own judgement and expectations - which do not always match what they do - based on this, I don’t expect exceptionally exuberant consumption on Black Friday 2022. On the other hand, retailers should not be too gloomy either, as on average the outlook for purchasing power is good. After all, the much-needed government compensation measures are coming: the energy cost allowance in November and December, the energy cap as of January 1, 2023 and the minimum wage increase of more than 10 per cent on the same date. Plus, average wage growth in the Netherlands next year should be able to outpace the declining inflation rate.”


How is the consumer confidence rate measured?

“Consumer Confidence provides information on consumers’ confidence and opinions regarding developments in the Dutch economy and in their own financial situation.

Consumers are asked about their opinions on their current financial situation in the past 12 months, their financial situation in the next 12 months, whether they consider it a favorable time for making large purchases, the economic situation in the past 12 months and economic situation in the next 12 months. From each question, the balance of positive and negative responses is taken as a percentage of total responses. Consumer confidence is the mathematical average of these five sub-questions.” (CBS website)

For example, a consumer confidence rating of -57 means that the percentage of consumers who are pessimistic exceeds the percentage of optimists by 57 percent.

So, for the retail sector, you expect a modest positive impact from Black Friday. Does the same apply to the economy in general?

“We currently have high inflation and in the current situation, we are more likely to bring it down if we moderate our consumption for a while now. Energy is scarce at the moment, but so are materials and manpower. If we reduce our consumption for a while, this will dampen demand for all three, so that their prices will also moderate. That would also allow scarce energy to be used where it is most needed - for example, for the furnace of a poor family in a poorly insulated house. So from a macroeconomic perspective, taking our foot off the accelerator is not a bad thing at all.”

So we should get rid of Black Friday?

“We live in a market economy, and that includes stores that cater to all sorts of things. In that sense, Black Friday is nothing new. However, temporary discount promotions can tempt consumers to buy things they don’t actually need. That not only affects consumers in their wallets, it also ultimately impacts the planet. Although that doesn’t always have to be negative impact. For example, I saw that an outdoor sports store is using Black Friday to offer free shoe maintenance and clothing repair on that day. An action like that can create new sales later and thus still contribute to negative ecological impact. But if, as a result, a customer buys one quality jacket for a period when he would normally wear out three jackets of lesser quality, on balance it is better for the planet. So, the question is always: which consumption do you replace with a new purchase? By the way, you cannot leave the sustainability of the economic system entirely to companies. For that, you also need a government that takes a guiding role.”

Consuming fewer products, purchasing more services: is this how we can serve the interests of economic growth in the Netherlands and a livable planet at the same time?

“In principle, yes, although this also depends on the types of services that would replace that product consumption, of course. After all, air travel is also a service, but one with a considerable ecological footprint. For such a transition, a guiding government is needed, which, through taxation, ensures that the least polluting goods and services become more attractive compared to the most polluting ones. And by taxing raw materials more and labor less. Creating more immaterial growth instead of material growth under these conditions is a form of 'decluttering’. It makes less use of resources and more use of brainpower and creativity. These do not reach their limits as quickly, unlike raw materials, which will run out at some point.”

Is that a realistic scenario?

“In the Netherlands, carbon emissions have decreased while the economy has grown. Even if you look at the research done by Andrew McAfee, who wrote the book More from Less about that, you can see that the American economy is becoming less and less resource-intensive. And that’s not because more and more manufacturing has moved to China. Economic growth there is increasingly in added value based on services. One example is brand value, which you create with marketing. So yes, it is definitely possible to achieve economic growth that leans more on services and less on physical products and at the same time reduce the negative ecological impact.”


Volgende publicatie:
Are there challenges to face when working longer?

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?

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.”

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.”  

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:
Half of the Dutch population believes the wage gap will be closed by 2122

Half of the Dutch population believes the wage gap will be closed by 2122

Published on: 14 November 2022

Research firm Motivaction conducted research on the future image of the position of women. These are some of the results:

  • Typically male and female occupations: Over a quarter of Dutch people believe that in 2122 there will still be occupations that are typical for men (such as IT or defense) and for women (such as healthcare or education).
  • Women in top positions: More men than women think it is likely that there will be as many women as men in top positions in 2122. Nearly 7 in 10 women do find this desirable; men are less likely to find it desirable (60 percent).
  • Part-time and full-time work: 56 percent of the Dutch consider hope that by 2122 the division between part-time and full-time work will be fairly divided between men and women. Also, half of the Dutch population would like to see a full-time work week consisting of 32 hours. Over a third of the people in the Netherlands also think that it is likely to happen.
  • Wage gap: Half of the Dutch population believes the wage gap will be closed by 2122. 79 percent of women think this is very desirable; among men the percentage is 66 percent.
  • Pension: Three in five Dutch people hope that in 2122 everyone will receive a basic pension and you can also accrue a supplementary pension for unpaid work (such as volunteer work or informal care). In short, by 2122 there will no longer be a pension gap between women and men in the Netherlands.


Also read the interview with Historian Els Kloek on the catching up women need to do | APG

Volgende publicatie:
“Women are not there yet, but they need to persevere”

“Women are not there yet, but they need to persevere”

Published on: 14 November 2022

Today is Equal Pay Day. Although the position of women has improved tremendously over the past century, there is still a financial gap between men and women. A conversation with historian Els Kloek about women in the Netherlands catching up, a maid shooting at men, and the pros and cons of part-time jobs.    


She has a doctorate in science, but has been referring to herself for years as an “entrepreneur in history” and a “historical researcher”. Els Kloek sees herself as a hands-on kind of person who would rather just get to work than get caught up in theoretical debates. Who would rather study the history of ordinary people than that of royal houses and wars. And especially the history of women, because they were often overlooked by historians.

Kloek was at the forefront of the Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland (Digital Women’s Lexicon of the Netherlands), and wrote the widely acclaimed book ‘Vrouw des huizes – een cultuurgeschiedenis van de Hollandse huisvrouw’ (Lady of the house – a cultural history of the Dutch housewife). She especially made a name for herself with the monumental, two-volume reference work ‘1001 vrouwen uit de Nederlandse geschiedenis’ (1001 Women from Dutch History), which includes 2 x 1001 biographies of well-known Dutch women from the past thousand years. 

Digital exposition “Women and Income”

The position of women in the Netherlands has clearly improved over the past century. This is reflected in the exhibition “Women and Income”, set up on the occasion of 100 years of ABP; a beautiful, digital journey through time with extraordinary stories about extraordinary women. One of the compilers is historian Els Kloek. You can visit the exhibition about 100 years of women online: Welkom bij 100 | De Expositie - ABP 100 jaar (

In what ways has the position of women in the Netherlands improved over the past hundred years?

“Women having jobs has become normalized. Remember, women used to be expected to quit working as soon as they got married. Moreover, women have only been legally “competent” since 1957; before that time, they were not considered capable of managing their own finances. The invention of the pill meant that women could more or less plan when they had children, and plan their careers accordingly. And since 1980, as a result of the Equal Treatment Act, men and women have been legally equal. This social revolution occurred very gradually over the last century.”  


But the wage and pension gaps are still there…

“Yes, and of course that in itself is downright bizarre. Because why do women often get paid less than men for the same work? I think we have to be a little patient, because laws and measures do not immediately change how people live and think. Nevertheless, I am hopeful when I look at what has been accomplished in the last hundred years. It just takes time. Take education for example. That is always a huge emancipation factor. Girls can get the same education as boys in the Netherlands. Girls can choose so many subjects! A century ago, that was unthinkable. And women no longer have to devote their entire adult lives to raising children. Thanks to all kinds of resources, they can kick out their husbands if they want to. Until recently, there were dire consequences for women who did, or tried to do that.”


Women are often told they earn less because they are more likely to choose part-time jobs. How do you see that?

“That wage gap is indeed partly because women are more likely to work part-time. But that doesn’t explain why, in practice, they often get paid less than men for equal work. I always like to turn it around: why don’t men take more part-time jobs? Part-time jobs really aren’t that bad. If you have children, you also want to be able to raise them and take proper care of them. I find it problematic that many young families now have such overcrowded schedules. They often have money worries, have discussions about household chores, are bothered by the fact that childcare and school times don’t fit with their own work hours. And then they also have to tend to their careers.... In short, they have to jump through many hoops at once.”

How did you deal with that in your own career?

“After graduating from university, I started working full-time. But I didn’t really enjoy that. I then opted for a different job that was part-time. I was fortunate to be able to afford that financially, which has really been a privilege. This freed up time for me to do things that I really enjoyed, that my heart desired. Which, incidentally, was often work-related. In that respect I still have a bit of the traits of a hippie from the sixties, haha.”


So women’s fate is largely in their own hands?

“Absolutely. It is still often pointed out to women that they are dimwits who just want to sit at home all day with the children. And that it is therefore their own fault that they are not pursuing a career or earning very little. The women are blamed once again. But I think men should also push up their sleeves. Take on more household tasks, for example. A lot has already changed for the better in that respect; when I was growing up, for example, it was unthinkable for a man to change diapers; the few who did, kept quiet about it. Afraid of being called a wimp. Those days are over, fortunately. And that’s a good thing! Of course, it has also helped enormously that housework takes much less time than it used to, thanks to washing machines and other appliances.”


What women do you see as icons of the Dutch women’s empowerment movement?

“Oh, there are many. One of my favorite ones is the maid Neeltje Lokerse. She was standing in the Binnenhof in The Hague, armed, in 1902. That was where the father of her newborn child worked; he was also her employer. He refused to acknowledge his child. When he came out, she shot at him, but she didn’t hit him. She just wanted to draw attention to the matter with her action. She was immediately arrested, but later acquitted. After that, she devoted her life to improving the position of servants, unwed mothers and prostitutes, by giving lectures, for example. Very brave, because those women were all disenfranchised at the time. Other icons are Corrie Tendeloo and Clara Meijers. Tendeloo was a politician who campaigned for legal equality between men and women. Thanks to a motion by her, the forced dismissal of civil servants upon marriage was abolished in 1955. She also saw to it that the legal incompetence of married women was abolished. And Clara Meijers saw to it that a separate Women’s Bank was established for women in 1928. At the time, it was virtually impossible for women to get a loan if they wanted to open a store, for example, or needed a mortgage for their own home.”


Why have you been focusing on the history of women in the Netherlands your whole life?

“I was born in 1952, a time when women were still expected to be submissive to their husbands. I was still a student when I witnessed the establishment of Dolle Mina, in 1969 in Leiden. That feminist action group fit in with the spirit of the times; it was fascinating to me. When I started studying history, my attention automatically gravitated towards the history of women in the Netherlands. I have always maintained that fascination. Looking back, I can see that a lot has improved for women. We’re not there yet, but we need to persevere and stay alert. Someday men and women will be completely equal; I am convinced of that. That outdated male bastion is gradually being demolished more and more.”

By 2122, there will no longer be a pension gap between women and men

Research firm Motivaction conducted research on the future image of the position of women. These are some of the results:

  • Typically male and female occupations: Over a quarter of Dutch people believe that in 2122 there will still be occupations that are typical for men (such as IT or defense) and for women (such as healthcare or education).
  • Women in top positions: More men than women think it is likely that there will be as many women as men in top positions in 2122. Nearly 7 in 10 women do find this desirable; men are less likely to find it desirable (60 percent).
  • Part-time and full-time work: 56 percent of the Dutch consider hope that by 2122 the division between part-time and full-time work will be fairly divided between men and women. Also, half of the Dutch population would like to see a full-time work week consisting of 32 hours. Over a third of the people in the Netherlands also think that it is likely to happen.
  • Wage gap: Half of the Dutch population believes the wage gap will be closed by 2122. 79 percent of women think this is very desirable; among men the percentage is 66 percent.
  • Pension: Three in five Dutch people hope that in 2122 everyone will receive a basic pension and you can also accrue a supplementary pension for unpaid work (such as volunteer work or informal care). In short, by 2122 there will no longer be a pension gap between women and men in the Netherlands.

Volgende publicatie:
Ten Dutch people on the trip of a lifetime in new pension documentary

Ten Dutch people on the trip of a lifetime in new pension documentary

Published on: 20 October 2022

Ten Dutch people, each from a different decade, meet in a bus driving across the Netherlands. They each have their own story, but connect with each other around their struggles, their passion and their dreams about the Netherlands of the future. Director Sander Ligthart recorded their conversations during their cinematic road trip Encounters. A documentary created in honor of 100 years of pensions in the Netherlands.



100 years of pensions in the Netherlands is the premise of the documentary commissioned by ABP and APG and created by director Sander Ligthart. The result is a look back and ahead at the state of the Netherlands over the past century: how has our country dealt with sustainability, equal opportunities for all, and wellbeing? Ligthart gets ten Dutch people from ten different decades to have conversations about this with each other; ten perspectives and ten different stories. They are unknown but special people, such as Roxanne Salehi, until recently Children’s Director of Nature & Sustainability of Flevoland and a student at the first ecological elementary school in the Netherlands, and education professional Karim Amghar who fights against inequality of opportunity and polarization in the classroom and in the neighborhood. But well-known fellow citizens, such as historian Els Kloek and writer and former politician Jan Terlouw also appear before the camera. In the film they all ride together in a bus through the Netherlands, and on the way, they have frank and inspiring conversations. We are now speaking to the director, who has an impressive resume that ranges from light-hearted commercials to a short film about sexual abuse, prior to the premiere of the documentary.

And then there's the question about a documentary on pensions. Were you able to immediately envision what kind of story you wanted to tell?

“Yes, the idea came to me pretty quickly. I have made videos for ABP and APG before and I know that for them, their work doesn’t end at providing pensions: they use their knowledge and network for social issues. My idea was to give viewers inspiration about sustainability, wellbeing and equality: a story that makes pension builders and pensioners, people with a heart for education, science, defense and politics, look at things differently. This film is really the opposite of the News. Not focusing on what went wrong, but looking back at the past years and then creating vistas of the imagined Netherlands of the future. A perspective on the future, and how you can influence it, without losing sight of the fact that there is still much to be done.”

And what does that Netherlands of the future look like?
“While we were recording, we came to realize that, in terms of politics or society, there is generally not really any vision of where we want to go as the Netherlands. Where are we going to be in ten years, or a hundred years? We need to have that vision.”

And how do you portray that in a documentary with 100 years of pensions as its theme?
“The actual pensions occupy a modest place in it: the 100th anniversary of the pension act is the occasion to look back 100 years and ahead 100 years. Questions that come up include ‘How did sustainability become an increasingly important issue?’, ‘How have we dealt with equal opportunity for women or groups who could not always make their voices heard?’ and ‘What about wellbeing?’ The people we chose for the film fit into the story in multiple ways. Like Maaike Leichsenring, a former TU Delft student who, despite being advised that engineering is not for girls, decided to go into that field anyway, and is now researching applications of sustainable energy.”

And are the answers to the questions you ask always positive?
“No, we certainly also make the dissenting voices heard. Take pensions as an example. Scientist Rutger Hoekstra, one of the ten people, questions the measurement of wealth in economic figures. He agrees that pensions have made many people independent and allow them to live the way they want to. But Rutger argues that pensions can also be seen as a cause for more loneliness among the elderly. Pensions make Dutch people feel almost like they no longer have any responsibility for their parents, which in turn can lead to loneliness. In other words, social cohesion partly falls away because of pensions. The story of Ibrahim, the boy who fled Syria with his parents when he was six years old, ties in with this: his parents have given their children a lot of love and care, and they see this as a kind of loan. They get that love and care back from their children when they are old and in need of care and assistance.”

Your films always focus on people, because you want to touch the viewer’s heart. That is also the case with this one. Why that approach?  
“I wanted to create encounters between people who all have interesting views of the future: people from every decade opening up their world and showing their perspective from there. Children, adults, pension builders, pensioners; a diverse group of people. They have stories about the past and the present, about dreams and ambitions, and about fears. About how the Netherlands is changing, as well as the changing world, about economic prosperity and the crunch of sustainability. Stories that are worth sharing. And precisely because they are genuine, personal stories and because sincere interest arises between people, this is inspiring and the stories move you.”

The setting is not commonplace; you are driving across the Netherlands in a bus.
“Think of it as a unique road trip. Ten people going on the ‘trip of a lifetime’ together. During the trip, they share their stories with each other. The bus is a place where they get together, they share, they are proud of the past and express ambitions for the future. It’s a place that has no geographical location, but it’s where the stories are. On a road trip, everyone is free; not bound to their own domain.

And it is precisely there that unexpected conversations arise, between the teenager who makes a case for sustainability and the politician who is now in his nineties, and who brought economic prosperity to the Netherlands when the word sustainability did not even exist yet.”

What challenges did you face while you were filming?
“The biggest challenge was to show the viewer new perspectives and opinions. I.e., staying away from the beaten path and not telling them what they actually already know.”

Such as?

“Most people think sustainability is important, but they might not know, for example, that the Netherlands is way ahead of the game. The challenge is in tapping as many resources as possible, and in energy storage, because energy is needed even when the sun is not shining and there is hardly any wind.

Everyone is for equal opportunity women, but people often don’t realize that women are barely mentioned in history books and how it affects a woman when she is the only woman in an organization; something we illustrate with the story of Colonel Sylvia Busch. There is also a lot of discussion about equal opportunity in education, but people don’t always know how it affects a student when they are dismissed as part of a pathetic minority group who won’t make it anyway.”

You spent days filming, traveling and talking. Which of the stories will definitely stick with you?  
“That of Karim, a Moroccan boy from Bleiswijk who works as a program writer for NTR and as a teacher. When he was in elementary school, he was advised to aim too low and consequently ended up in a kind of black hole. He felt left out, got bored, ended up in crime and became radicalized. Until his own brother said he believed in Karim and signed him up for a college entrance exam. That set off a huge upward spiral, and look where Karim ended up. He even got to attend King Willem-Alexander’s Uitblinkers lunch (Lunch for Star Students) to talk about this.

Karim only needed one person who believed in him. And it is with that attitude, that he now walks into his own classroom every day himself. He exudes confidence to the kids and makes them feel that they all have their own talents; he motivates them.”

And what are you giving the viewer?
“The main lesson that has been learned is that when different groups in society do not know each other, misunderstanding and separation occur. Money is not the answer to that. Stepping out of your bubble and showing interest in what concerns someone else, what fears and aspirations someone else has; that is the answer. The need to meet face to face and have genuine conversations with each other came up in every conversation. Take a look around your neighborhood, and have conversations with each other.”

Volgende publicatie:
ABP and APG organize Exhibition Woman and Income

ABP and APG organize Exhibition Woman and Income

Published on: 28 September 2022

100 years ago, the Netherlands chose to take care of a pension together. And 100 years ago, ABP the pension fund for government and education was established. ABP and APG are jointly commemorating this milestone and are organizing various activities, including 100|The Exhibition.


On the occasion of the centenary of 100 years of retirement in the Netherlands, 100|The Exposition was festively opened on Tuesday September 27 at the head office of APG. The opening was performed by Sophie van Gool, author of 'Why women earn less; and what we can do about it' and columnist at the Financieele Dagblad. She was accompanied by Harmen van Wijnen (Chairman of ABP) and Francine van Dierendonck and Maarten Blacquière (members of the APG Board of Directors).


After the opening, the exhibition, which is open to everyone, will travel via the ABP and APG offices in Amsterdam to the NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden, one of ABP's affiliated employers. The exhibition will also be made available in digital form, among others to the 3.1 million participants of ABP.

APG Heerlen will open its doors to local residents and other interested parties on Saturday 1 October between 2 pm and 5 pm. Would you also like to visit the exhibition with family or friends, sign up here:

Pension gap
1922, the year ABP was founded, was also the year that Dutch women were able to use the active right to vote for the first time - which they had been granted in 1919 - during the elections to the House of Representatives. Although quite a lot has been achieved, 100 years later, the playing field between men and women is still uneven. For example, the average gross salary of women is still about 13% lower than that of men and the pension gap between men and women is as much as 40%. This is the second largest pension gap in Europe and is due to the fact that women are more likely to work part-time and, in practice, are often paid less than men for equal work.

To life
To draw attention to the (financial) inequality between men and women, ABP and APG sought collaboration with historians Els Kloek - known for '1001 women in Dutch history' - and Katja Krediet. ABP and APG also conducted research into the future of financial (in)equality in collaboration with the Motivaction agency. The exhibition tells the life story of nine different people, who always live at a different moment in time. On the basis of these stories, the legal position, education and labor participation of women at that time come to life: from women who were fired after getting married because otherwise 'marriages remained childless', to the rise of the pill and the Dolle Minas. From women who until 1971 'owe obedience to the man' according to the law to women who - today - marry someone of the same sex.

Every life event includes a so-called 'reality check' for the visitor himself. He literally looks in a mirror and is confronted with questions such as 'what does it mean for you and your financial situation if you decide to buy a house or if you decide to work part-time'? In this way, ABP wants to increase the financial awareness of current generations and hopefully contribute to closing the financial and social gap between men and women.

Volgende publicatie:
“We celebrate Pride because we can and it is needed”

“We celebrate Pride because we can and it is needed”

Published on: 29 July 2022

APG is raising the rainbow flag for Pride Amsterdam. As an employer of three thousand unique individuals worldwide, we are showing that we want to be a diverse and inclusive organization where pension fund clients and participants can recognize themselves.


By hoisting the rainbow flag at the various APG offices this week, APG is reinforcing its statement to promote diversity and inclusion. But some employees are also taking individual action. For example, there is an LGBTQIA+ network in APG’s US location in New York. In the Netherlands, APG employees recently founded the APG Proud network. For and by LGBTQIA+ people. Showing the flag feels like extra support for the trio that they can be who they are and that this is possible at APG. Jay van Cleef, involved in the founding: “Especially given the fact that in the outside world, we unfortunately still need to call attention to this subject.”

And that is precisely why there is a Pride. And, as Erik van Dam, one of the other founders of the Proud network: “To keep showing that attention is needed and human rights are not a given. In many countries there is no Pride, because it is too dangerous. In many countries LGBTQIA+ people take to the streets at the risk of their own lives to fight for their rights. In Amsterdam next week we will celebrate Pride for them, and for ourselves.”



In addition to the specially designed rainbow flag that flies at APG several times a year, APG also uses a specially designed rainbow logo. Both consist of the original rainbow flag with the five colors of the Progress Pride flag which has a greater focus on inclusion and progress. Ronald Wuijster, member of the Executive Board and chair of the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Board: “While the flags are flying, the logo online and on social media reflects our sustainable identity and the values we want to demonstrate as a company. With this logo, APG supports unique individuals and underscores the need for progress. We hope to use it to make a solid contribution to a sustainable future.”


More than words

APG’s diversity and inclusion policy cannot be summed up in a few words. For example, there are gender-neutral restrooms at the Amsterdam location, and there are also going to be some at the Heerlen office. One of the most recent steps that APG has taken is to obtain Aspirant status on the Social Performance Ladder. By doing so, APG offers a place to vulnerable groups in the labor market. Another example is the collective bargaining agreement that allows employees with religious beliefs to exchange a religious holiday if, for example, they wish to celebrate Sugar Festival instead of Pentecost. And there is more: from signing various national manifestos such as “Diversity in Business” and “Talent to the Top” to setting up a D&I Board, closing the gender pay gap and organizing theme meetings for employees, on, for example, unconscious bias.



Volgende publicatie:
“That’s when we stopped holding hands”

“That’s when we stopped holding hands”

Published on: 29 July 2022

APG wants to be an organization where everyone can be themselves. Always, all year round. But on occasion, like Pride Amsterdam, we like to give it some extra attention. Colleague Erik takes us into what is hidden behind the cheerful celebrations of this annual event.


We are on the eve of Pride Amsterdam. A time for parties and fun and to celebrate how far we have come. A party where we can be totally ourselves. To show that it is allowed and possible here, and that makes the Netherlands a great country to live in. The country that was the first in the world to introduce gay marriage. But we also celebrate Pride because it is necessary. Because we are not there yet. Because Pride is more than a good party. Behind all those happy faces is often a story. Pride is also a protest for equal rights for the global rainbow community.


This year I marched with Rotterdam Pride. A big party, with a lot of solidarity. And with all different groups of people. The group of LGBTQIA+ refugees had the most impact on me. Their story about what happened to them in their homeland and how happy and exuberant they were here, daring to be themselves here was touching. But here in the Netherlands the mood also seems to be changing. For example, the route was only announced at the last minute, for safety reasons. Nothing happened, but it still shocks you. Feyenoord and its LGBTQIA+ supporters also experienced that all is not well. Feyenoord raised the rainbow flag for the first time. A historic moment. The hatred that arose online from the club's own supporters towards people who supported it, like me, was unprecedented, shocking and showed why this statement is necessary.


In the soccer world there's always been is a lot of homophobic behavior. During speaking engagements, for example. You often hear, 'it's not meant against the gays, but against the opponent'. They don't seem to understand the impact this has on gay people, on acceptance and on children. Two years ago, I took the son of a friend and his friend to FC Utrecht-PSV. During the match the chorus of voices that I was afraid of comes out. The boys look at me, startled, their faces saying, “They're not allowed to say that, doesn't it hurt you?”. I quickly say, “Don't listen, it'll be over soon”. I love soccer, but I don't like this kind of thing. Words matter!


Unfortunately, it is more visible outside of soccer as well. In my hometown the other day I got sworn at out of the blue with homophobic slurs. And the same week, two girls were loudly condemning my husband and me while we were just walking side by side in the street.


But also closer to home, even within our organization, there are sometimes discussions and statements that affect me. Am I too sensitive? Should I not care? Maybe, but if you behave indecently and condemn people based on their identity and orientation, I'm done with you. No matter how the statements are intended. How statements or behavior come across to the other person is determined by the one who experiences it, not the one who says it. Talking about it with each other, condoning it or perhaps sharing with such colleagues what it did to me, made me think back to unpleasant experiences of 8 years ago. The emotions came back again.


When my husband and I met 9 years ago in Valencia, we were holding hands as we walked, visibly in love. We walked past Mestalla stadium and thousands of supporters. I was alert. My husband said: don't worry, it's not a problem here. And that turned out to be the case, a wonderful feeling. In the Netherlands we also used to hold hands in public sometimes. That was just a little scary, but we just did it, just like giving each other a kiss now and then. This, however, was soon over.


What should have been a celebratory moment instead turned into one that I now remember like yesterday. We were going out to dinner that night and took the train. We were chatting and I gave my husband a brief kiss. A young man walked by at that moment and freaked out. He started scolding us, spitting on us and threatening us. It was very frightening. Fellow passengers tried to help. Arriving at the station, the perpetrator went berserk, hit the arriving police and ran off. Shocked, we stood on the platform, received support and were advised to report the incident. My husband said, shocked, I thought the Netherlands was so tolerant.


Another bizarre situation followed at the police station. We were not taken seriously at all. They wondered whether we had not provoked it too much. This while we were there as witnesses and the gentleman had even knocked down officers. Then, when my partner had no ID on him, the officer said that he could get a fine for this. Even though we were the ones that had just been threatened. When I asked for a pink-in-blue police officer (there was a poster of this in the hall), he said he had never heard of it.


Months later, we were contacted for mediation. Not for us, but for the perpetrator. Because he had not meant it, had had a nasty situation at home and because we were both Feyenoord fans. No empathy or interest in us at all. We had to start the conversation with someone of whom we were still afraid on a daily basis. Eventually the perpetrator was locked up because he had committed a previous crime.


That’s why, ever since that happened, 8 years ago, my husband and I no longer hold hands. We hardly show affection to each other in public anymore. Because of the fear, because you don't feel like constantly having to think about what you're doing and that people might do things that could affect you.


I notice that a lot of people have no idea what LGBTQIA+ people go through and accept what is not okay. So lately I've been realizing more and more how I act differently just because I'm married to a man. In everyday life, like what series I watch on the train and who sits next to me. A year and a half ago we bought a new house. In the search we strongly considered in which city and neighborhood. Did we feel safe there? And not on the first floor! Because when I'm at home, I want to be completely myself and not have to worry that someone will see me and judge me. And when we go on vacation, we only go to countries that don't consider my love for my partner to be sinful or criminal.


All over the world, human rights are under pressure and aggression and misunderstanding against the queer community is increasing. This is confirmed by the deadly attack in June at an LGBTQIA+ bar in Oslo, the trans rights debate in the UK and the abortion ruling in the US, where it is already being said that the rights of LGBTQIA+ people will be the next issue of the Supreme Court. And there's already that “don't say gay” legislation in Florida*. And this in the US, where the Pride originated. Over 50 years ago in New York, the gay bar Stonewall Inn was evicted. The LGBTQIA+ community fought back when the police acted violently for the umpteenth time. This was the start of the Pride. A protest march, for equal rights, equal treatment and that the violence had to stop.


A Pride is there to show that it is needed and human rights are not a given. In many countries there is no Pride, because it is illegal. In many countries LGBTQIA+ people take to the streets at the risk of their lives to fight for their rights. In Amsterdam, for the next week and a half, we will be celebrating Pride for them, and for ourselves.


I walk along the heartwarming rainbow path near Amsterdam Sloterdijk, and think of the younger generation for whom gender identity and romantic preference is hardly an issue. It makes me dream about a time when we no longer need the Pride. A time when I can walk down the street hand in hand with my husband without being afraid, watched or scolded. When I can enjoy a soccer game at the stadium without hassle. A time when being LGBTQIA+ is normalized and everyone lives life the way they want to, anywhere in the world. A time when Pride is no longer a protest. A time when love conquers.

Celebrate with us, wherever you are! Because Pride is not only necessary, it is also a lot of fun.

Happy Pride!


* Legislation banning schools from talking to children about gender or sexual orientation.


#videotip: Pride video (2014) on KPN, apple and more


Volgende publicatie:
Pension fund ABP exists 100 years

Pension fund ABP exists 100 years

Published on: 30 June 2022

100 years ago, in 1922, ABP was founded, the pension fund for government and education. Now, a century later, the Netherlands has one of the best pension systems in the world and that has brought us a lot. How do we ensure a good collective pension in a livable society in the next 100 years? ABP and its administrator APG (until 2008 they were one organization) pay attention to these themes in this special anniversary year.

The General Civil Pension Fund was established on 1 July 1922. When it was founded, the number of participants was about 90,000. By the end of 2021, that participant base had grown to 3.1 million participants, of which almost 1 million were pensioners, including more than six hundred also 100-year-olds.

In 1996, ABP, which until then was under the Ministry of Finance, was privatized. The board consisted of representatives of employers and employees. The privatization enabled ABP to broaden its investment horizon. In addition to traditional government bonds, more and more investments were made in equities and other categories, including worldwide. In 2008, ABP was split into Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP and the newly established Algemene Pensioen Groep NV (APG). APG has grown into one of the world's largest executive organizations, which provides the pension administration and manages the investment portfolio for several pension funds. The Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds continued under the name ABP and grew into one of the largest pension funds in the world.


Harmen van Wijnen, Chairman of the Board of ABP: “We are celebrating ABP's 100th anniversary. The idea behind the decision 100 years ago to take care of a pension together is rock solid to this day. It connects young and old, sick and healthy, workers and retirees, and the individual and society. That is the core and the strength of our unique pension system. Together with the AOW, it also ensures that poverty among the elderly is much less common than in neighboring countries. In the next 100 years we want to jointly continue to build a good pension for our participants in a liveable world. For this, our pension system must be adapted to the current times. So that we will continue to have one of the best systems in the world in the future.”

Good income
Annette Mosman, chair of APG: “We have been together for 100 years, first within ABP, and from 2008 as an independent executive organization, but still together with ABP. We share a rich history and a lot of experience. And that comes in handy. After all, we are on the eve of one of the biggest changes to our pension system in the past century. In the coming years, APG will be fully focused on the implementation of the transition to the new pension system. It is our task, together with ABP and our other funds, to ensure a pension administration in which everyone will soon have a good income and in which it is clear and understandable for young and old how their pension stands.”

In the second half of 2022, ABP and APG will pay attention to '100 years of the pension of the Netherlands'. Fund and executor seize this moment to look back and forward; ABP and APG look back in history and collect 100 stories from participants (see We also celebrate participants who turn 100 in the same year as ABP with a congratulation and flowers. An exhibition in Heerlen and Amsterdam is also planned for the autumn. We are also working on a documentary about the value of a pension that will also be shown online. Would you like to know more and stay informed about the activities? Go to

Volgende publicatie:
APG receives social enterprise certificate

“Let people do the work they do best”

Published on: 30 June 2022

Manager of Shared IT Services Eric Helsloot sees leveraging talents as a strength for the organization

APG’s ambition is to grow into an even more sustainable and inclusive organization. Achieving Aspirant status on the Performance Ladder for Social Engagement will contribute to this goal. This national TNO certificate for social enterprise shows that APG makes an above-average contribution to employment opportunities for vulnerable groups in the labor market. Eric Helsloot, manager of Shared IT Services, sees this as a great opportunity to provide a platform for even more talents: “In my own team there is always room for unique individuals.”


Obtaining Aspirant status on the Performance Ladder Social Enterprise (see box) is “nice and looks great” on APG’s website. But the next important step is to live up to the content behind it, says Eric Helsloot. “Inclusiveness is very valuable to an organization. It’s now up to us to provide that safe and challenging work environment for anyone who needs it.”


Color palette
Words that Helsloot translates into actions. Because the manager could really only think of one way to make his Shared IT Services department the best IT team: to leverage the insights and experiences of unique individuals as much as possible. “I’m a big supporter of diversity and inclusion and I try to express that at SIS,” he says. And in the complicated world of IT, that’s not a given, Helsloot explains. “After all, that world consists mostly of men and with us of somewhat older age.” And yet for several years, Eric has had a management team that is half women. And of all the executives, even more than half are women.

“But we don’t just look at gender, we also look at team composition based on character and work attitude, for example, using management drive profiles. The result is that the management team of SIS now has a well-composed color palette in which coworkers are complementary to each other, keep each other sharp and strengthen each other.” And it doesn't stop there. SIS also employs people with a migration background. “By bringing other cultures into the organization, we enrich ourselves even more.”

The work at Shared IT Services is very diverse and is carried out by a total of 300 employees with varying levels of education, and from real implementers to very analytically minded employees. Helsloot therefore feels it is a department that is ideally suited to take on inclusion. “If you can create suitable workplaces anywhere, it’s here. So, I’m happy to participate in fulfilling the participation ambitions that come with the Aspirant status we just obtained.”

Core qualities
To illustrate how you can offer marginalized people a job, Helsloot points to IT security, a business unit where analysis is central: looking at a lot of data, working in a very structured way, excluding things on the basis of reduction. Activities that require a high level of concentration, for example, are a plus. And that can be one of the core qualities of people with an autism spectrum disorder, for example, Eric says. “In the past, you might not have thought of hiring someone from that target group. Because ‘that’s someone who comes with baggage’ and having someone like that on your team ‘just gets tricky’. But I say: come on in. I put people to work based on their qualities and let them do the work they do best.”


To get that best IT team with unique individuals, Helsloot works closely with people manager Gonneke Cammel-Ooms and Det Olde Hampsink, Head of SIS Support. “They are both specialized in diversity and inclusion and from HR and external organizations we get advice on and access to the target group. In this way, as an organization, we are moving closer to an inclusive workplace, one step at a time.” To inspire his own employees in this area, Helsloot facilitates unconscious bias training. “We all have our unconscious biases. And by becoming aware of them, you can contribute to an inclusive workplace, because then you can do something about it.  And to ensure that everyone feels at home and all employees can work together I encourage a safe working environment where everyone can speak up in a respectful way about how things are going and where you can indicate what you need to go to work satisfied and appreciated. If you are bothered by something I do or say, please speak to me. Do you work best in a stimulus-free environment? Who am I to deny you that quiet work environment?”



His approach is bearing fruit, the manager of SIS observes. “A training course like this, for example, opens people’s eyes and they actually start working with those insights.” But there is also resistance he admits. “Others say in all honesty ‘when are we going to stop with this nonsense, let’s just get back to work’. That too is a reflection of society. It’s up to us to then engage in dialogue and try to understand each other’s perspectives. In this way, we can eliminate the fear of the unknown.”


For Helsloot, the motivation to make a social contribution in this way is at least deeply rooted. “I am also involved in APG’s Buitenboordmotor (Outboard Motor). In it, we guide employees to other work. Not because we want to get rid of them, but because they might find their passion in a sector like healthcare, education or installation. This is also a way of getting the right people with the right skills and experience in the right place. That makes you happier, both as a company and as a person.”

2 questions about the Social Performance Ladder

What is the PSO certificate?
The PSO is a scientifically based quality mark of TNO that gives insight in the extent to which organizations do more than average social business aimed at the participation of vulnerable groups in the labor market. The PSO identifies at company level how the number of marginalized employees relates to the total number of employees during a reference year. This is called the “direct social contribution”. The indirect social contribution is aimed at purchasing and/or outsourcing work to companies with a PSO certificate.

In addition to the total social contribution, an organization must also meet the qualitative requirements. These include offering suitable work to an employee from this target group and ensuring proper supervision. The PSO is designed as a performance ladder with four levels: aspirant status and steps 1, 2 and 3. APG’s ambition is to achieve step 1 by 2024.


Why do the PSO certificate and participation jobs matter to APG?
APG wants to contribute to an inclusive labor market. The creation and filling of 10 jobs for employees is the first step in this direction. Ronald Wuijster, chairman of the D&I Board, has taken the initiative to help people from outside the organization find suitable jobs. This was partly inspired by our client PWRI, the fund for employees and pensioners in the sheltered employment sector, and is in line with APG’s social role. The guidance is provided by creating and filling at least 4 jobs in collaboration with organizations that have experience in mediating and coaching these talents.

Volgende publicatie:
APG expands collaboration with non-profit organization JINC to Amsterdam

APG expands collaboration with non-profit organization JINC to Amsterdam

Published on: 3 June 2022

APG stands for a society in which your background does not determine your future. As a partner of JINC, APG therefore invests in the talent development of children in South Limburg. This collaboration will be extended to Amsterdam, where employees will volunteer for the various projects of the non-profit organization. Annette Mosman, CEO APG, signed a new collaboration agreement for this. “Young people are the future, so if we can make a difference for a number of young people, we have made the world a little more beautiful.”


JINC is fighting for a Netherlands where the zip code is no longer a predictor of success on the labor market. The non-profit organization speaks of hundreds of thousands of Dutch children who grow up in an environment with a lot of unemployment and few role models. With the new cooperation agreement, APG is now also giving concrete form to social involvement in the Amsterdam region and helps to give children a good start in the labor market. For APG, the expansion is a very logical step. Annette Mosman: “I learned from home that you have to be there for your neighbors and people in your area. APG's roots are in Amsterdam and Heerlen, which is why I think it's so cool that, in addition to all the great things we already do as an organisation, we also want to make an impact in our immediate environment."


Boss of tomorrow

APG employees who work at the Heerlen office have been working on various projects on a voluntary basis in the South Limburg region since 2019. During the Lightning Internship, pupils from primary school, pre-vocational secondary education and practical education visit a number of departments of the organization. During the job application training courses, APG employees teach young people how to prepare for a job interview. And on the day of the Boss of Tomorrow, a student may take the place of a manager. In this context, APG received fifteen-year-old Danique from Kerkrade this week.


Hidden Qualities

Mosman notes that the collaboration with JINC cuts both ways. By dedicating itself to JINC, APG also invests in the talent development of its own employees. Mosman: “For example, they learn how to get young people on board with simple language, humor and the ability to put things into perspective. In addition, employees learn about society, about young people, but also about themselves. Because anyone who starts working as a trainer or coach often comes across all kinds of hidden qualities.”


Make a difference
The collaboration is also in line with APG as a pension provider. “We work with pride and conviction for the 4.6 million participants of our funds. We want to make a difference for these participants by ensuring a good pension and by making our contribution to a liveable world. Our pension system contributes to reducing income inequality. So making a contribution to reducing social inequality suits us very well.”


In addition, the extension of the contract fits in with APG's sustainability ambition. Local social involvement is one of the four topics that the organization focuses on. Mosman: “We want to support a liveable, vital and inclusive society with a sponsor budget and the voluntary commitment of employees. JINC's activities fit in well with this.” At the forefront, however, are the more than 65,000 primary and pre-vocational secondary education students who are given the opportunity to grow through the efforts of companies. As a result, they discover which professions exist, which activities belong to them and what they like and dislike. “And that's important,” adds Angelique Middeldorp of JINC. “Children have to choose where to go at a young age, and many of them barely know what's for sale in the labor market.”

Volgende publicatie:
"Money doesn't make you happy, but worries about money do make you unhappy"

"Money doesn't make you happy, but worries about money do make you unhappy"

Published on: 31 May 2022

In the Netherlands, too, the current inflation rate means that a growing number of people are rapidly getting into financial difficulty. And that doesn't just affect their finances; it also affects their peace of mind. Making people financially resilient is important, according to Experts. Especially now and employers have a role to play here too. That's why Heleen Kuiten, managing director of HR at APG, took part in a roundtable discussion on this topic. "We can help employees to set up their financial picture in the best possible way.”

Geldvinder, APG's very own startup, is holding a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, June 7, focusing on financial fitness among employees. The current economic climate is a current reason for this, says Richard Coonen, CCO & Business Developer of the online platform. "Just when we can spend our money anywhere again after the corona crisis, many families are struggling financially. 62% of employers have employees with money worries and 46% are experiencing wage garnishments." But working on financial fitness is not just about solving problems, Coonen explains. "It's about making and keeping people financially resilient. So that they can deal well with financial setbacks and windfalls.”


On June 7, Richard Coonen and Heleen Kuijten, managing director of HR at APG, will discuss why financial fitness is so important during an online webinar with other HR directors, scientists, and experts. Two questions will be central: why is financial fitness just as important as physical and mental fitness? And: how do you pay attention to this as an employer? With, as an extension, an equally important question: what happens if you do nothing?

To start with the answer to that last question: according to Kuijten, doing nothing is actually not an option for an employer. “Employees are responsible for what they do in their private lives. And therefore also responsible for their finances. What we can do is help to get the finances in order as well as possible. To prevent people from dropping out.” According to Kuijten, this attitude fits well with being a good employer, but also with the social role that APG wants to fulfill.

Despite this personal responsibility, Kuijten knows that money problems cannot always be foreseen. She mentions inflation, student debt, or divorce as possible causes. "In the Netherlands people with an average and higher income currently end up in debt counseling and people with a job increasingly knock on the door of the Voedselbank. In the newspaper, I read about a woman who lives with three children in a caravan. She thought she had it all together: marriage, house with excess value. But after her husband's divorce, it turned out that they couldn't buy two houses from that excess value after all. And there she was.”

Beyond the front door
In her immediate surroundings, Kuijten "fortunately" sees no distressing cases. But she is concerned about friends who work as self-employed workers. "They earn well, but what about when they retire? If you are employed, you are obliged to save. But a self-employed person might have to sell his house to make ends meet later on." Kuijten also sees those cases come up when she looks at APG. "The general, but generalist, image is of course that you earn a great living at a company like APG. But we also know that these kinds of problems take place right behind the front door. And in the cases where we do know, employees are struggling with wage arrears or have a partner who, as a self-employed worker, saw their income disappear due to corona.”

Three Pillars
Often you only find out what is going on in someone's life when that employee drops out, says Kuijten. And where physical symptoms are initially thought of, she says mental and financial health definitely plays a role as well. "You don't drop out on one piece; it's a combination of those three pillars that gets pulled out from under you." The managing director of HR illustrates this with a personal experience. "When my father went bankrupt, I saw as a child what that entailed. The grief, the worry... Money doesn't make you happy, but worries about money do make you unhappy. And you take that with you all day long. Especially if you are a breadwinner and have children, it is constantly in your head, and in your body.”

As far as Kuijten is concerned, it is quite simple to give an employee a helping hand. "Of course, as an employer you can say, 'you earn enough, how can this happen?' But we have to take this issue seriously." Kuijten then thinks for example of a periodic financial examination. "Just like you have the periodic medical examination. Have you graduated and do you have student debt? Are you getting divorced? Is your retirement in sight, and do you want to stop working earlier? As an employer, you can offer the employee to start the conversation at those moments. You can also offer a financial planning course or a session with a money coach. At APG, employees receive a vitality budget with which they can go to the gym. And we also offer employees the opportunity to use Geldvinder in our current collective agreement.”

"This online platform was developed by APG in co-creation with 20 employers, 3 employers' umbrella organizations, and trade union representation," adds Coonen. "It shows employees how they stand financially now and in the future, what the financial consequences of certain (career) choices are, what they can improve and how they can do so. And this by providing insight into matters such as income and expenditure, buffers and risks, assets and debts." And also pensions stresses Coonen: "The pension system is subject to major changes in the coming years and a more active role is required from people. Geldvinder helps to find a way through this tricky matter.”

Taking the step to actually use such options can be big, Kuijten realizes. " Embarrassment can play a role. By naming it as an employer and opening the door for a conversation, you show that it can happen to anyone."
There are limits to offering help, though, adds the managing director of HR. "Of course, it's someone's right not to report financial concerns. But as an executive, you do hope that the bond of trust with your team is so good that people raise the alarm in time.”

Roundtable event Financial Fitness - Tuesday, June 7 at 15:00

The conversation will be recorded in a studio and can be attended via live stream. Sign up via this link: Webinar - Financieel fit zijn, net zo belangrijk als fysiek en mentaal (

Seated at the table are Heleen Kuijten (CHRO APG), Richard Coonen

(CCO & Business Developer Geldvinder), Paul-Peter Feld (Chief HR Officer Enexis), Renée-Andrée Koornstra (Director HRM Occupational Health & Environment VU Amsterdam), Tinka van Vuuren (Professor in Strategic Human Resources Management and Vitality Management), Clairette van der Lans

(Project leader financially fit employees at Wijzer in Geldzaken), Dr. Darya Moghimi

(Senior Human Resources Business Consultant  Work & Organizational Psychologist), Anouschka Laheij (Conversation leader).

Volgende publicatie:
“I don’t need to make a lot of money and I created that luxury position myself”

“I don’t need to make a lot of money and I created that luxury position myself”

Published on: 17 May 2022

How do you deal with work and money for now and for the future? Do you live one day at a time, or are you consciously planning your financial future? And are you setting things up for your future yourself, or do you belong to a pension fund? Sandra Boon lives as a “digital nomad” and can work anywhere in the world – as long as there is Wi-Fi.

Sandra Boon (30)

Profession: online entrepreneur

Works how many hours a week: between 20 and 40

Income: between 1500 and 2500 euros (net)

Savings: 10,000 saved, 15,000 invested

Pension set up? Yes


What exactly do you do?

“I am an online entrepreneur, and I do web design and online marketing, among other things. I also have a blog, I wrote a book about how I deal with money and I teach a course on dealing with money. I started my own business at 16 and taught myself everything from building websites to coding. I never had a paper route or a side job in a supermarket.”


How many hours a week do you spend on your business?

“It varies. When I’m in the Netherlands it’s usually full time, but when I’m on the road it’s more like twenty hours a week. I earn part of my income passively through affiliate links on my blog, among other things. When people buy something through those links, I get a certain amount. And when people buy my book, it is sent by another company. That brings a lot of peace of mind. I love being able to plan my own time, it feels very free. When you travel, you don’t always have the option to work; if you’re an online entrepreneur and there’s no Wi-Fi, that’s it. I have a small camper that I travel around in. I just spent over five months away, with my dog, who unfortunately passed away a few weeks ago. The fact that I can now take some time to deal with this is also one of the benefits of the way I’ve arranged my life.”


How much money do you make?

“On average between 1500 and 2500 euros a month, net.”

The less I spend, the less I need to work

Are you happy with that?

“I think it’s absolutely fine. I did earn more before; there were months when 8,000 euros came in, but then I would spend just as much. I traded in my old Toyota for an Audi, we moved from a small social housing unit to a large semi-detached house. Everything was upgraded, but that didn’t make me happier. I had to work very hard for it and outrun myself. It just wasn’t worth it to me.


A few years ago, when my relationship ended, I realized that I had nothing to show for all that hard work. That’s when I then changed my whole lifestyle in order to manage my finances a little better. I started saving for my retirement, bought a small house and started to watch my spending. Now I’m in the position of having things pretty well sorted out. That gives me a lot of peace and freedom. I don’t need to make a lot of money. The less I spend, the less I need to work. People who don’t know me think I’m a bit of a slacker. And there actually are weeks when I don’t do anything, but I can afford that. I created that luxury myself. I’m very glad I made that choice, because otherwise I’d still be living from paycheck to paycheck, so to speak.”


How much do you have in savings?

“I usually keep around 10,000 euros purely as savings, and in addition I also have about 15,000 euros invested.”


What are your basic monthly expenses?

“In total, they amount to about 1250 euros. The largest part goes to housing costs, my mortgage at 750 euros a month and the VvE at 125 euros. I also pay 105 euros a month for electricity, 89 euros for health insurance, 38 euros for insurance for my camper and I have subscriptions to Spotify (10 euros) and Netflix (8 euros). Depending on what I earn, I also put some away every month for my pension or on my investment account. But that’s not a fixed amount every month.”


What else do you spend money on?

“Mainly on travel, groceries and fun things, like eating out with friends or a day trip. I usually keep around 500 euros for variable expenses every month. When I'm traveling, I don't necessarily spend more than I do in the Netherlands. I have more fuel costs, but otherwise the costs remain fairly similar. I often stay at free campsites and I really don’t eat out three times a week. You can make it as expensive or cheap as you want. As much as possible, I want to spend my money on things that really make me happy.”


What do you save on?

“On anything I’m not interested in: clothing, makeup, getting coffee from a coffeeshop, furnishings, subscriptions, insurance. When it comes to energy in the house, I’m also super frugal; I take quick showers and rarely turn on the heating. But I would never sacrifice my quality of life to save money. You don’t have to, it’s up to you. You just need a lot less than you think. I noticed that again during my travels in the past few months. I didn’t have much with me, but I didn’t miss a thing.”

I want to live well and enjoy life, now and in the future

Are you making arrangements for your old age?

“Yes, for a number of years now I have had my annual margin invested by a pension provider for entrepreneurs. I have been working on it a lot lately, but not so much that I am putting in a fixed amount every month. I believe I have deposited 7,000 euros in two years so far. I put it off for a long time before, thinking I'd start putting in more when I was earning more. But instead of putting it into my retirement pot, I would spend it. It didn't feel right that I hadn’t accrued anything yet, so now I’m catching up in a big way. I don’t want to be poor when I get older. I want to live well and enjoy life, now and in the future. One doesn’t have to preclude the other.”


Do you see any improvement points with respect to your pension?

“I’m not where I want to be yet, I plan to put in more in the near future. But I think I’m on the right track and things will work out. Including the state pension, I’ll probably end up with around 2000 euros a month, and by that time I’ll have paid off my house, so I’ll be able to make ends meet.”


How do you picture your life by then?

“I would like to be on Gran Canaria or something, living the good life. Eating out a lot, doing things; anything but sitting at home and getting a cup of coffee at the snack bar once a week.”


Does money make you happy?

“Yes, especially because of the freedom it gives you. But it is a means, not an end in itself. Because I got my finances in order and rearranged my life, I don’t have to worry about money. As a result, I was able to escape the winter with my dog and experience the last chapter of his life with him in a special way. This would not have been possible if I had been penniless.”

Volgende publicatie:
'I sometimes long for the old days, without all those technological gadgets'

“I sometimes long for the old days, without all those technological gadgets”

Published on: 3 May 2022

Was everything better in the past, or does “now” also have its advantages? Different generations discuss social themes on the basis of propositions. This time, Karin van der Hulst (61) and her daughter Lotte Korpershoek (30). 

Lotte about herself: “I’m basically the rebel of the family; I do what I want. For example, I recently had my entire neck tattooed. Many people think that's intense, but I like it. Although my appearance might suggest otherwise, inside I am a soft-boiled egg. I work in home care three days a week and I am the mother of my 6-year-old daughter Saar.” 

Karin about her daughter: “It bothers me sometimes when she gets another tattoo - as a parent you think, is this what you really want to do? But on the other hand, it suits her and she can take anything. Besides, I used to be like that myself. I had a very short haircut and got my ears pierced, and my parents didn’t like that at all. Lot and I are very much alike. We have an incredible bond because of that. She lives in the same town and works just down the street, so we see each other almost every day. I admire Lot’s warmth and spontaneity. She always has an eye for what others need.”  


Karin about herself: “I am married to Peter and we have four children and seven grandchildren together. For many years I worked in childcare at a swimming pool, but when it closed during Covid, I decided to take early retirement. I figured I’d worked enough.” 

Lotte about her mother: “My mother is very sweet to me, and she is always there for me. We only need half a word to understand each other. It’s true that we are quite similar. Unfortunately, we also share our worst trait: we have zero patience.” 


Proposition: A good life is attainable for anyone in the Netherlands 

Lotte: “Yes, I agree with that. If you really want it, it is possible.” 

Karin: “The social safety net is generous. Maybe even a little too much. I think that some people abuse it sometimes. One of my daughters is a single mother with four children, but she works almost full time to make ends meet, while in her street there are many people sitting at home all day, doing nothing. I see cars parked outside their doors and I think: how is that possible? That bothers me sometimes.” 

Lotte: “Yes, I notice that too. Especially the slightly older generation, who benefit from a certain favorable scheme that they would lose if they went back to work. I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t understand why they don’t check it more carefully.” 


Proposition: Technological progress is inherently good  

Lotte: “In this day and age, when we are all so busy, we hardly know how to live without technological advances. I am already happy that there is a delayed start on my washing machine, for example, so that I can time it so the laundry is ready exactly when I get home from work.” 

Karin: “It’s all a bit much for me at times. I sometimes long for the old days, without all those technological gadgets. Everyone is on their phone all the time, children are often gaming on their iPads. Go outside, I think. It’s nice to have a washing machine, but I don’t use the dryer. I prefer to hang my laundry outside on the line, that makes me happy. All these things have been invented and we can’t go back. I sometimes regret that. Doing the dishes used to be quite an event. We did it together, we sang at the top of our lungs and had good conversations, so special. Those were good times.” 

Lotte, laughing: “Well, we were not all that excited about doing the dishes. But seriously: you did take the time to really listen to each other back then.” 


Proposition: People used to watch out for each other more 

Lotte: “For us, when I talk about our family, that doesn't apply. We look out for each other and for others a lot. But I do notice that outside of that, it’s not so much like that. To give an example: when I see someone eating, I always say ‘Bon appetit’. But when we were walking in the city the other day and I did that, the person I said that to just about fell off his chair in surprise.” 

Karin: “But we just keep doing that anyway. I have noticed that, especially since Covid, people live more in their own little world. That worries me.” 

Lotte: “I think, in any case, people could be a little more considerate of each other. The world would be a much better place for it.”  


Proposition: You have to be so careful when you say anything these days 

Karin: “Yes, at least it is said more often that you should not say something. People take everything personally and many subjects are sensitive. Sometimes you don’t mean anything wrong, but it is misunderstood. I think tolerance is hard to find.” 

Lotte: “Yes, you think extra about everything: is it okay to say this? Is it okay to do this? For example, my daughter will soon be having an event at school, with the theme ‘come as what you want to be’. She wants to wear an army outfit, but I find that a bit sensitive, with the war in Ukraine. That kind of thing.” 

It is practically impossible to live on one income as parents nowadays.

Proposition: We are very prudish nowadays 

Karin: “When I look at today’s video clips, they don’t look prudish to me. I was not very prudish myself, even though I was raised that way.” 

Lotte: “You didn’t raise us to be prudish either.” 

Karin: “Well, I seem to remember that we had no problem with nudity, and you were the one that had a problem with us wanting to put a new glass shower door in the bathroom.” 

Lotte: “Hmm, I don’t know where I get that from, but I’m always conscious of what I want to show or not show. That is also how I am raising my daughter. I don’t mind if she makes videos for TikTok, but only fully dressed and she always has to show them to me first. Decency is important to me. Especially since I became a mom, public nudity seems to bother me more. I would never lie down topless on the beach, for example. I don’t consider that decent.” 


Proposition: The gap between the rich and the poor keeps getting bigger  

Lotte: “Absolutely. They should take more money from the rich. If you have a lot, you can afford to give more, I’d say.” 

Karin: “Then again, I find the discussion about taxing home ownership a tricky one. My husband and I have almost paid off our mortgage and have worked hard for years to do so. It wouldn’t feel fair to us if we were suddenly taxed more. But, on the other hand, it’s not fair for our youngest daughter to pay 2000 euros a month in rent and not be able to buy. I think that is really awful.” 

Lotte: “I have a good life. But it is getting more and more expensive. It’s practically impossible to live on one income as parents, nowadays. You both have to work, or you won’t be able to make ends meet. We basically spend an entire month’s wages on basic expenses like mortgage and utilities, and we don’t even have that big a mortgage.” 

Karin: “I had the luxury of being able to stay home when the kids were little. Once they were all in school, I went back to work. I’m noticing that we are often asked to babysit the grandchildren now. I love doing it and I love them, of course, but sometimes I think: my husband and I want to do things for ourselves too, now that we have reached this age. These days, there is a lot of pressure on grandparents because the parents work so much. And I see a lot of grandparents at the school, picking up the kids. I don’t think we are meant to be the ones raising the grandchildren.” 

In the neighborhood we live in now, hardly anyone watches out for each other

Proposition: Kids these days, they will never amount to anything 

Karin: “I think every generation lumps the young people together. Our parents said the same thing: those kids will never amount to anything. And although you think you’ll never say that yourself, you end up doing it anyway. You are still inclined to think that it was better in your time. But I don’t really believe that today’s youth is so hopeless.” 

Lotte: “There are always a few bad apples; that’s just the way it is. But if I encounter a nuisance from a group of young people, for example, then I try to talk to them, in a positive way. To get them to change their minds. For example: hey, I understand that you are here and you’re having a good time, but would you mind toning it down a bit? Then the problem is solved. Everyone should have a place to develop themselves, especially young people.” 

Karin: “Lotte also went through a phase where she was hanging around the mall with a group of friends. I would hear about that from other people.” 

Lotte: “It was just fun.” 

Karin: “Other people didn’t like it. They’d say to me: I’d drag her out of there by the hair. But I knew: she’ll probably be into something else again in a couple of weeks. She was searching. I think we should put ourselves in their shoes more. If we all do that and we are all a little more considerate of each other, everything will be fine.” 


Proposition: Everything was better in the past 

Lotte: “I was a lot more relaxed when I was a child. Now I constantly have this sense of agitation and I experience quite a bit of stress. We used to communicate very differently and we used to enjoy playing outside. Yes, my experience is that things were better in the past.” 

Karin: “I think so too. We lived in a “woonerf” (living street); you don’t see those anymore either. The whole neighborhood played together, the children were always outside. In the neighborhood where we live now, hardly anyone watches out for each other. I don’t even know who our neighbors across the street are. That really bothers me. More and more municipalities are merging, which means that the village feeling of everyone knows everyone is disappearing. It is all becoming so impersonal.” 

Volgende publicatie:
Entrepreneurial platform calls CEO APG “role model” for inclusive leadership

Entrepreneurial platform calls CEO APG “role model” for inclusive leadership

Published on: 26 April 2022

APG board chair Annette Mosman is among the 30 most inclusive leaders of 2022. So says MT/Sprout, a platform focused on entrepreneurship and leadership. The “Inclusive30” is a list of thirty people “who make a proven contribution to inclusion and diversity in the Dutch business community.”

Leaders who make a difference by setting a good example, making concrete progress and actively spreading the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I). That is what MT/Sprout set out to find for the Inclusive30.

Tackling inequality

The platform calls APG “an organization that is setting an example by eradicating gender pay inequality in the same positions.” Mosman appears to have come into the picture for the Inclusive30 in part because, having closed the pay gap in one fell swoop in 2019, APG is now tackling inequality structurally. To do so, the company has been looking into the causes of the career paths among women being less steep on average. At APG, there is still work to be done; mainly in the management layer immediately below the board of directors. At that level, women make up 26 percent of the total number of managers. At the board level (50 percent women) and in the supervisory board (60 percent women), APG already has the appropriate ratio.


MT/Sprout notes that things are going in the right direction at the supervisory board level in the Dutch business community. But less progress has been made at the executive board level - certainly where unlisted companies are concerned.


That progress is achieved by embracing differences, among other things, Mosman says. “Diversity and inclusion are great; they enrich you and your organization. Start small, then you will ultimately achieve big changes. And thirdly: create policy, but most of all, be inclusive in the day-to-day contact.”


“Crystal clear”

There is no lack of “attention” for diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the Netherlands. In the business world you won’t easily find people who are against it, at least not openly. Even according to MT/Sprout, the “usefulness and necessity of inclusiveness are crystal clear”. And in the same breath, they add that achieving tangible progress is “another matter”. All the more reason to use it as a criterion for the Inclusive30.  

Volgende publicatie:
Exchanging a religious holiday gives room to all faiths

Exchanging a religious holiday gives room to all faiths

Published on: 25 April 2022

What if an employee wants to be free on the day that Muslims celebrate Sugar Feast and wants to work on Good Friday, for example? No problem at APG. We stand for an inclusive work environment where everyone can be themselves. This also includes celebrating religious holidays. And not just on the days that Dutch employees have officially off. Colleague Mohammed Elfayda is very happy with that. “I really get all the space to exercise my faith.”


This Ramadan is a very special one for Mohammed Elfayda, Product Owner Swift & Payment Services at APG. “Because corona is 'over' and we are now at home with the three of us instead of the two of us. For my family it is really a month of reflection and self-reflection.”

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and it started on April 1 this year. It is a very important month. "During this period, Muslims commemorate Muhammad receiving his first message from God. Everything that God told him was written down in the Quran. And we do that commemoration by fasting; one of the five pillars of Islam, in addition to profession of faith, prayer, almsgiving and a pilgrimage to Mecca. And that means that we Muslims do not eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset. No, not even a drink of water."


His work does not suffer from fasting, says Mohammed. "We are allowed to set our own working hours at APG and that is ideal, really. So, during this month, I get up before dawn to have something to eat, which means that my nights are always broken up during Ramadan. But then I have the freedom to start work an hour later. Another advantage is that I have the opportunity to do my prayers in Heerlen as well as in Amsterdam."

No, not even a drink of water

Set tables
When Mohammed thinks back to the old days, he automatically gets a smile on his face. "The whole family together, long, set tables and everyone was happy. The last two years were different because of Covid. And this year is still not like before; everyone is still cautious. And rightly so. This year we have been sharing meals only with my parents or parents-in-law and not with the whole family. And we do that only at our house. Because our 9-month-old son is used to going to sleep around eight o’clock. And because sunset is currently around 8:45 p.m., the family comes to our place."


Fixed traditions

According to Mohammed it is a tradition to break your fast with a glass or milk and a date in the evening. Followed by a cup of soup. "That may be traditional harira or a tomato-vegetable soup. My own tradition is to have some bread with Bufkes party sauce on it, with the soup, haha. Once I finish that, I’m pretty full. About an hour and a half after dinner, we go the mosque for evening prayers."


A lot of sweet stuff
Now that Ramadan is almost over, Mohammed is looking forward to the Sugar Fest. That may take place on May 2, the exact day depends on the new moon. “Around the last days of Ramadan, people check whether the new moon has been seen. When it is Eid, you actually only know the night before. On that morning of the first day of the tenth month, called shawwal, we get up early, take care of ourselves and go to the mosque. After the prayer, something is eaten, for example dates or other sweets, to indicate that the fast is really over. Then the party begins. We visit family, eat more sweets and exchange presents. And if possible, we also visit the graves of deceased loved ones.”
In terms of work, nothing stands in the way for Mohammed to celebrate the Sugar Fest. “APG has launched a diversity day. That means that every employee can exchange Good Friday for a religious holiday of their choice.”

Volgende publicatie:
Can housing be made affordable again?

Can housing be made affordable again?

Published on: 14 April 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: Head of European real estate Robert-Jan Foortse talks about the question of whether housing can be made affordable again.

New homes threaten to become unaffordable for many people, warns the Home Owners Association (VEH) on Monday. The same day, the government says it wants to do something about the steep rise in rents in the free sector. The question arises whether housing can be made affordable again, and how. According to Foortse, there is only one solution, and that is to build more homes. A lot of homes. 

Rental Rates
“I think the solution is a bigger housing supply. Other measures may be counterproductive. One example of a counterproductive measure is limiting rent increases. After all, if rents are no longer allowed to rise, why would investors invest in Dutch homes? One consequence may be that large investors invest their capital in the housing market of the countries around us, where often the same problems apply as in the Netherlands. After all, part of the problem is partly the result of the monetary and fiscal policy pursued in recent years.”

When it comes to rental housing, corporations also play a role. “They could divest part of their rental housing in the free sector to institutional investors in order to focus entirely on social rental housing.” Foortse does not think that will send rental rates in the free sector through the roof. “Institutional investors generally invest in residential properties because they have a fairly low investment risk and are therefore a stable part of their portfolio. Residential investments have a somewhat lower return but if the rent increases are around the inflation level, I think it works well for investors. For this year, the largest Dutch investors, in consultation with IVBN and the Ministry of the Interior, have decided to limit the rent increase to 3.3%, despite higher inflation. A limited rent increase reduces competition because it makes private equity firms, which want to increase rent as much as possible in a short period of time, lose interest. Thus, you reduce the stress on the market and prices do not go through the roof. Long-term investors benefit most from a stable, predictable housing market.”

Investors are also looking at accessibility for housing in the large cities for workers such as teachers and medical staff

New buildings
The Dutch housing market now consists of 57 percent owner-occupied housing and 43 percent rental housing. Investments for new rental homes will have to come partly from investors, but the money for owner-occupied homes will have to be raised by private buyers. “Newly built homes are now in the 300 to 500,000s, but that is a price that few people can afford anymore, according to VEH. The question is how to build houses in the 200 to 250,000 range. They will either be much smaller than the current new construction, or they will be in places that are less desirable,” Foortse says. There are two major components in the price structure of a house that make it difficult to build much cheaper. “There are the construction and material costs, which are rising by the day due to high inflation, and there is the price of the site. That is often calculated by municipalities. It is difficult for them to offer the site cheaper, because then they are left with a hole in their budget and can no longer finance other projects.”

Last month, Housing Minister Hugo de Jonge did indicate that he can intervene with a so-called “designation” with local authorities to enable additional residential construction. To date, such a designation has rarely been used, and not without reason, Foortse believes. “That is considered a draconian measure in the Netherlands, because you touch the hierarchy that we have in this country with a national, provincial and municipal government. I understand that the cabinet wants to coordinate the solution to this problem centrally, but I can also understand if there is local resistance to new constructions projects here and there.

Finally, according to Foortse, the construction of new homes is not only hindered by the sharp increase in land and material costs, but also by the strict(er) laws and regulations regarding sustainability. Examples are regulations on insulation, on the disconnection of gas networks and on emissions of CO2 and nitrogen. "This limits the possibilities to designate new housing locations and often leads to higher construction costs. Institutional investors also have the task of investing heavily to make the existing housing portfolios more sustainable. The latter does contribute to lower energy costs for tenants."

There are several sides to the concept of affordability, Foortse explains. “For example, you can ask yourself for whom new construction should be affordable. If new houses are built for around 450,000, we can at least ensure that anyone currently living in a house valued at 200-300,000 could upgrade to a new house. This will create more supply in the lower segment for first-time buyers. In recent years, the supply in the 450,000-range lagged behind, which prevented people from advancing in the housing market. After all, if there are no better-quality new homes, why move? Traditionally, a person moves from a single to a double household and eventually to a family home. People generally look for more space in their next home.”

Building more is thus the long-term solution. There are, however, a number of concerns that Foortse believes should be taken into account. One is to ensure that the government does not scare off large investors by limiting rent increases. As far as new construction is concerned, consideration must be given to whom it is being built for: for those moving up to the higher segment or for first-time buyers. And in the case of new construction, it will be a balancing act for the government to remove any local resistance to new construction projects. "In the shorter term, we can investigate whether we could make better use of the existing housing stock, as was recently suggested by some economists. This could be done by further stimulating cohabitation, or at least not making it more financially unattractive. The number of single-person households has been rising for years. For the affordability of the housing market, it would be good if that trend could be stopped. In addition to affordability, institutional investors are also looking at accessibility for housing in the large(r) cities for so-called 'key workers', such as teachers and medical staff. This can be done by introducing priority arrangements."

Volgende publicatie:
APG sponsors Topvrouwen Limburg

APG sponsors Topvrouwen Limburg

Published on: 6 April 2022

Promoting more female leadership throughout the Netherlands. With that goal in mind, Francine van Dierendonck has signed a sponsorship contract with Topvrouwen Limburg on behalf of APG. "APG has a special bond with the Limburg region, and therefore it wants to draw extra attention to diversity here too."

Stichting Topvrouwen Limburg is a foundation that aims to promote and develop female entrepreneurship and leadership in the southern province. And that is a mission APG is happy to join. Francine van Dierendonck, member of the board of directors and responsible for Fund Operations and Participant and Employer Services, explains why: "As a major employer, APG wants to promote female leadership throughout the Netherlands. APG has a special bond with the Limburg region, and therefore it wants to draw extra attention to diversity here too. Wouldn't it be great if the Limburg Top Woman 2022 can soon be seen as a role model by all colleagues within APG, men and women? To be inspired and motivated by her in their further careers."

As a sponsor, APG makes every effort to promote 'female entrepreneurship, female management, female energy and female business emotion' to stimulate and develop within their own organization'. According to Francine, practice is as follows: "In terms of promotions and appointments, we are alert to diversity and in recent years, APG has put a lot of effort into closing the pay gap. We also recently started an executive leadership program to develop talent in the organization. Because we don't yet have the male-female ratio in order in all layers of the organization, we offer this program as a priority to a group of talented women."

Making a difference
The annual election for the honorary title of Limburg Top Woman is one of the ways in which the foundation promotes female leadership. The election puts inspiring top women in the spotlight. The title is bestowed on 'a personality that radiates and gives confidence, and a top woman with an established reputation, who is passionate about doing the right thing for people and society'.
Hannie Bovens, Group Finance Project Manager at APG and also an unpaid board member at Stichting Topvrouwen Limburg, adds: "Together with the jury, we're now translating this into specific assessment criteria. These will be dynamic; each jury can put its own stamp on it and the zeitgeist also plays a role. The common theme is 'where, as a woman, you make the difference'. And how that makes you a role model for others."

Not automatically at the top
Hannie has been involved in promoting female leadership for a long time now. In the past, as a member of the top women's network within APG and from her role as a supervisory director at a housing corporation, the intention came about to set up a female supervisory director network in Limburg. That is how she came into contact with Topvrouwen Limburg. "Years ago, I thought that the promotion of women would all come automatically. However, when I look back on it, I notice something completely different. All women of my generation have also continued their education and have continued to work (many of them full-time) but unfortunately, that's not reflected in the figures of female managers."


Topvrouwen Limburg is for that matter not the same as or a split-off from Stichting Topvrouw van het Jaar, a foundation that focuses on women throughout the Netherlands. They do, however, pursue the same goal.

Sonja Stassen, Eef Langenveld, Francine van Dierendonck en Hannie Bovens. 

Volgende publicatie:
Is the Dutch shopping street making a comeback?

Is the Dutch shopping street making a comeback?

Published on: 30 March 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: Head of European real estate Robert-Jan Foortse, about the future of the Dutch shopping street. “In the past, people mainly went there to buy things. Today, consumers want more.”

In the first year after opening, the Mall of the Netherlands, a shopping center in Leidschendam-Voorburg, attracted 13 million visitors, despite two lockdowns. That was more than expected. This tells us that big shopping malls seem to be faring well, but the Dutch shopping street, on the other hand, is struggling, and has been for some time, Foortse says. “Although it does make a difference whether you are talking about the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam or a shopping street in the somewhat smaller provincial town. The trend from physical to digital sales has been going on for a number of years, and Covid has accelerated that trend.” Still, Foortse sees opportunities for the shopping street, although it will require a transformation.


Investing in shopping streets to help them get back on their feet is not so easy. “The problem with shopping streets is that ownership is extremely fragmented. It is therefore very difficult to create a proposition for a shopping street because there are so many stakeholders and owners. For example, one owner may want to invest in his own property but not in the infrastructure, while another may not want to invest at all. Because of this fragmentation, APG, about fifteen years ago, chose to invest primarily in shopping malls and outlets, such as, for example, Batavia Stad Fashion Outlet. This is actually a replica of a Dutch shopping street. Because we have full ownership, this shopping street can be managed and controlled in the same way as a shopping mall. We have influence on the range of stores, the parking facilities and whether it is safe and well maintained. We don’t have that influence in an ordinary shopping street. Visitors in Batavia Stad notice that it is a pleasant environment for shopping, although the outlet discounts also play a role, of course.” 


Because the traditional shopping street has so many stakeholders with different interests, it takes a long time to find a new use for it, says Foortse. “This is primarily a problem that, in my opinion, lends itself to a public-private partnership. The various stakeholders must come together and design a joint vision of the shopping street of the future.” Because the function is changing. “In the past, people used to go there mainly to buy things. Today, consumers want more. I think people still want to go to the shopping street, but it’s more to buy something tasty from the deli or to visit a pop-up store. You have to create something that appeals to people, and that is no longer just offering items to buy. Experience may be a word that is being overused, but it really is about that. Post-Covid, we are once again noticing that people are social beings after all and like to go somewhere where there are other people.”

A transformation of the shopping street is afoot, but it is happening slowly


Of all purchases, about 75 percent are still made in physical stores. The remaining 25 percent is done digitally; a percentage that will only get higher. The average shopping street of the near future will therefore need fewer square meters of retail space. “The shopping street still has quite a few qualities to offer, but we may have to reinvent it and find a new approach. One of those qualities is that they are often centrally located in a town. Also, there is often parking nearby. If flexible working becomes a permanent part of our lives, retail space can be converted into workplaces. People who don’t have a suitable workspace at home will then be able to go there, but they will still not want to have to deal with traffic jams to the office outside the city.” The location in the city center and the parking facilities also argue in favor of converting stores into homes, Foortse believes. “But it can easily take several years to get the zoning changed. That does take away the incentive to create something new in a shopping street. That’s where I see a role for politicians. They should ensure that this process can be accelerated.”  


It appears that the Dutch shopping street will be able to make a new start, but it will look very different in ten or twenty years than it does today, Foortse believes. “I think you’ll see much more of a mix of today’s traditional stores, places to eat and drink, offices where you can rent workplaces and residential spaces. That will be true for all cities, although there will be differences in emphasis. For example, Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat will remain primarily a shopping street while the shopping street in a smaller town will include more housing. A transformation of the shopping street is afoot, but it is happening slowly.”

Volgende publicatie:
'If you have too much money, nothing is special anymore'

"If you have too much money, nothing is special anymore"

Published on: 30 March 2022

How do you deal with work and money for now and later? Do you live by the day or do you purposefully plan your financial future? In this Money Week, we let a couple of young people have their say. Marek (16) puts some money aside every month, but doesn't mind spending the rest. 


Marek Hankel (16) 

Income: 500 euros per month 

Savings: about 700 euros 


Do your parents give you any money? 

"Yes, 30 euros pocket money and a 50-euros clothing allowance each month. My friends get about the same amount. Sometimes my parents give me a bit extra, like the last time during carnival. They gave me 50 euros and they let me spend it on whatever I wanted. But if I get something, my brother and sister want the same, of course, so my parents have to draw a line." 


Do you think it's enough? 

"Not for what I want to spend it on. You know, I can buy a shirt at a cheap store for 15 euros, but I prefer a shirt from Daily Paper for 50 euros. I just have expensive taste. That's why part of the money I earn from my second job is spent on clothing, and I often ask for designer clothes on my birthday and holidays." 


Do you have any other sources of income? 

"Yes, I work at the till at Jumbo, about fifteen hours a week. That earns me 5.60 euros per hour, on Sundays double that. On a monthly basis, that's about 250 euros net. I also get an internship allowance of 180 euros per month. I do a disabled care internship two days a week. All in all, I get just over 500 euros per month. I think that's quite a lot." 


What did you parents teach you about money? 

"My parents are quite frugal, they don't spend their money on 'silly' things. For example, they don't understand why I need a shirt from Daily Paper so badly, I might as well buy a cheap shirt, right? I have a different opinion about that, but I do understand them. They also taught me to save enough so you always have some money for a rainy day." 


How much have you saved? 

"Between 600 and 800 euros, I think. I pay about 200 euros into my savings account every month. I don't think saving is easy, but I know it's wise, so I'll do it. My parents have also set aside a certain amount for me for later."  

Do you have a specific savings goal? 

"Yes, I would like to buy a scooter. You can't get it for less than 1500 euros, so I have to keep saving for a bit." 


Are you good with money? 

"Fairly, sometimes I have to control myself. The thing is, I like to buy things. I can put a lot more in my savings account, but what will I gain with that? When I have a real salary later, those few hundred euros will mean nothing. I'd better have a good time with my earned money now than have it just sitting doing nothing in my savings account." 

The thing is, I like to buy thingsThe thing is, I like to buy things

What do you spend your money on, apart from designer clothes? 

"Driving lessons, I have to pay half of that myself, my parents pay the other half. Going out is also quite expensive. The supermarket also gets some of my income; I often go get a sandwich with a can of Red Bull during my break, and it all adds up. And I bought a PlayStation, for example, and a new phone. They're not cheap either." 


What do you want to be later in life? 

"I want to do something in social care. Maybe care for the disabled, or in a juvenile detention center. I'm not quite sure where exactly. But I want to work with people anyway, help people." 


That's not a sector known for good earnings, do you find that difficult? 

"Well, of course you work to get paid, but if you're only working on the best income, I think you're doing something wrong. I would be very unhappy if I earned 10,000 euros a month and had to sit in an office working on a laptop all day. I'd much rather help people. If that pays less, so be it." 


Does money make you happy? 

"Yes, I'm convinced of that. For a large part, at least. At my age, it would be nice if I really had a lot of money so I could just buy a scooter and not have to worry about what I was spending when I go out. But I can't imagine someone like Jeff Bezos being happy anymore. If you have so much money, nothing is special anymore. It'll be very special for me to be able to buy a scooter, because I've worked very hard for it. But if you can buy everything without thinking, the fun's gone." 


Are you worried about your financial future? 

"I wouldn't say worried, but I do think about it. Everything's getting more expensive. Sometimes I think you need to have a high income to be able to join in with the fun. I also think I'll be living at home longer than I might like. We just moved to a nice house, my friends can come by often. Then why would I sit in a room of 10 m2 for an extremely high amount of money? I don't see myself leave at age 18, that's in less than a year and a half. No, I wouldn't mind leaving the house until I'm 21." 


Your retirement is still a long way off, have you ever thought about it? 

"I make a lot of jokes about retiring soon when I'm busy. I also sometimes think about what I would do by then, but I'm not yet planning anything for when I'm 70. I'll see what I have left by then. I don't see myself stop working at 50, as some people intend to do. You have to save up everything and not spend a single euro. I do want to be able to go on holiday and go out for dinner now and then - enjoy myself."  

Volgende publicatie:
“Financial questions by young people are really all about now”

“Financial questions by young people are really all about now”

Published on: 29 March 2022

On 28 March, Money Week kicked off. The starting signal was given from the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, by Queen Máxima, honorary president of platform Wijzer in geldzaken (Wiser in money matters). Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag was also in attendance. Together they talked to four guest lecturers spread across four locations in the Netherlands by video link. Among them was DaCapo College in Geleen, where APG’s Head of Growth Management Anne-Marie Le Doux was teaching at that time.

Which class did you give the guest lesson to?
Anne-Marie: “These students are thirteen to sixteen years old and are in practical education phase two, also called the internship orientation phase. This phase is about awareness of talents - for example through internships - but attention is also given to, for example, independent living. Everything is geared towards the prospect of being able to work in retail, hospitality, facility services or technology, at the end of this phase.”

Money Week, like the guest lesson “Now for later”, is held under the umbrella of Wijzer in geldzaken (Wiser in money matters). This platform is an initiative of the Ministry of Finance, and is aimed at promoting financial fitness in the Netherlands. To achieve this, partners from the financial sector, science, government and educational, information and consumer organizations join forces.

In this 11th edition of Money Week, extra attention is being drawn, through Friday April 1, to the thousands of guest lessons and workshops offered at primary and secondary schools by people working in the financial sector. The guest lectures and workshops are held throughout the year. This year’s theme is “From Doekoe to Digi” and is about the increasing digitization of money (e.g. contactless payments, internet banking, digital payment requests and online investing).

What did you talk to them about? “I gave the guest lesson 'Now for later', developed by the Pension Federation. PGGM and APG were asked to delegate teachers for this. The lesson was created to get students thinking about their financial future. It is about what you can do now and in the years ahead to make sure you can continue to live comfortably after you retire. The lesson also gives insight into what pensions actually are, how they are accrued and what are important moments to watch out for when it comes to your retirement.”

Isn’t it difficult to get students in this age group interested in retirement?
“What you notice is that retirement is still very far from their minds. Their questions are really all about now. For example: how does the tax return for my side job work? How does my DiGiD work? Do I need my own health insurance? And how do I get that set up? I really had to adjust my narrative to that. Fortunately, the lesson is very well structured, it is very interactive and can easily be adapted to the level you are dealing with.

I did notice that as a teacher you really have to be a jack-of-all-trades. Teacher Debby knew all the students from top to bottom, knew exactly what was going on during the lesson, while at the same time keeping an eye on their energy levels, and knew how to make my story even livelier for her students. That is quite impressive. It is also nice for a guest lecturer when someone like that is available, even if they are just in the background.”

How did you build that bridge to pensions?
“For example, by talking about saving for a moped. We discussed that just as you can save for a moped, you can also save for unforeseen expenses - and thus also for retirement. We talked about the importance of looking ahead, using the example of a phone plan. We discussed ‘how to deal with your expensive phone subscription if you lose your side job’. The conclusion was that you really need to avoid debt or arrears, and you definitely want to stay away from a BKR registration. Attention to that is incredibly important because more than 37 percent of young people are in debt and one in four are already in arrears.”

Did you also talk about pension funds?
“Not so much about pension funds, but about the distinction between pension accrual as a self-employed person and pension accrual as an employee. A number of these students dream of starting their own hairdressing salon, or being self-employed in the construction industry. So how you accrue a pension as a self-employed person and what you need to set up for that is very relevant to them. This is a group that often starts work at a relatively young age. The sooner they start making healthy financial choices, the better they can live now and in the future.”

How did the conversation with Queen Máxima and Minister Kaag go?
“That was a bit chaotic because there were problems with the sound. As a result, none of the four conversations actually went very well. Too bad, but the teacher did tell me that her class really enjoyed the conversations with the Queen and the Minister. Feeling ‘seen’ is not something that comes naturally to this group.” 

Volgende publicatie:
What happens when a country goes bankrupt?

What happens when a country goes bankrupt?

Published on: 25 March 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: Sjacco Schouten, Head of Emerging Market Debt, about the consequences when a country such as Russia is no longer able to fulfil its payment obligations. “Also in an economic sense, it is a scenario with only losers.”


In the beginning of March, a number of credit rating agencies expressed the expectation that Russia would possibly no longer be able in the short term to fulfil its payment obligations (interest and redemption of the national debt) due to the Western sanctions. Russian government bonds were given a so-called ‘junk’ status, which more or less means that creditors deem it very likely that a large part of their money will not be repaid. This raises the question what happens to a country in case of such ‘bankruptcy’. In what case is this applicable? And what are the consequences?


The first question appears to be relatively easy to answer. Schouten: “The interest payment and redemption of government bonds usually takes place on pre-established dates. If a country misses such date, a grace period takes effect first during which the country is given the opportunity to still make the payment. When that doesn't happen, the country officially goes in default.


Virtually zero

The answer to the second question – about the consequences of such default – is much more complicated as it entails quite some ifs and buts.


“When a country is officially in default, all kinds of processes are activated. A government will usually propose a restructuring to the bondholders and make agreements on ‘how to continue’. These agreements depend on the conditions of the bond and the legislation of the country where the bonds are issued. In the most extreme case, when a country is truly unwilling or unable to pay, the bondholders are possibly forced to fully write off their bonds, to virtually zero. The price will not be entirely zero, because you can never rule out for a hundred percent that some money will still be repaid at a certain time.”


Russia has not yet achieved that point. The country has not missed any payments until now. Should that be the case in the future, it will rather be due to the sanctions making payment transactions impossible or Russia's willingness to pay than its ability to fulfil the financial obligations. “Given Russia's oil revenues, the country should be more than capable to fulfil its obligations. Whether the country is also willing to do so in the long term, is a different issue. In that respect, a distinction in conditions could arise between investors who are willing to participate in restructuring and bondholders who are unwilling or unable to do as a result of the sanctions. This provides Russia with the opportunity to give ‘friendly’ countries more favorable conditions than ‘unfriendly’ countries.”


Preferential treatment

However, the pari passu principle applies to bondholders, meaning they should be treated equally. Schouten: “In principle, bondholders from a certain country cannot be given a preferential treatment. But the conditions of bonds issued under local legislation may differ from the conditions of government bonds issued under international legislation. In addition to the legislative aspect, many other factors play a role in a possible restructuring of the Russian national debt. For example, the currency in which a bond is issued - dollars or rubles. Moreover, for certain investors it is simply forbidden to still receive payments from Russia or to make payments to Russian entities. All of those factors combined make restructuring very complicated when it comes to Russia.”



What are the consequences should Russia decide to no longer pay its bondholders?


“In that case, the country would become even more isolated and restricted in gaining access to the capital markets. In the short-term Russia is able to absorb a lot through its oil reserves and proceeds from oil and gas supplies. In broad lines, the country is still able to keep its economy running reasonably well. But in the months to come, the Russian economy is expected to shrink and the financial situation of the country will become more problematic. To what extent the country will then be able to hold back the economic contraction depends on the willingness of other countries to help Russia. That willingness cannot be excluded. Even if all Western countries - such as the US - ban Russian oil, Russia can still sell oil to other countries.”


‘Adding insult to injury’

Nevertheless, it looks like Russia will be facing a doomsday scenario in an economic sense. “In terms of food, Russia should for a large part be able to continue to be self-sufficient. But once the supply of everything the country imports stops - technology, computers, chips, and so on – large parts of the economy will come to a standstill. The average Russian will go back in time. He or she may possibly overcome the fact that a visit to McDonald’s is no longer possible, but access to technological knowledge and certain parts for instance, is of great importance to keep an economy running and developing.”


Adding insult to injury, that's what it comes down to should Russia become a defaulter. Schouten: “The sanctions are already causing damage to the economy. The population already prefers having dollars instead of rubles. In the event of a default, a major cycle is triggered after which the Russian economy is expected to end up in a deep recession with high inflation. Also in an economic sense, it is a scenario with only losers.”

Volgende publicatie:
“Cleaners deserve more respect”

“Cleaners deserve more respect”

Published on: 22 December 2021

Pragmatic and cost conscious, allergic to red tape and formalism: Tarik Uçar fights for every pension euro in his role as executive director of the cleaning industry pension fund. And for more social decency: “People often don’t even greet cleaners.”


Tarik Uçar is actually more than just a pension fund director, he is also an employer in the cleaning industry. For three hours every week, he has a maid clean his house. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, he continued to pay her as normal. Later, he heard that he was the only one of her employers to do so. “She lost most of her income virtually overnight, putting her in acute financial problems. What possesses these people not to continue to pay her?” he says outraged.

The lack of social decency and the collective disdain for people in the cleaning industry, that’s what he intends to help change. As well as ensure a good pension for the members of the pension fund he is a director of, the pension fund for the cleaning and window cleaning industry (BPF Schoonmaak). Among the pension fund’s 529,000 (former) members and pensioners, there are many migrants, a vulnerable group in society. “They are only vulnerable financially, they are otherwise actually very strong people,” says Uçar, who is of Turkish descent himself, to add some nuance.


First of all, how has the Covid-19 crisis affected the cleaning industry?
“Hospitals and schools need extra cleaners, while hotels, bars, and restaurants need fewer. Cleaners in the hospitality industry working on an on-call contract then have zero income and, consequently, no contributions toward their retirement pension either. For employers in the cleaning business who serve industries such as hospitality, it’s also sink or swim. That’s why it’s so good that the government has stepped in, because the industry cannot do it on its own. Looking at my own household help, self-employed cleaners are also bound to struggle.

The vaccination rate among the migrant population is below the average in the Netherlands.
“Vaccination issues are not within our remit as a pension fund. Research shows, however, that our members are generally hit hard by Covid-19. Over the past year, a considerably larger number of cleaners died than in pre-pandemic years. Excess mortality in the cleaning industry is higher than in the rest of the Netherlands.”
Should cleaners be able to retire earlier than at age 67?
“Occupational disability levels are high and grave in this industry, with rates of between 80 and 100 percent. Cleaning simply is very strenuous work. It is, therefore, an illusion to think that you can do this job full time from age 20 to age 67. In fact, you cannot expect full-time cleaners to work more than forty years.”


But then you would have to pay them a retirement pension over more years...
“At present, many cleaners become unfit for work well before they reach retirement age, and that also costs money. And their life expectancy is shorter. As a society, we should increase sustainable employability in strenuous professions such as cleaning, so that more people can work through to retirement age. You could, for example, cut the hours that older cleaners work, increase training, and work smarter by using new technology. One example of the latter are the sensors that can be used in cleaning to tell us whether a toilet needs cleaning, and if so, when. Robotization can also help make cleaning work less strenuous.”

What do you see as the biggest challenges in pensions for cleaners?
“Wages in the cleaning industry are low. People often have to stack several part-time contracts to get by. Low wages also means low retirement pensions. As a pension fund, we try to offer people a certain quality of life in retirement and to prevent them from falling by the wayside along the way.”

How do you go about that?
“We try to keep our costs down as much as possible. One of our core values is affordability. Every year, we have talks with APG about whether the pension administration fees can come down further. By working together to see if we can do things smarter, simpler, and therefore more economically. We’re not dealing with invisible money here, but with the pensions of cleaners, and they need every single euro they can get. For these people, I always want to go the extra mile.”

Would that be different if yours were a pension fund for, let’s say, medical specialists?
“Then I would feel as if what I do mattered slightly less. The other day, I heard a cleaner say that at C&A you can get pants for 10 euros. And so, those 10 euros make the difference between new pants or no new pants. That’s what makes my work valuable. Each euro of each retirement pension we pay matters. So, we can do without frills.”

Such as?
“The pension world is rather good at launching all kinds of campaigns to raise awareness among members or harvest email addresses. A year later, however, everyone is still as unaware of their retirement pension and the email addresses are outdated, but they did spend a great deal of money on it. We consider that pointless and simply don’t do any of that. Another thing is that some funds have already gone into overdrive in informing members about the new pension system. We don’t do that either. We are going to wait until the new pension agreement has fully taken shape, otherwise you’re only communicating uncertainty and that will only create confusion.”

“People aren’t focused on later, they’re focused on now”

But isn’t communication actually very important for this industry, given the large number of low-educated workers and migrants?
“We have 170 nationalities working in the cleaning industry, command of the Dutch language is often not good. My mother has been living here for 47 years, but her Dutch is poor, although she would say otherwise. A letter about her retirement pension would be completely incomprehensible to her. So yes, communication is a challenge in this industry. We communicate at A2 level, very low threshold. Besides, their pension is not something that’s on our target group’s mind. In fact, research has shown that the word ‘brick' triggers more brain activity than the word ‘pension’. I once held a pension consultation at a mosque in Rotterdam where people could ask me anything about pensions. Most questions were not about pensions at all, but about occupational disability legislation, child support, and health insurance. People aren’t focused on later, they’re focused on now.”

How do you then still get through to your target group?
“We believe that digital communication is the best way, because you can then also use visuals. The idea is to link that to translation apps in the near future. In principle, we communicate in Dutch only, but for an animated video about pension reduction we had subtitles made in six languages. Such an important message simply has to get across properly. Digital communications are cheaper, more sustainable, and more effective. This ties in with our second core value: understandability. We do, however, need our members’ email addresses to be able to communicate digitally. This is why we, as the only pension fund in the Netherlands, have made it mandatory for employers to share these email addresses with us.


Isn’t that prohibited under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)? After all, you would then be able to link income data to persons.
“In all honesty, we did have that discussion with legal experts to assess whether we are allowed to do this under the GDPR. As a pension fund, we think we are. We also have our members’ social security numbers and income data because that is deemed essential data for pension payments. Why then would we not be allowed to ask for email addresses as well? We consider those just as essential in keeping pensions affordable and understandable for our members. Another example of the formalism we face after the introduction of the GDPR: our service desk is no longer allowed to give out information about payment amounts, on account of the verification of whether the caller is actually the member in question. But the very reason people call us is to find out these amounts. You have to always ask yourself: who are we here to serve? Our members and not the GDPR.”

Do people in the pension industry think you’re difficult?
Laughingly: “I recently talked to a new employee at APG. On his first day, he already heard people talking about me and say, ‘He’s a valued, but very critical client of ours.’ I take that as a great compliment, yes.”


A rebel against the rules?
“Whenever members find themselves in a situation of hardship, we pull out all the stops. But sometimes rules stand in the way of our changing their situation. That’s something that occupies my mind, I must admit. We have also sent a letter to the relevant government minister about regulations around bankruptcies. From the moment a company is declared bankrupt, the Dutch employee insurance agency (UWV) takes over payment of the pension premiums for the companies’ workers. The thing is, however, that these workers have to apply for that themselves, we cannot do it for them. Seven in ten cleaners never do that, while they do pay taxes toward this safety net for workers. Isn’t that just ridiculous? It’s completely unacceptable as far as we are concerned. We are taking real action to get this changed.”


How do you, as a pension fund, deal with cleaning companies that do not pay their pension premiums?
“Without mercy, both in collecting outstanding payments and in applying for bankruptcy. We also hold directors personally liable. That’s necessary because we don’t want any cowboys in the market. And it works: since everyone is aware of our tough approach, pension premiums are generally paid properly.”

About the new pension system... What choices are you making as the board of the pension fund for the cleaning industry?
“We want to switch to the new system as soon as possible, because there is a real threat that we are going to have to cut pensions under the current rules. After we switch to the new system, our members can finally see their pensions increase. Other than that, we have made a conscious choice not to adopt the flexible premium agreement that requires members to make their own pension choices. Call it paternalistic, but we believe you shouldn't bother people with that. You can centralize those choices and make them as an institution. This is why we have chosen the solidarity-based premium scheme (this differs from the flexible premium agreement in the fact that more choices are made collectively – by the fund and the social partners – and risks are borne collectively, eds.). This solidarity-based system is also a good fit with the culture in the cleaning industry: if something happens to one person, the other is ready to help.”


The solidarity buffer to absorb financial setbacks comes from investments, among other sources. That means you need returns on your investments, but society also calls for sustainability...
“Responsible investment does not necessarily have to go at the expense of yields. We owe it to society to put sustainability on the agenda. Even for a small fund like ours, which has ‘only’ seven billion euros in equity. Our third core value is ‘engagement’. This is reflected in the three spearheads for our asset management efforts: labor standards, human rights, and the climate. We do not buy government bonds in countries where human rights or labor standards are not respected.”


The Dutch general pension fund for public-sector workers (ABP) has decided to stop investing in fossil fuels? How about you?
“This is not on the table for us yet. I do think, however, that ABP has sent a powerful message. We are still looking into what will have the biggest impact. If you divest from fossil fuels, you cannot exert influence as an investor anymore either. And, if I’m honest, we are under less pressure from society than ABP.”

“The white middle class in this country talks the diversity talk, but no one walks the walk."

Social equality is another social theme. What is your stance on that?
“Among the 170 nationalities in the industry, there are also highly educated Syrians, who are only allowed to do cleaning work in the Netherlands. The white middle class in this country talks the diversity talk, but no one walks the walk. We want to change that. We expect our partners, such as APG, to embrace diversity. And we want to set the tone for that on our own board. We have three directors with a migration background. Anita is of Surinamese descent, Semih and I are of Turkish heritage. And our intern Laila is a young Moroccan woman. Our suitability plan requires the board to have members with a migration background. That same provision should also be included in the Pensions Code. I’m also in favor of a quota for people with a migration background, because it won’t sort itself out.”

As an advisor to VCP, the federation of trade unions for professionals, you’re dealing with people who earn a lot more than cleaners do. How does that feel, wearing two such different hats?
“Whichever hat I’m wearing, I know who I am and I speak my mind. Whether I’m dealing with managers, police officers, pilots, or cleaners. Their interests are essentially the same. All workers want a good pension that is adjusted for cost of living. All workers want their spouse taken good care of after they die. The question is, however, if that should be a lifelong pension, given that the breadwinner model has now made way for double-income households. And most workers want a collective safety net for people who end up in financial difficulties. The solidarity idea is still very much alive, albeit slightly less so than in the past.”


Does that lead to more people falling by the wayside?
"Yes. When my mother was left without an income and didn’t know that there was such a thing as ‘welfare’, she was lucky that she could fall back on the Turkish community in our area. People brought us food, so that we wouldn’t starve. When the sh** hits the fan, you need an arm around your shoulder. Solidarity is important, just like respect. Society often looks down on cleaners: it’s work that we don’t want to do ourselves and we don’t want to see others doing it either. Cleaners are expected to their work invisibly. It always strikes me how rude people are to cleaners: they often don’t even greet them. While cleaners themselves do rightfully take pride in their work. Society would do well to show some decency and gratitude in return.”

Who is Tarik Uçar?
Tarik Uçar was born in the town of Hengelo in the eastern part of the Netherlands in 1976. His father had come to the Netherlands as a guest worker in the late 1960s. Tarik’s mother and two older brothers joined his father later. Briefly after Tarik was born, his parents got divorced. The family lived in poverty at the time, because his mother did not know what authorities to turn to for support. Later, too, the family still struggled to make ends meet.


Young Tarik went to law school and subsequently joined the Pension and Welfare Council, which provides financial support to the victims of World War II and their surviving dependents. His next jobs were at the insurance company Zwitserleven and the Pensions Federation. After that, he became an advisor to the hospitality and catering industry pension fund and held supervisory roles at the pension funds for hairdressers and the drinks industry. In 2019, he became an executive director of the cleaning industry pension fund (BPF Schoonmaak). Alongside this role, he is a pensions consultant at VCP, the federation of trade unions for professionals, and supervisory officer at the pension fund for millers.

Volgende publicatie:
Will the economic outlook change, now that Covid appears to be here to stay?

Will the economic outlook change, now that Covid appears to be here to stay?

Published on: 3 December 2021

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 on whether the economic outlook should be adjusted now that it seems that Covid will be with us for the foreseeable future.


Just under two years after the Covid outbreak, the Netherlands is again in lockdown due to increasing infection rates. At the same time, reports are coming in from southern Africa of a new Covid variant. At the end of 2020, we still thought that vaccines would get the virus under control, but now that hope seems to have faded. How will the new developments around Covid affect government policy, consumer confidence and financial markets? "If the government decides to stop the support, it really becomes a less positive story and an economic blow with bankruptcies and rising unemployment is inevitable," said Knaap.



When Covid first took hold, the Netherlands benefited greatly from the support measures of the Dutch government. Central banks also took action, so the impact on companies and financial markets was lower than expected. In fact, the number of bankruptcies is historically low to this day. Investors did not lose their money because companies were able to survive thanks to the support. Knaap: "Government support measures make sense in a temporary crisis, as Covid was considered to be, until recently. But understandably, there will come a point where the government may think, 'enough is enough'. After all, you can't keep companies afloat until the end of the century if their existence is no longer feasible in the new situation." So, for the economic outlook, a lot depends on what the Dutch government and other countries decide in the coming period.


The longer the lockdown remains in place, the worse it is for economic dynamism. "At the end of the day, you need people to engage in business. But who is going to open a restaurant in this day and age? The economy is getting a hit regardless. That also argues in favor of not phasing out the support measures, so that at least the existing companies don't go bankrupt," says Knaap. The advantage for the Netherlands is that it still gets money when it issues bonds. "We can continue to do that for years to come without being affected," he says. For other countries, and certainly emerging economies, the situation is more dire.



Consumer confidence also plays a role in the economic outlook. "Economic growth occurs when companies make a profit, and they do that when they sell enough of their products to consumers. This has been difficult in the recent period due to problems with product supply. However, there was a lot of demand for products and services recently because consumers hoarded money during Covid by not being able to go to the pub or go on vacation," Knaap said. "The new lockdown still constitutes another setback for many people, with the hairdresser and theaters having to close earlier. That leads to less consumer confidence, making consumers more cautious in their spending. And that's never good for the economy."



The news of the omicron variant had already led to falling stock prices. What does that say about the prospects for the stock market? "Investors always have the previous shock still in their minds," states Knaap. That was in March 2020. But after first going down sharply, stock markets rose to record highs. It is possible that investors expect that the new outbreak will not lead to an economic crisis. Still, Knaap takes into account that it will turn out differently than last time. "The falling prices could now persist for a longer time, because we no longer see Covid as something temporary." Should we therefore adjust economic expectations? "The storyline is changing now. The previous storyline started with the pandemic after which the vaccinations followed and we expected economic recovery with rapid growth within two years." With these latest developments, that chance of rapid recovery now suddenly seems a lot further away."


The next few weeks will show whether this is a last hiccup of the virus and this will be a short lockdown. If so, there is a good chance that the positive economic expectations of a few weeks ago can be sustained. This is also due to the fact that the government can still intervene for a long time and stock prices have not fallen extraordinarily hard after the emergence of the omicron variant. Still, the new lockdown is creating uncertainty, including among consumers. The longer Covid remains among us, the more likely it is that at some point the government will stop its generous support policy, causing bankruptcies and unemployment to rise and stock markets to take a hit as well. The story is not over yet.

Volgende publicatie:
“What is the relevance of trade unions these days?”

“What is the relevance of trade unions these days?”

Published on: 12 November 2021

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. This edition: the number of trade union members in the Netherlands has never been this low since 1996. Peter Gortzak, Head of Policy APG and former Vice President of the national trade union center FNV, about the question of whether or not the trade union is still relevant. “The figures are falling, according to the survey conducted by the CBS (Dutch Central Statistical Office). But if you look at the number of members, the trade union is the largest association in the Netherlands. An association committed to combat exploitation and standing up for the underlying party in our labor relations.”


The number of trade union members in the Netherlands has never been this low since 1996. The share of pensioners increases, while the group younger than 25 years of age is becoming smaller and smaller. And only a quarter of the members is 45 years or younger, while that group encompasses more than half of the working population in the Netherlands. These are recent figures published by the Dutch Central Statistical Office (CBS) which leaves room for only one conclusion: the trade unions are aging rapidly. The outflow is no longer compensated by young increment and the lasting members are getting older every year. The number of members decreased with approximately 6 percent compared to 2019. FNV is top of the list: in two years’ time this trade union has nearly 10 percent less members.

These are figures Peter Gortzak learns about with great sorrow, but to which he also likes to add a comment. “The decreasing number of members is portrayed quite negatively in the media. That's a pity as it does not reflect today's zeitgeist. And, of course, based on the decreasing numbers it is possible to trivialize the value of the labor movement, but it still is the largest association in the Netherlands.”

Gortzak describes that spirit of the times as follows: “Just look at the churches and broadcasters, the sports and music clubs, people are less likely to become a member of anything these days. In addition, the contribution for young people with a flexible job is quite high. It's also difficult for them to recognize what the trade union can do on their behalf.” Higher educated and better paid employees think they are able to do it better themselves and therefore don't need the trade union. ”And all of those factors together, partly explain the decline in numbers.”

There is, however, something the unions can do about these falling figures, Gortzak says. Trade unions could do more to convey the need of their existence. A more innovative and broader message seems to be necessary to persuade young people. That story is also more often told by FNV: themes such as climate change, the housing market, combating the growth of flexible contracts and problems with supplements and benefits receive more attention. As far as Gortzak is concerned, the labor movement should show their true value more often. “Tell people why you are fighting for the construction worker who is a self-employed person. Show the considerations made during negotiations. And not during a members’ meeting, as your members are already attending those events. Show your story and your face to people who are not a member yet.”


FNV and other trade unions are now relying mainly on traditional members. The member base, as shown by the CBS figures, consists for three-quarters of people older than 45 years of age. Most of them are working in sectors such as education, government, transport, construction and industry. They often became a member of the union based on the idea of holding a strong position towards their own employer. The core task of the union appears to be most important to them: a good Collective Labor Agreement and a good pension. Gortzak points out that not everything should be indicated in a macro figure: in some sectors he actually sees a high level of organization, meaning the number of memberships within a certain sector. “Don't just look at the outcome of the survey, as that is macro-thinking. Also look at the number of members per employer, per sector. Unfortunately, new sectors are emerging increasingly often in which hardly any union members are present.  But there are also sectors in which the membership of trade unions is flourishing. Just look at the Dutch Association of Journalists, or the police, with no less than an 85 percent level of organization, and the fire department in which the labor movement is well represented.”

The falling figures say nothing about the importance of the trade unions. Their added value continues to remain intact, according to Gortzak. “Let's say there is no trade union representing worker's interests. You wouldn't dare to imagine that every employer has to negotiate with every employee separately about the contents of the employment agreement. It is in the interest of the Netherlands, of the employer and the employee that these negotiations take place collectively, in the form of Collective Labor Agreements.

It's not the job of the trade unions to win converts

Another example. “No advice in the Social-Economic Council is taking effect without the contribution of the trade union. And what about the many lawsuits initiated by the trade unions against companies such as PostNL and Deliveroo. That latter case was actually initiated to improve the position of those young people delivering food on bicycles. And there are self-employed people working for PostNL who are in fact in paid employment but who, for example, have to make a costly investment to purchase a van for mail delivery. Their position is also one of the positions the trade union is trying to improve.”

The same trade union is currently performing a difficult balancing act. The labor market includes plenty of people who would greatly benefit from the help of a trade union, such as migrant workers and young people with flexible contracts. But it's actually these groups who are rarely a member. Gortzak believes that will not stop the labor movement from trying to help them. “The trade union is trying to turn the tide. Not to win converts, because the labor movement is not a goal in itself, but to provide a better position for employees. So even if not a single employee of Deliveroo is a member of the trade union, the labor movement will still stand up for the working conditions and labor conditions of the people working in that sector. Because it's truly exploitation.”

The fact that the labor movement is defending the interests of people no matter what, does not always benefit the membership level. Gortzak calls employee who benefit from these services without being a member free riders, as they are free riding the bike racks of a member. “And that too is representative for the current zeitgeist. Everywhere it's just me-me-me and if something goes wrong, it's always someone else's fault and the solution lies with the other. But what if something within a Collective Labor Agreement is not to their liking? They complain! Don't do that, not if you're not a member yourself. People who want to make a fist and want their voice to be heard, join the labor movement.”


Gortzak is however concerned about the falling figures. Because, as he says, in one way or the other, the employee is the underlying party. “It is and continues to be extremely important to build a proper defense around them. And things can only be achieved with the help of the majority.”

Volgende publicatie:
“What are the chances of ‘Glasgow’ producing concrete results?”

“What are the chances of ‘Glasgow’ producing concrete results?”

Published on: 28 October 2021

Current topics with regard to the economy, investment (responsible investment in particular), pensions, and income: Every week, an expert at APG provides a clear answer to the “Question of the week”. This week: Joost Slabbekoorn (Senior Responsible Investment & Governance Manager) examines the probability of the Glasgow Climate Summit producing concrete results. “Financial support of developing countries will be one of the most hotly disputed items.”


On the eve of the Glasgow conference, news items are following one another at a hitherto unprecedented pace. If one thing has become clear from this cascade of reports, it is this: We are not in good shape. The countries participating in the Paris Climate Conference in 2015 had agreed that the global temperature should not rise by more than 2 degrees by 2100, and ideally by no more than 1.5 degrees. If we continue at our current pace, we will reach that 1.5-degree rise as early as in 2030. The UN’s UNEP environmental program warned that the 2.7-degree mark will even be in sight by 2100 if we do nothing.


First Step

There is plenty of work to be done. However, the question is: Who will be taking the first step? “Historically speaking, responsibility for CO2 emissions lies primarily with Western countries. Nevertheless, countries such as China and India, above all, are currently registering a rapid increase in CO2 emissions. These countries cannot develop in the same fossil fuel-driven way as Western countries did in the past. They are simply too big for that. However, the rapid increase in CO2 emissions in those countries can also be attributed to the relocation of European steelworks to China!”


Countries such as India and China are able to partially shore up their development with renewable energy. Western countries at the Paris conference pledged 100 billion euros per year in climate development aid to support them in this. That promise has, however, not yet been kept. Slabbekoorn explains, “Chances are that this will also be one of the most hotly debated topics in Glasgow. Developing countries want rich countries to provide them with financial support in order to restore confidence. The ‘trade’ in targets between countries will be another topic of discussion. In this scenario, rich countries contribute to the reduction of CO2 in developing countries, because it is cheaper and easier to reduce these emissions there than on their own territory. Unambiguous rules are needed to facilitate this trade and to be able to verify it.”



Slabbekoorn can identify a number of points on which action is needed. “One of the most important priorities is to phase out the use of coal for the production of electricity. Coal produces quite a lot of CO2, even though a good alternative is available: green electricity. Deforestation is another source of huge CO2 emissions. A third priority is to set a realistic price on CO2 and to stop funding the fossil fuel industry. It is remarkable that people in the Netherlands are currently provided government support to pay their energy bills. This is understandable, given the current situation, but it does mean that the government is indirectly funding fossil energy. Rising energy prices are also making many countries reluctant to accelerate the termination of coal use. And combating deforestation requires the support of Brazil. Unfortunately, Brazil currently has a president who is a champion of the logging sector. In short, things are not looking good in Glasgow when it comes to these three priorities.”


With the current gloomy outlook, it is inevitable that some measures will be impacting the lives of consumers. Slabbekoorn explains, “It is imperative that consumers are inconvenienced; otherwise, they will not change their behavior. And the sooner the transition to a more sustainable world is initiated, the less money and effort it will cost. Ultimately, this will also be more pleasant for the consumer. If we don’t take action now, we will have to intervene much more strongly later on. Then the break with our current way of life will be a lot more dramatic, through significantly higher costs for governments and consumers, for example.”



If the outcome of summit produces few or even no results, further global warming appears to be inevitable. “But there are many more roads leading to Paris,” Slabbekoorn argues. “If it nevertheless turns out that no agreement will be reached in Glasgow, this does not have to mean that remaining within the aforementioned 1.5-degree limit is impossible. A much stricter policy on energy and sustainability will therefore need to be imposed in the coming years. And the question is whether such policies will indeed be taken into effect, considering that countries are showing quite a bit of reluctance when it comes to adopting overly strict measures. In the meantime, we are already noticing the physical effects of higher temperatures.


It is ultimately up to the countries participating in the climate summit in Glasgow to incorporate possible agreements into their legislation. The Paris climate agreement is legally binding, but there is no international instrument to enforce it. “Once these agreements are embedded in national legislation, a country can be held to them by the courts. We saw this in the Netherlands in regard of the case brought by Urgenda against the Dutch government. Diplomatic contacts are very important during a summit like this. Still, this brings us back to the first point, which is who will be taking the first step. It doesn't look as if ‘Glasgow’ will produce any concrete results, but you can never predict what will happen at a summit like this. So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” says Slabbekoorn.

Volgende publicatie:
“We now have the opportunity to reconfigure work and life”

“We now have the opportunity to reconfigure work and life”

Published on: 27 October 2021

Can you see a crisis that disrupts a society for a year and a half as a transformation too? Particularly, for example, in the way we look at work. On this subject, corporate anthropologist Jitske Kramer wrote Werk heeft het gebouw verlaten (Work Has Left the Building). In this book, the founder of Human Dimensions explores the impact of collective culture shock, like Covid, on our working lives. In the bestseller, she takes a closer look at remote leadership and the hybrid work culture. Subjects that are also frequent topics of discussion in an organization like APG. “We are tribal creatures, and so we want a place of our own, a territory of our own. So, in a sense, the idea of a flex space is unnatural.”


In your presentation, you asked APG employees if they see this time as a crisis or a transformation. The vast majority appeared to see it as a transformation. Is APG an exception in this?
“No, in the majority of organizations about 90% of employees now say there will be at least some degree of transformation. Last summer I also asked my audience that question and at that time almost everyone answered ‘crisis’. But during the second lockdown, the perception arose that the corona crisis could last a long time. And with it the realization that we could learn things from it.”

Transformation means that things change. That brings uncertainty and tension. What does that require of an organization?
“Transformation is a great word; it is the ‘everything different show’. You might think that you can sit back and watch something transform, but that’s not how it works. On the contrary, transformation means you will have to roll up your sleeves. You have to adopt a different value system. If we say ‘autonomy of own time is important to us’, then we need to act accordingly. Then you work at home more often, and in a different rhythm, and you may no longer need your car. In such a transformation, other behaviors and skills start to be important to us. That means a lot of experimentation and trial and error.”

At APG, some of the employees will soon be working in a completely renovated office, which is already equipped for hybrid working. That means no fixed workstations. Everyone will have to get used to that. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?
“I think it’s an advantage. It is something that is new to all of us, so we can start creating and discovering. Construction had already started before the corona crisis so you will find out later if the plan you had for the building still fits the current times. Or whether, in addition to the changes conceived during Covid, other changes are needed. If you go back to an office that is still set up the way it was, it would no longer suffice. Before you know it, the space would force us back into our old behavior. But if the physical environment is completely new and in line with what we think is important now, that helps tremendously.”

Rituals and routines provide stability and rhythm. How do you create new routines in a new environment?
“That’s a very good question. We are tribal creatures, and so we want a place of our own, a territory of our own. So, in a sense, the idea of a flex space is unnatural. When open-plan offices came along suddenly the whole social cohesion was gone. To indicate where they were sitting, some people surreptitiously put a picture frame on their desk. To make a mark, as it were, and to indicate that that was their team's spot. As an employer, you do need to recognize that territorial need. On the other hand, it’s also a trade-off. As an employee you can also think: I am giving up my regular desk, but I am also getting more freedom because I can work from home more. And it helps enormously if people already exhibit the desired behavior. You need each other to create new routines.”

During the lockdown, working from home was necessary to control the pandemic. Now employees may feel that hybrid working is imposed by the manager. How do you get those employees on board anyway?
“How do people change cultures? Through interaction, and because we copy behavior from each other. From our direct coworkers, but also from our managers. Collaborating requires connection at a human level. If you want to implement a change, as a manager, you have to set a good example yourself. Do you want your employees to work partly at home and partly in the office? Then as a manager you have to do that too. We are now in the phase of getting used to hybrid working. That requires discipline and perseverance. And sharing success stories. Because for years we went to the office every day, and we’ve only been working from home for a year and a half. There is a good chance we could fall back into our old behavior of going to the office every day. Unless we really say, ‘We want this to be different.’”

How do you bring about such a change?
“It helps that, as a society, we are in a vibe. APG is not the only organization dealing with hybrid working. What matters is the story we are going to live together. We now have the opportunity to redesign work and life. And if we combine that with sustainability and reducing CO2 emissions, for example by reducing traffic, then we can bring about a substantial change. Or are we thinking, ‘We’ll just go back to our old ways?’ I can currently see signs going either way. For example, during the lockdown, we thought the blue sky without the pollution from airplanes was so beautiful. But now many people are flying to a European city for a weekend again. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you love that blue sky so much, you also have to change your behavior. Doing things substantially differently means substantial changes in behavior.”

This touches on what you write in your book about the new normal, which you feel should be more inclusive and more sustainable.  
"Yes, more inclusive on all levels. Such as hearing all voices, including those of introverts. They have flourished while working from home. Are we now going to force them back into the straightjacket? The idealist in me says: “Where can we make things better for people? And because everything is still up in the air, we now really have the opportunity to make things better. I hope we seize that opportunity. Although I don’t think we are now enthusiastically going to work and live completely differently. We will pick up a number of old habits and routines. I am now also driving to Mechelen to do a physical master class for a whole day. You could also do that online, you could say. But I think there is more to be gained from the master class when I am actually there. Thus, we each have reasons to go back to our old habits anyway. I just hope we can break with some of them.”

So, work has left the building, but not completely...
“It’s definitely coming back in, and that’s a good thing too. The fact that we suddenly started working from home was because of a dangerous pandemic that disrupted our entire society. But work will certainly return to the office because there are many kinds of work that require our physical presence. But to what extent and in what ways it will come back in is something we will determine together.”



Photo: Nathan Reinds

Volgende publicatie:
Dream & Deed: “Only when you are happy yourself, you can mean a lot more to others”

Dream & Deed: “Only when you are happy yourself, you can mean a lot more to others”

Published on: 27 October 2021

But he did not kill her, because in between dream and act
there are hindering laws and practical issues,

(from: Willem Elsschot, The Marriage)


Pension may be considered as something for the distant future by generation Z, yet they are the generation of the future. What are their dreams? What are they doing to achieve these? And what is standing in their way? This series is intended to let young people speak about the way now and later on is perceived by them.

Maggy Schaap (27): “Putting yourself first is not selfish, it will eventually benefit the world”


Who: Maggy Schaap (27). She describes herself as an enthusiastic woman of feelings with a positive attitude, who is not afraid to rely on her intuition.


Lives: in a rental apartment of 57m2 in Amsterdam she shares with her boyfriend. “We had to earn approximately four times the monthly rent to be able to rent it. Buying was an option back then as well but weren't sure whether we wanted to stay in Amsterdam or not. Now that we have both started our own business, things have become a little less uncertain. But I am trying not to let the news about the housing market get to my head too much. I could be worrying about the future but who knows, the situation may be entirely different again in a couple of years.”


Works: as self-employed coach ( She gave up her job in sales to start this new business. “I had a good salary, managed a team of twelve account managers at a certain point; everything went really fast. Yet, something was bothering me. Was this job what I really wanted to do or did I do what I believed society was expecting me to do and what I, unconsciously, expected of myself? That feeling grew stronger and stronger. I followed an education to become a coach and quickly felt that this was what I really wanted to do. I quit my job a year ago and started to work as an independent coach. I mainly coach millennials who are experiencing a similar situation to the one I was in. I try to make them aware of limiting beliefs and try to make them become happier.”


Loves: travelling, walking, connecting with nature, running, cooking and self-development.


What do you dream of?

“I often work with people one-on-one at the moment, but eventually I would like to make an impact at a larger scale. My ultimate dream is for everyone to start listening to their inner selves and not to be scared to follow his or her heart. We want to meet expectations, set by ourselves and society, but we sometimes forget what it is we really want to do. Putting yourself first is not selfish, but actually contributes to a better world. Only when you are happy yourself, you can mean a lot more to others. That's the message I want to convey to as many people as possible. I am already quite active on social media and, as of recently, started recording a daily podcast, but I hope to be able to grow some more in that field. If at all possible. I also want to be financially independent. Follow my heart's desire without feeling the urgent need to work in order to make ends meet. I would like to dare dreaming bigger in that respect. You don't necessarily have to work in paid employment and retire at the age of 67; there are other ways as well.”


How do you envisage your future?

“I want to further develop my coaching activities and I hope to be able to help a great deal of people. I have faith that my company is able to grow in a somewhat effortless way. People often say that you have to work hard in order to make your dreams come true. I have nothing against that, but it is also possible without getting ahead of myself. It would be wonderful should I be able to have another house in Spain or something later on, or to travel more. And I would really like to have children someday.”


What does your dreamed of pension look like?

“I don't really think about that just yet, to be honest. I live in the moment. Once I earn a bit more money, I will start putting money aside or open an investment account for my pension. My parents are both entrepreneurs as well. When I see how much enjoyment they still derive from their work, I think I also want to continue working well into my old age. But less hours though. That would be amazing I think. And other than that, enjoy travelling, nature and, who knows, my children and grandchildren.”


What is your dream for the Netherlands?

“The Netherlands is a privileged country, but I believe it still has a lot of unhappy people. The basis is solid: we have enough to eat and there's actually not a lot to complain about. It would be great if the Dutch were somewhat happier with everything they do and dare to express what it is that makes them happy, without encountering other people's judgments.”


What do you believe goes well in our society?

“The fact that we are way more aware of, among other things, food. It could be my Amsterdam bubble, but there is an increasing amount of people who eat vegetarian. That's a good development in my opinion. I also feel as if the Netherlands offers increasingly more room to be yourself. My mother is married to another woman, and that doesn't cause any problems. As a child I was feeling a bit ashamed, but now it seems weird to me that I felt like that before. It seems not to be an issue anymore when you are attracted to people of the same sex. But it's very difficult for me to assess whether the tolerance in that area has truly improved.”


Another thing that also concerns me at times, is the fact that so many people are unhappy. Even young people are faced with a burnout sometimes.

What could be improved in the world?

“We should be a bit less judgmental about others and about ourselves. It would make a huge difference if we don't always come up with an opinion about someone else's behavior. That really frustrates me sometimes. I believe people should first take a look at themselves. It's only human to judge, I am not a saint myself, but at least I am trying to be conscious about it. You never know what goes on in other people's lives.”


What are your matters of concern in view of the future?

“The climate crisis. I don't delve into the subject to an extreme extent, but I am trying to contribute wherever I can. We cannot just close our eyes and pretend it's not there; we have to be even more aware of what's going on with our planet. Another thing that also concerns me at times, is the fact that so many people are unhappy. Even young people are faced with a burnout sometimes. But I am optimistic in general, I feel as if everything will work itself out in the end.”


What makes you angry?

“The way animals are treated in the bio-industry. That truly bothers me. I eat and drink a plant-based diet as much as I can and inspire my parents to do the same.”

What is standing in the way of realizing your dreams?

“I think what's mainly standing in the way is your own self. I have limiting beliefs and thoughts as well. It's sometimes difficult for me not to let myself be guided by the opinion of others. Fortunately, the responses I get on social media so far are positive, but I notice that I post my messages in a very nuanced way and find it hard to express my opinion on certain matters. Probably because there's not a one-fits-all solution and I am always trying to look at a situation from different perspectives. But maybe it can be the case that I also let myself be limited sometimes out of fear for other people's opinion.”


What do you do to realize your dreams?

“I jumped in at the deep end to make my dream come true. That is not always easy. I have left behind a certain form of security, although security is also subjective of course. I am very busy working on my personal development which is important to stand my ground. I am committed to grow on a daily basis, although I don't see the result of my efforts every day. Yet, I am trying to hold on to that commitment.”


And what do you do to make the Netherlands and the world better?

“Have my company grow, so I can contribute to making people more themselves and having them do what it is they really want more often. The more happy people in the world, the better equipped they are to take care of the world we live in.”


Volgende publicatie:
“Dad, are you a girl again today?”

“Dad, are you a girl again today?”

Published on: 11 October 2021

Raymond Starren’s alarm clock goes off at four fifteen on the morning of November 11, 2019. Even for a morning person like Raymond, that’s early. To get ahead of the commuter traffic between where he lives, in Almere, to where he works, at APG in Amsterdam-South, he usually gets up at five o’clock. On this particular Monday morning, however, he needs more time to get ready for the workday. His coworkers at Asset Management are going to meet ‘Evelien’.  ​​​​​​​

After showering and shaving, he carefully applies his make-up. Then it’s time to get dressed. He has multiple pairs of trousers, turtleneck sweaters and suits hanging in his closet. Today he will be choosing a different outfit. Two weeks ago, he went shopping with some female friends to find a suitable outfit for this special day. He ended up choosing a long, black, floral-print dress and a black cardigan with the same colors. Classic and business-like: that best describes the style. And he got a pair of No Stress black heels. Once he has put on his wig (shoulder-length blond hair), he is ready for the drive to work. Today, Raymond’s APG coworkers are going to meet Evelien for the first time. He’s not that nervous. Come what may, she thinks, as she gets into the car.

Raymond must have been around 3, when he first began to suspect that he was “different”. “I already liked certain girls’ things at that age. I liked dressing in my mother’s clothes, which were much too big, of course. But although some kids know that they were born in the wrong body early in life, for me that was less clear. I also had a boyish side: I liked roughhousing and enjoyed playing soccer.”

Once puberty hit, those feminine feelings kept coming more to the foreground, though. But they did not lead to a clear “this is what I am”. There was still a lot of doubt. At the time, simply denying those feelings seemed like the easiest path. “And that’s what I tried to do, literally for decades.”

“I could finally be myself”

He met his current wife at the beginning of 2000. They soon started to make plans to move in together in Maastricht. For Raymond, that was the right time to break the long silence about his secret feelings. They were planning to build a future together. She had the right to find out about that other part of him. He was very happy when she responded with understanding. He was given all the space he needed to explore his feminine side. His wife’s approval felt like liberation.
​​​​​​​“I became the chairperson of an advocacy group for transgenders, got photographed as a woman for a photography show, organized meetings at the COC in Maastricht. I could finally be myself.”

In 2008, many things changed in Raymond’s life. His wife got pregnant and he was offered an interesting job at APG Asset Management. A job that was interesting enough to say goodbye to his hometown of Maastricht. They moved to Almere and their daughter was born there.

“Those events certainly made me think. Can I really do that to her; go through life partially as a woman? Is that not confusing for her? Will people tease her about that? And how will people at APG react? The Asset Management world is generally experienced as pretty masculine, after all. Sometime during that period, employees were also asked to identify any secondary positions they may have. I didn’t want my volunteer jobs to come out in the open, so I decided to completely stop all my transgender activities and public expressions as a woman.”

“I didn’t want to say goodbye to Evelien”

Three years after the birth of their first daughter, they had another girl. Raymond played his traditional role as father, husband and male coworker during the day. Only after the kids were asleep at the end of the day would he give himself permission to be a woman. He would change his clothes and stay awake until deep in the night, behind closed curtains, to hold on to that feeling of being a woman for as long as possible. “I didn’t want to say goodbye to Evelien.”

After a while this became mentally and physically exhausting. “At the beginning of last year, I really felt that if I kept hiding my feelings any longer, it would be the end of me. I decided to seek help from Stepwork, a GGZ (Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care) association that specializes in helping transgenders. At the same time, my wife and I decided to share my feelings with friends, acquaintances and also our children.”

Raymond remembers the tension he felt when he was going to tell his daughters. They were ten and seven at the time. “My oldest daughter is quite sensitive. I really feared that it would be hard on her. However, the reactions to the talk were 100% better than expected. My youngest daughter initially accepted it in a carefree way. My oldest daughter also didn’t have any problem with it. Of course, it took some getting used to, to actually start seeing their dad as a woman. It was especially my youngest daughter who needed some time for that. But by now, she is completely used to it. Now she often asks me in the morning: ‘Dad, are you a girl again today?’ She even helps me put on my make-up.”

People suffer most from the suffering they fear. “But the hurdles I had foreseen turned out to be not even there at all. Even my oldest daughter handled the whole situation with an incredibly sober attitude, contrary to our expectations. Her teacher asked me to come and talk about myself as a woman for a school project about diversity. I personally didn’t have a problem with that, but as a parent, I didn’t want to do anything that could make my daughter feel awkward. We therefore decided to decline. My daughter got wind of that and commanded me to come and do it. ‘Why be all secretive?’ she asked. Her classmates already knew anyway.”

All our friends and acquaintances also had a positive reaction. The next step would be to inform my coworkers too. “First I had a talk with the CFRO of APG Asset Management. I already had a relationship of trust with her. She also had diversity and inclusion in her portfolio. The next time we spoke, she asked me: ‘Wouldn’t you like to just come to work as a woman?’ That really got me thinking. What could happen to me? Why would I worry about coworkers who might have a problem with it?”
Many more good talks followed: first of all with her manager, but also with board members and direct coworkers. The talks and reactions were all positive. “And then my manager and the HR manager and I together plotted a course for when I would come to the office as Evelien for the first time.”

“They had no idea of the struggle I had been through to be able to stand there as a woman”

On that November 11th, Evelien walked into the office in Amsterdam at six-thirty in the morning. She was relaxed. “I was completely ready for the meeting with my coworkers. About seventy coworkers in my immediate work environment already knew that I would be coming into the office as a woman. I was not afraid of the reactions of other coworkers and people in the street. I knew from experience that most people react positively. I got laughed once by construction workers as I walked by. But I didn’t care about that. They had no idea of the struggle I had been through to be able to stand there as a woman. That knowledge and the feeling of inner balance is not something anyone can just rob me of. I just smiled and that seemed to be the end of it for them too.”

She didn’t get a lot of work done that day. Everyone stopped by for a chat. The reactions were heart-warming. “One said I was pretty, another one praised me for being so brave. And from my female coworkers I immediately got a sense of being welcome, that I belonged.”

This memorable day became the start of an initially weekly rhythm. “First I was going to the office as Evelien every Monday. After that, I added Thursday. When the corona crisis happened, that regularity fell away. Sometimes I was Evelien several days in a row, and then I was Raymond again for a longer period. My wife and I try to keep the right balance. After all, she fell in love with Raymond, the man. But she’s happy for me and gives me space to be myself. And, as much as possible, I try to be the partner for her that she fell in love with.”

The first important steps in Evelien’s personal search have now been taken. But not all questions have been answered yet. How much of a desire is there to go through the physical transformation into a woman? “In a process that is starting soon, I hope to get more clarity about that. For now, I am just happy about the steps that I have taken so far. It was meant to be. That’s what I thought when I was driving home again on November 11. I finally found peace.”​​​​​​​

Volgende publicatie:
Dream & deed: “I find it hard to give substance to my concerns”

Dream & deed: “I find it hard to give substance to my concerns”

Published on: 15 September 2021

But he did not kill, because between dream and act
there are hindering laws and practical objections

(from: Willem Elsschot, The Marriage)


Pension may be considered as something for the distant future by generation Z, yet they are the generation of the future. What are their dreams? What are they doing to achieve these? And what is standing in their way? This series is intended to let young people speak about the way now and later on is perceived by them.

Maarten Paauwe (25): “We have to live much more in harmony with nature.”


Who: Maarten Paauwe (25), born and raised in Zeeland. He studied engineering management in Tilburg and married Talitha three years ago, whom he already knows for ten years. “Promising each other to be faithful, is a beautiful thing in my opinion. We were pretty young when we got married, but why wait when you know you are meant to be together?”


Lives: In Gorinchem, where they ended up after a scheduled journey around the world fell apart due to the pandemic. “We sat down with a map of the Netherlands and asked ourselves what would be a nice place to live. Most people only know Gorinchem because of the traffic jams, but it truly is a great old, fortified town.” They are currently renovating the house they bought here in its old style (it was built in 1880). The house will be partly transformed into a bed & breakfast.


Works: At a green contractor, providing green management for municipalities, counties and the Netherlands Department of Public Works.


Enjoys: DIY, reading (mainly newspapers, history and philosophy) and trips to old cities.


What do you dream of?

“I dream of all of us living much more in harmony with the world and nature. Take the IPCC report, for instance. All evidence suggests that we live increasingly more distant from nature. I think this is something we could improve at different levels. On the one hand by means of better landscaping as we shouldn't adjust our planet to our demands. The topic ‘green’ now is the balancing item: we continue to build at every possible location and we plant a few trees should any space be left. This should be the other way around: nature first and some space for human beings here and there. Just look at a schoolyard for example, that almost entirely consists of concrete. Children should already be given the message that we are only guests when it comes to nature. I think humankind should focus more on that, also because it's simply better for our health. The average person is overweight, eats a lot of meat and consumes a lot of dairy products: that's not the way nature is arranged.”


How do you envisage your future?

“On the basis of things, I already have everything I want. I am happily married, own a house, have a great family and enjoyable work. In terms of work, I would like to manage a company someday, so I can implement my vision in a large-scale manner to the green industry. I would like to sit down with policymakers and make the Netherlands more sustainable. In my opinion, the company I am working for now is literally making the world a bit more beautiful by constructing green areas.”


We shouldn't consider work as an obligation, but as something great

What does your dreamed of pension look like?

“First of all, I hope to be healthy and energetic for a long time, so I can still make a contribution to society in the future. I am wondering if we will ever get a pension though. Many people my age want to become FIRE (Financially Independent & Retire Early), start investing or buy properties in order to be able to retire as early as possible. I don't think that is a healthy way of handling pension, given the costs we already have as a society. Moreover, all evidence suggests it is much better to continue work as long as possible. Albeit at a slower pace, not from eight to five in an office job. You can also contribute to society being a volunteer. So, I hope to be able to do so myself, but I also hope that this will be what society aims for in the future. Older people have so much talent and experience which will all go to waste if they just sit at home or are travelling the world. Of course people should enjoy their freedom, but I truly believe that we, as a society, draw insufficiently on those skills and abilities. I also think it would be great to remain relevant. You could still call it pension if you work twenty hours per week to leave a better society to the next generation. We shouldn't consider work as an obligation, but as something great.”


What is your dream for the Netherlands?

“I would like the Netherlands to become a healthy society, in the broadest sense of the word. We have to commit to a healthy planet, a healthy ecosystem and a healthier bio-industry. The way we are treating animals right now just isn't okay. I read an article a while ago, stating that if people would be slaughtered at the same pace as we slaughter animals, the entire global population would be extinct within seventeen days. I hope the Netherlands will become a frontrunner and shows there is another way to do things. The Dutch could also live a lot healthier. While we are living longer, we also live unhealthier. And finally, I dream of a healthy economic system. The mountain of debt is getting higher and higher. Study loans, national debt; it all increases. That is cause for financial stress. Wouldn't it be great if our country could demonstrate that it's unnecessary to accumulate debts in order to ensure continuity?”


What do you believe goes well in our society?

“One of the greatest things of the Netherlands is that the opportunities here are huge. That also applies if you grow up in a less favorable neighborhood, if your parents have a non-Dutch background or if you were born into a poor family. Everyone here is able to get an education.”


What could be improved in the world?

“Equal opportunities. Talitha and I visited slums in India and that truly is another story. If you grow up there, there's no chance whatsoever to make something of your live. Here, in the Netherlands, hard work usually pays. In India, you can work as hard as you'd like without achieving anything. Isn't that a sad fact?”


What are your matters of concern in view of the future?

“That we still don't seem to recognize the urgency of certain issues. Take, for example, the climate report of the IPCC. Climate change will eventually become irreversible, but when will we realize this? Everything is happening so slowly. I am also worried about the increasing polarization. An endless amount of information is available, we are able to communicate with one another all over the world, but we hardly ever do that. We take more and more refuge in our own bubble. Forum voor Democratie (Dutch political party) wants to start its own society with its own crypto currency, dating app and schools. When I hear that, I think we are truly losing grip on each other. This way we return to a fragmented society. And we should furthermore not forget a generation proud of its cancel culture, in which people are cancelled at the slightest lapse. That leaves us with a cramped society in which everyone chooses their words carefully and is afraid to speak openly, because we are trying to avoid insulting someone. We could take ourselves a bit less seriously. Tolerance is harder to find these days.”


Beyond our national borders ‘we’ don't really care about everything that's going on

What makes you angry?

“What especially makes me angry is that many things are well arranged in the Netherlands, but that 'we’ don't really care about everything that's going on beyond our national borders. We construct oil pipes in the Middle East, but not water pipes where it's much needed. We use large chunks of land to feed the cows, but we prefer not to do the same for another population. Moreover, what I find particularly disgusting when it comes to the corona policy, is that we buy all vaccines in massive quantities in the West and start vaccinating young people, while vulnerable people over the age of 60 in India are begging to please be vaccinated. And, of course, the pharmaceutical companies are not releasing their recipes. There are more crooked things. I recently read an article stating that the prices of healthy food are rising faster than the prices of unhealthy food. This makes it more difficult for people with a low income to buy healthy food, while that's a basic need.”


What is standing in the way of realizing your dreams?

“Not so much when it comes to my personal dreams. I will mainly have to work hard to realize everything I dream of. I do notice that there are all kinds of things that annoy me, but I find it hard to give these issues substance. I don't know where to turn to with my combativeness. Would it be possible for me to join some sort of climate committee? Are there more younger people like me, full of energy and activism, facing the same problems? Could we debate about these topics together and commit ourselves to make society a better place to live? I am eager to take action, but how do I get in touch with the right people to really accomplish something?”


What is your own contribution to a better world?

“I drive an electric car and I am vegan. That was a deliberate choice as I am trying to demand as little as possible from our planet. Due to that choice, I often discuss the impact of our meat and dairy consumption on the climate with others. It is not my intention to force anyone to become vegan - if you have barely anything to eat, like in some African countries, you just eat what's available - but meat and dairy are not necessary in the Netherlands.

Besides that, I use my talents at a company that's contributing to a better world. It would be very difficult for me to work for a company such as Shell for instance. This is my way to do my part at a small-scale. It would be fantastic should I be able to address these issues on a larger scale, together with others.”

Volgende publicatie:
“The advent of 5G is going to create a lot of innovation”

“The advent of 5G is going to create a lot of innovation”

Published on: 25 August 2021

613 Billion euros. That is to APG’s total invested assets worldwide (position at the end of July 2021). The goal: a good pension in a livable world for the pension fund participants. The portfolio is obviously diversified. From investments in wind farms in Zeeland to Australian listed shares in stores. And from safe bonds to the somewhat more fluctuating trade in gold or soy. Who are the people behind these investments? What choices do they make? And why?


In this episode of the series The Investors: Frank Dekker, responsible for investments in the telecom and media sector at APG.


Telecom companies are installing fiber optic networks at lightning speed. This means more speed and more options when it comes to, for example, 5G, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. At the same time, the dynamics in the sector are increasing and telecom companies are attractive acquisition targets. Will KPN be taken over by foreign investors? Who will buy T-Mobile, which is currently in the shop window? What is the impact of such market movements on APG’s telecom investments?


Senior portfolio manager Frank Dekker has been following the sector for fifteen years and is responsible for the investments in telecom at APG. This includes KPN, which APG recently entered into a joint venture with. “Very promising,” is what Dekker says about this partnership, which will make it possible to accelerate the rollout of KPN’s fiber optic network. But perhaps Dekker is not entirely objective?


Dekker: “Good question. But not correct. As portfolio manager in telecom shares, I am completely shielded from the activities of the people that were involved in this deal. During the period of the deal and its preparation, I was not allowed to trade in KPN shares. Nor was I allowed to communicate with anyone internally about this. We are very strict about this. And we have to be. Anyway, I think the joint venture between KPN and APG is very promising. Because APG’s investment will enable KPN to complete the construction of the fiber optic network sooner. This will allow them to phase out their copper network faster, leading to significant cost savings. Moreover, this accelerated construction cuts potential competitors off from KPN.”


What does that competitive field look like in the Netherlands?

“Ziggo merged with UPC a few years ago and then merged with Vodafone. T-Mobile bought two price fighters, Tele2 and Simpel. And then we have market leader KPN. The Dutch telecom market is now very clear, with these three parties. The Netherlands has good networks for mobile phones and landlines. The prices for mobile services have dropped considerably in recent years.”


T-Mobile will be sold as soon as possible if it’s up to owner Deutsche Telekom. What does that mean for the Dutch telecom market?

“T-Mobile has a small, fixed network in the Netherlands. Deutsche Telekom would like to be number one or two in every market. In the Netherlands that is probably not going to happen, so that is why the company is going to be sold. KPN or Vodafone Ziggo are probably not allowed to take over this number three because of European competition rules. Whether competition in the Dutch telecom market will increase or decrease as a result of the sale of T-Mobile depends on the new owner. It's hard to say who that will be. Delta is known to invest heavily in fiber optic networks. In a partnership with T-Mobile, that company could provide additional competition on the Dutch telecom market. Right now, T-Mobile largely rents the fixed line from KPN for their customers who still use a landline phone.”


APG invests more than average in KPN. How much longer can that go on? 

“Unfortunately, my role does not allow me to go into detail on that. We are looking at a period of three to five years. It is difficult to predict which sector will do better than others. That is why we mainly try to achieve an above-average return within a sector; for example, by choosing the companies that perform best in class and that show the best return-risk ratio. If we look at the Dutch market, Vodafone Ziggo is KPN’s main competitor. That company does not yet have fiber, and has yet to invest heavily in the necessary upgrade of their current cable network.”


In general, are telecom companies in the Netherlands really a good investment?

“Investors usually look at the dividend yield. But what you often see is that telecom companies with a high dividend yield are a bad investment. They are paying a relatively high dividend at the moment, but the question is whether that is sustainable. After all, they will have to invest heavily in their networks in the coming years. To us, the underlying cash flows for the coming years, where we try to estimate what the sales and margins will do, is much more important than dividends. We also look at the structure of the telecom market, how the competition will develop. And what the relationship is with the regulator and politics. The corona epidemic has once again shown how important good connectivity is; policymakers will therefore want to stimulate investments in this, for example through regulation. In conclusion, we are seeing a relatively healthy market structure in the Netherlands. The downside for telecom companies is that politicians want low prices for consumers. At the same time, I consider the chance of a price war to be fairly small.”

What would be the impact of such a price war?

“Price wars occur when there are changes in local competition. More competition often means that companies start to stunt and rates drop. That’s nice for the consumer, but not beneficial for the shareholder. With less competition, the chance of price increases is higher and the cost of customer acquisition can be reduced. Our investment philosophy is therefore aimed at staying ahead of price wars. India, for example, is now a more interesting market, since they have gone from fourteen to three telecom providers. But Brazil, Canada and Finland are also interesting. In the US, on the other hand, the likelihood of a price war is rising. There has been a big takeover there, with the result that other players are trying to gain market share in a more aggressive way.”


For telecom companies, isn’t the real competition more likely to come from giants like Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google and Microsoft in the long run?

“Certainly. A lot of value is being created with the digitalization of society. This value creation no longer goes to the KPNs of this world, but to those giants. So that’s what we invest in as well. These American and Chinese companies are increasingly investing in digital infrastructure such as data centers and the submarine cables that carry most intercontinental Internet traffic. These used to be owned by telecom operators, but those days are over. Most of the digital infrastructure that European telecoms companies still own is the last mile, the last piece of the connection to the customer.”


5G is central to that digital infrastructure. What will that network do for us in concrete terms?

“Looking back, we can attribute the arrival of Uber to the breakthrough at the time of 4G, the smartphone and data centers. I expect that 5G, along with applications of artificial intelligence, is going to bring a lot of innovations in areas such as self-driving cars, virtual reality, remote-controlled robots that perform operations, drones, you name it. All of which require a tremendous amount of computing power and as little delay as possible. For example, an ambulance transporting a victim with third-degree burns to the hospital, where a doctor can make a diagnosis and prepare the required equipment remotely via a video link. Or artificial intelligence that allows you to perform real-time simulations: for example, what is the probability of an accident occurring with a self-driving car. For this kind of innovation, you really need 5G.”  


There is increasing political pressure to ban Chinese equipment from, for example, Huawei, which telecom providers in the Netherlands also use. Does this present a big risk for the Dutch telecom sector?

“Yes, it definitely does. The U.S. is concerned about China’s technological lead in 5G. We’ve seen more initiatives by politicians and security agencies to warn of cybersecurity risks due to ownership of Huawei equipment, for example. Increased scrutiny of Chinese equipment suppliers forced KPN to remove Huawei from its core mobile network. KPN also selected Huawei for other 5G components, such as antennas. Now KPN is in danger of having to remove Huawei from its mobile radio network as well. But not KPN alone: T-Mobile has mostly Huawei equipment in its network. A ban on Huawei will cost telecom providers money, but they can partly compensate for that by charging consumers higher prices in the wireless market.”


Finally, even as a large investor, you face competition. How do you differentiate yourself from it?

“The nice thing about working for APG is that we are large scale. As a result, we have above-average access to research, management and alternative data, but are able to keep costs down. That data, especially sector-specific data, is expensive and not every investor can afford it. Anyway, it’s also about what you do with that data. My team and I look at developments within sectors and not between sectors. This is called relative investing. In that sense, we can make full use of our time to investigate the differences between players in the telecom market and to make them work to our advantage.” 


And is that working?

“We have outperformed the competition (benchmark) by about 30 percent over the last 11 years, with an absolute return of 12.6 percent per year. So: yes, it’s working well.”

Who is Frank Dekker?


He earned a Masters of Finance at the Vrije Universiteit. He has been working in the Fundamental Stock Selection at APG for fifteen years. He manages the portfolio together with colleague Henny Crauwels. This department is characterized by sector knowledge, taking relative bets and investing for the longer term. He is married and has three children. And he lives in Zandvoort.


A career in investing

“My father was a carpenter and had a bad back. After he was declared disabled, he started investing privately at home.” So, Dekker was familiar with the concept of investing from an early age. And that has never stopped. “In my spare time I like to read books about investing,” he says.


Working method

“I enjoy delving into a subject and forming an opinion about it. I’ve inherited a thick skin. That helps me take a stand that differs from the consensus.”


Investment Philosophy

“Many investors look top-down at how the macroeconomy or how certain sectors will develop. We differentiate ourselves by looking at longer-term business trends within a single sector.”

Facts & Figures 


What does APG invest in in terms of telecom and media?

Interactive media: Google, Facebook, Snap, Twitter

Broadcasting: Fox, Prosieben, Discovery, Viacomcbs

Interactive home entertainment (gaming companies) Activation Blizzard, EA

Cable & satellite: Comcast, SES

Advertising: (Advertising agencies) Publicis, WPP

Movies & entertainment: Netflix, Disney


How much?

The satellite portfolio 1218 invests just over 1.5 billion euros.


Volgende publicatie:
“We can still make it, but we'll have to work hard.”

“We can still make it, but we'll have to work hard.”

Published on: 13 August 2021

The report by the United Nations’ IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, underscores the rapid, human-induced increase of global warming. If we don't take action now, temperatures could rise by nearly six degrees Celsius towards the end of this century. If we do act now, the goals of the Paris Agreement are still achievable. Large companies and investors can make a difference. The question is: Are we currently doing enough to turn the tide? According to Joost Slabbekoorn, senior responsible investment & governance manager at APG, at least we're on the right track. “We have long seen the need to take action and that's exactly what we're doing."


The conclusions drawn by the UN report don't really tell us something new: Humans “unequivocally” play a role in climate change, the earth has warmed by more than 1 degree in 100 years (much faster than before), the effects of climate change are felt all over the world, and temperatures will definitely continue to rise in the next 30 years. Whether that's by 1.5 degrees in the best-case scenario or 5.7 degrees in the worst-case scenario depends entirely on the actions we take globally.


Reassessing policies

“Yes, the IPCC report makes for very uncomfortable reading," says Slabbekoorn, the person who, together with his team, is responsible for implementing sustainable and responsible investment policy for the ABP pension fund, among others. “But actually, we already knew that things haven't been going well." We have known about climate change for some time. It's with good reason that our focus has grown substantially in recent years in terms of sustainable and responsible investment policies for fund clients such as ABP. But sometimes you know that our approach must and can be more effective, says Slabbekoorn. Conclusions such as those drawn by the IPCC report may then actually be decisive for revising policy. "That's what ABP did recently. We realized that accelerating the energy transition is the only option – and current policies do not adequately make that happen. That's why we’re setting our climate ambitions higher in 2022." ABP is taking this issue very seriously. A panel of scientists at universities is helping us create these improved policies. 


Fossil fuel

In addition, APG, along with 32 other large investors, collaborated on the “Net Zero Investment Framework” – a framework that provides guidance on how to tackle climate change. “It's exactly these types of initiatives – as well as our engagement efforts – that allow us to contribute to a liveable world by using our influence as investors to encourage companies to make more sustainable decisions.” But as Slabbekoorn emphasizes, one doesn't make an impact on their own. “As an influential pension investor, I think we have an obligation to do everything within our power. But everyone must do their part.” One option that climate organizations often propose is moving away from investments in fossil fuels. Does the IPCC report mean that APG will advise its clients to completely stop investing in fossil fuels? "Not necessarily," says Slabbekoorn “Ideally, the fossil fuel industry also needs to be part of the solution. But oil and energy companies will need to accelerate their transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy in the coming years. We are paying close attention to their actions in this regard. If things aren't moving fast enough for us, or we lose confidence, we will stop investing in fossil fuels.”


Mapping out risks

One of the report's other conclusions is that the effects of climate change can be seen all over the world. The floods in Limburg (the Netherlands), Belgium, and Germany are a case in point, and these sorts of phenomena are also influencing APG's investments. “Changing weather conditions are already impacting our investments. In any case, temperatures will continue to rise. This means that climate change will continue to affect our investments. That's why, for our real estate investments, we're already mapping out risks in case of floods, droughts, forest fires, or rising sea levels. We have also developed a dashboard that shows us the physical risks of climate change by country,” says Slabbekoorn.


Ray of hope

“The report, or rather the report's conclusions, truly impact the way we invest. We are taking the right steps, but there is always room for development," says Slabbekoorn, who, despite the report's bleak message, also sees a ray of hope. “The report also states that we can still meet the climate goals by 2050. But to achieve those, we'll really need to get moving.”

Volgende publicatie:
“My father wished I had remained dead”

“My father wished I had remained dead”

Published on: 4 August 2021

APG wants to be an organization where everyone can be themselves. Always, all year round. But on occasion, like around Pride Amsterdam, we like to give it some extra attention. Our coworker Edith talks about being accepted and belonging. She feels that these are primary needs that every human being has. But instead, she herself has been fighting against rejection for almost her whole life. “My parents have never accepted that I am a lesbian.”


Anyone booking a vacation right now is looking at the world map that is showing red, orange, yellow and green. What rules do we have to comply with? Where are Dutch citizens welcome? For APG employee Edith*, finding out which vacation country she is welcome in is routine. Because even before the outbreak of Covid-19, she could not simply cross the border for a well-deserved vacation. Seventy countries that are members of the United Nations prohibit same-sex marriage, in at least eleven countries you can even be sentenced to death and in only eleven countries, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) are included in the constitution. Edith: “I can’t take it for granted that I will be welcome anywhere. Not even in the times we live in now. As an almost sixty-year-old, this still astonishes me almost daily.” She tells her story now during Pride Amsterdam to bring a bit of awareness. “It’s important to realize what it’s like for someone to be different.”

Edith was born in South Limburg. She grew up in a Catholic family as the sixth of seven children. Anything that was different was problematic at home. Especially when Edith told them she was a lesbian. "I finally came out of the closet when I was 21. But my parents never accepted it. They kept asking me when I was going to bring a man home, and on the day that I told them I was going to marry my current wife, they said, 'Do you really have to do that?'"

Own choices
Her father thought a psychologist could figure out how serious Edith’s “deviant” orientation was. To please her parents, and just to be accepted, she agreed to go to the session. The psychologist quickly saw that “a 21-year-old woman is certainly capable of making her own choices” and tried to help them see that too. But her parent’s acceptance never came. Edith will never forget the last comment she heard from her dad. “When I was fourteen, I was in a bad accident. I came very close to death. When my father heard I was a lesbian, he literally said, ‘if I had known then, what I know now, I would have wished you had remained dead’.”

Edith hopes with all her heart that today’s parents don’t have that kind of reaction. But even in these times, that is not something that can be taken for granted. “Tolerance has peaks and valleys,” she says. “There are still so many gay people who get beat up in the street. And look at Arie Boomsma’s TV program where he helps young people come out of the closet. The fact that such a program is needed in this day and age is astounding to me.” And closer to home: her own sister votes for the Christian Union, which is known for excluding homosexuality. “There is still too little acceptance, and I’m afraid it will never completely come.” Why is that? Edith, who has since deregistered herself from the church, attributes it to the mix of cultures we live in. “A lot is destroyed by faith and ancestry. But because different cultures, each with their own standards and values, are continually getting closer to each other, we must learn to accept each other as we are.”

Primary need
Wanting to belong, to be part of something is a primary need that is impaired by rejection, Edith stresses. “When you are looked down upon, for whatever reason, it is palpable. That scars you and creates an inner struggle. It is a struggle I have been dealing with all my life; to show who I am and to be allowed to be who I am. When I’m walking down the street holding my wife’s hand, I let go as soon as I see someone. You don’t know when you’ll come across someone who is against it, who will beat you up for being who you are.” The days of being angry at having to be on guard all the time are behind her, though. “It is what it is. I've risen above it and made my peace with it. And it’s now my choice not to advertise it.”

At work, however, Edith does not experience this kind of discrimination; at APG she does feel accepted. “I think it’s really fantastic that people can share their stories, for example on the intranet. Even five years ago, that was very different. Is that because diversity and inclusion are a hype now? Even if that is the case, that can only be good. We should keep focusing our attention on that, with the result that I can be myself, working for this employer.” But there is still a lot of work to do, at APG as well as in society all around us. “When I mention my partner, for example, in most situations, people will automatically assume I’m talking about a man. And mail addressed to “the ladies”, is not happening yet. So, we’re certainly still behind the times in the Netherlands.”

And then her eyes light up, because Edith has a positive attitude despite the obstacles she has faced in her life (“without darkness, you can’t see the light”), and she is proud of who she is and of her wife. The two of them will be going on a “safe” vacation this summer and stay with an aunt and uncle in Austria.


* For privacy reasons, the name Edith is fictitious.

Volgende publicatie:
Dream & deed: “It makes me angry that women are still 2-0 behind in the job market”

Dream & deed: “It makes me angry that women are still 2-0 behind in the job market”

Published on: 3 August 2021

But he did not kill, because between dream and act
there are hindering laws and practical objections

(from: Willem Elsschot, The Marriage)


Retirement may be the last thing Generation Z is thinking about, but they are the generation of the future. What do they dream about? What are they doing to achieve it? And what stands in their way? In this series we let young people talk about what the present and the future look like to them.

Laura Bas (24) from Amsterdam: “I worry about the waiting lists for mental health services. People who need help - and there are more and more since the pandemic - now have nowhere to turn.”


Who: Laura Bas (24). She recently finished third at Miss World Netherlands and will be starting the Culture Organization & Management master’s program at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam in September. Previously she had studied law at a university of applied sciences. In addition, she is ambassador of the project "Because I deserve it", where she, MEPs Agnes Jongerius and Vera Tax, facilitate workshops on the wage gap for (young) women. “In the Netherlands, men still earn on average 15 percent more per hour than women. It is my mission to change that and I want to continue to work for that.”

Lives in: In a studio apartment (24m2, paying 320 euros) in a social project in Amsterdam. “Half of the residents have permanent residency cards and the idea is for us to mingle. It’s a great place to live, and it’s less than ten minutes from the university.”

Works at: Freelance in contract law and as a final editor at the Amsterdam Student Union.

Enjoys: Writing, history, philosophy, psychology and “pretty much anything that ends in ‘y’, except for biology.”


What do you dream about?

“That as a management consultant I can storm boardrooms in the business world, preferably internationally. I would like to see women being much better represented in the labor market five years from now than they are today. I want to deal with issues surrounding themes like diversity and inclusiveness. I see it as one of the tasks of my generation to bring organizations up to date by tackling outdated processes. Take pronouns alone. At the Amsterdam student union that I work for, a number of people are non-binary. They want to be addressed as ‘them’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’. These are changes that our generation needs to start making, including in the business world.”


And what do you still hope to accomplish in your private life?

“I hope to see a lot more of the world. As a naive 17-year-old, I lived in Brazil for a ‘gap year’ and I learned a lot from that. In a country like that, you constantly have to put your own values and standards on the scale in order to be grounded there. It has broadened my view of the world, and since then I have been much less quick to judge. It also made me realize how good we have it in the Netherlands. I still go back to Brazil every two years to visit my friends and the family I lived with. It is very interesting to hear their views on certain subjects. Getting to know other cultures is one of the most inspiring things in life as far as I’m concerned. I don’t have flight shame yet, but I really hope that the experts in that field will be able to develop a sustainable way to travel responsibly.”

I would like to live in a world where we value people, without stereotyping and prejudice.”

Wat is your dream for the Netherlands?

“I hope that in the future our country will be even more inclusive and diverse, more open-minded, and more accepting of others. There is now finally a woman of color (Sylvana Simons) and a transgender person (Lisa van Ginneken) in the House of Representatives. It would be nice if politics and business become more of a reflection of society. I would like the Netherlands to become a safer place for minorities. Because in terms of LGBTQ+ we are not there yet, and strict believers also have a hard time. I hope that we can all live together more peacefully. I wish for that outside the Netherlands as well. I would like to live in a world where we all respect people’s values, without stereotyping and prejudice.”

What does your dream retirement look like?

“I hope to work for an employer where the pension is well taken care of. In addition, I want to start investing money myself in order to retire earlier. I think we have to work until we are 70, which seems too long to me. My dad is about to retire and he and his girlfriend are planning to travel across America in a motor home, which I think is a great way to retire.”


What do you worry about when you think of the future?

“Polarization, and I think social media plays a big role in that. If I like pictures of people who say grass is purple instead of green, it causes me to only see content from people who think that too. That filter bubble provides a distorted picture of reality, which worries me. I’m afraid of the consequences.

What also worries me are the waiting lists for mental health services. People who need help - and there are more and more since the pandemic - have nowhere to turn. I live in a project with many permanent residency card holders who have been through the most horrible things. Many of them are struggling with traumas, but are not getting any help. When things go wrong, as a society, we cry out: ‘You see, it’s always those refugees’. But we should look in the mirror and as a society we should make sure that these people receive the help they need. These prejudices really bother me too. I am often asked if I don’t feel unsafe in my neighborhood, because many young men with a migrant background live there. No one ever asked me that when I lived in a working-class neighborhood in Amsterdam-North. I feel very safe here. If something were to happen to me here and I were to scream, I’m sure those guys would come running out of their units to rescue me.”


I think it’s totally archaic for people with less income to have less access to education”

What makes you angry?

“Injustice. For example, it makes me very angry that women are still 2-0 behind in the labor market. That is trivialized with the argument that it is our own fault, that we like working part-time. But that is not the core of the problem. I’m not very happy about the loan system either. I think it’s totally archaic for people with less income to have less access to education. Because you can pretend that the student debt doesn’t matter, but try to find a house in this housing market later on, if you and your partner both owe 40,000 euros in student debt. And even without that debt it’s already impossible to do, especially for people with a modest income. The gap between the rich and the poor is only getting bigger.”


What stands in the way of your dreams?

“Policy choices. That as a society we are choosing to cut back on healthcare, that housing prices are skyrocketing, and that you can no longer go to college without incurring big debt. But it can always be worse. My friends in Brazil have to deal with corruption and a leader like Bolsonaro. For them, it’s even harder to make their dreams come true.”


What are you doing to make your dreams come true?

“I don't shy away from difficult conversations, I work hard and I am committed to the community organizations and causes I support.”


And what are you doing for a better world?

“I try to eat a lot less meat and I only buy second-hand clothes, with the exception of sportswear and underwear. In that respect, I really am a millennial. I also encourage others to go for their passions and ambitions and not to let themselves be led by criticism from others. That makes the world a better place too. I want people to know that failure is part of success. In the Netherlands, failure is seen as a bad thing, but you can’t become successful without falling down a few times. You learn a lot more by falling down and getting up than you do going up in one straight line.”


Don’t you want to go into politics?

“I get that question a lot. No, not right now, but I’m not ruling it out for the future. I secretly think the business world has much more power than politics. Many politicians start with the best intentions at the Binnenhof (Inner Court), full of passion to make a difference, but then find themselves in such a snake pit that it becomes difficult to live up to their ambitions. It may be easier to really change things in the business world.”



Volgende publicatie:
“With us you can be yourself, both as a professional and as a person”

“With us you can be yourself, both as a professional and as a person”

Published on: 30 July 2021

In honor of the anniversary edition of Pride Amsterdam, APG is raising the rainbow flag at the offices in Amsterdam and Heerlen. As an employer of three thousand unique individuals, we are clearly showing that we want to be a diverse and inclusive organization in which fund clients and participants can recognize themselves too.


APG’s diversity and inclusion policy cannot be summed up in a few words. Activities range from signing various national manifestos such as “Diversity in Business” and “Talent to the Top” to establishing a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Board, organizing employee meetings and closing the gender pay gap.

By raising the rainbow flag at several APG offices, APG is reinforcing its statement to promote diversity and inclusion. Something that makes Erik van Dam, reputation manager at APG, proud. “This gesture means more to me than I thought. Showing the flag feels like support that I can be who I am and that this is possible at APG. Especially considering that in the outside world, unfortunately, this issue still needs so much attention. At APG, I have rarely felt an inhibition to be myself. And yet I only know a handful of coworkers from the LGBT+ corner. So, there are still steps to be taken at APG in the area of diversity and inclusion. Hopefully the flying of the flags will make everyone more aware of their role in this.”

Ronald Wuijster, a member of the executive board and also chairman of the D&I Board, acknowledges that more steps can be taken to become an inclusive employer. But he is also proud of what has already been achieved. “We believe it is important that all employees feel involved and valued for who they are as professionals and as people. After all, being able to be yourself at work is important for everyone. In recent years, APG has already made considerable strides and the bar remains high. For example, we are aiming for at least 30% women at the top of the organization and 40% across the entire organization by the end of 2022.”


In addition to the rainbow flag, APG is also introducing a specially designed rainbow logo today. This consists of the original rainbow flag along with the five colors of the Progress Pride flag, which has a greater focus on inclusion and progress. Wuijster: “While the flags are flying outside, the logo reflects our sustainable identity and the values we want to show as a company online and on social media With this logo, APG is supporting unique individuals and underlining that progress is needed. We hope to contribute significantly to a sustainable future with this.”

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:
“People say: ‘You saved my life’”

“People say: ‘You saved my life’”

Published on: 12 July 2021

“You work in the pension sector? Wow, exciting...”  Prejudices abound about working for a pension fund or administrator. Perhaps not entirely justified, as a series of portraits of the people who work there every day shows. People like

Manon van Hoek, who works as a growth hacker at Kandoor, a platform where financial professionals answer questions about money matters for free. “At Kandoor we really try to help people.”


What is a growth hacker?

“Well, it’s not about hacking anyway, haha. Growth hacking is a form of marketing where the focus is on growth. To get more visitors, my two coworkers and I are constantly improving the platform. What can we do differently, what would the effect be? And then try it out. Then we analyze the data. Are there differences and if so, what causes them?”


Can you give us an example?

“Kandoor has a chatbot, an automated conversation partner on its website. People can get personal answers to all their financial questions through that. We are investigating whether they prefer short answers or whether a detailed explanation is more helpful. We use experiments to find out exactly what questions they have. We are also testing how best to ask for feedback. Or at what point visitors drop out. And whether blogs, for example, are still up-to-date enough or whether they need to be modified.”


Does Kandoor want to become the biggest help site for finances?

"We would really like to expand our reach. Anyone who types in a financial search question on Google should immediately find us.”


So the trick is to get to the top of Google search?

“Yes, that is the challenge. If people have a question about retirement or taxes, for example, they can get the answers from us. All relevant information about financial matters should be on our platform. Plus, the website must be technically structured in such a way that Google can recognize us. However, their algorithm changes constantly. So, we have to constantly keep up with that.”


How many visitors does Kandoor currently have?

“In 2020, we had a million and a half visitors and over half a million questions came in. We will probably reach a million this year, because we already have half a million questions now. We are very happy with that. I think it would be great if Kandoor is seen as a brand soon. That people just know: I have a question about finances, so I’ll go to Kandoor, because they will help me. That is our ultimate goal.”  


Are you a financial wizard yourself?

“I know a lot about data analysis, but I had absolutely no financial knowledge when I joined Kandoor two and a half years ago. I’ve learned a lot here. I didn’t know anything about pensions, for example. I now know that it’s important to start thinking about it at a young age. Because now you can still arrange it properly.”

So you give your friends that advice, but you don't answer questions on the platform?

“No, the financial guides do that. We have a whole community of volunteers. These are all experts who give free information so that people can make their own decisions. We also have bloggers who write about different money topics.”


What makes your work so interesting?

“It's very varied. You are never done learning because there is always a new development. So, you have to constantly come up with new solutions. What I also like is that Kandoor has a social mission. For me, that's the best of both worlds: the constant challenge of being innovative, combined with the social aspect. At Kandoor, we really try to help people with financial stress. I’m much more aware now of how many people have that. And how much impact that has on their lives.”


Does that move you?

“Yes, you see that sometimes people are in so much trouble that they don't know what to do anymore. They are often very grateful for the help of the guides. I get their feedback and sometimes they write, ‘You saved my life. I am so happy that someone is helping me.’ On the one hand, it is very nice that someone has really been helped. But it's also very sad to see people in these kinds of situations.”


What would you change in society if it were up to you?

“The benefits system. It is underestimated how difficult it is for the average Dutch person to navigate through that. And how afraid they are of doing it wrong. Because if you apply for something and it turns out you're not entitled to it after all, then you might be in debt immediately. So, I’d like to make that system easier.”


Anything else you’d like to tackle?

“The letters from the tax authorities. Many people simply don’t understand the content. The language is too complicated. They also come to Kandoor for help. But I don’t know if that problem should be solved by the government alone. Maybe it is also because they have never learned how to do their tax return. Then it’s not surprising that you make mistakes. That’s something schools should teach.”

Volgende publicatie:
"Is Dutch life expectancy falling due to corona?"

"Is Dutch life expectancy falling due to corona?"

Published on: 1 July 2021

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: Actuarial Director Alexander Paulis on the impact of corona on the life expectancy and financial position of Dutch pension funds.


Just under two years. That is by how much American life expectancy fell between 2018 and 2020. That is, if you are to believe research from Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Colorado Boulder and the Urban Institute. Cause: the pandemic, which caused the biggest drop in American life expectancy since 1943.


What about the Netherlands? Paulis raises his eyebrows when he hears about the American results. "Of course, this is just a snapshot. It is virtually impossible to determine now to what extent the death rates of the past two years are representative for the future. First, the situation must normalize. If there is going to be a new normal at all, it will be when everyone is vaccinated and we can see its effect on infection and death rates." 



The corona effect on the death rates of the past two years (about 10 percent excess mortality according to Statistics Netherlands) is a short-term development that is pretty much useless for making predictions, according to Paulis. "Pension funds plan for the long term. And when it comes to corona, we don't know anything about that yet. For long-term predictions, you need a sufficient basis – observation years. We're used to looking far back in time and not letting the last year be all-decisive. In the 1980s, we initially also thought that the AIDS epidemic would have structural consequences for life expectancy. In the end, it turned out to be no more than a ripple."


To answer the question of how representative the first years after 2020 are for what we will see in the future, you have to cross a kind of actuarial boundary, according to Paulis. "You'll also need to talk to medical experts, such as virologists. Actuaries are always cautious about this, because it quickly leads to subjective, political discussions. But don't think you can escape it in this case." 



Normally, a 'base' is also created for life expectancy by looking at other, comparable countries. However, we shouldn't expect any benefit from this in the short term, says Paulis. "Especially with corona, we've seen that the differences between countries can suddenly be very large."

There is another reason not to let the first years after 2020 be too decisive for the long-term prognosis of the death rate. "During hot summers, for example, we also see excess mortality. Summers like that particularly claim the lives of people who are already more vulnerable. As a result, you're left with a relatively healthy population, which often results in below-average mortality. The same counter-effect could occur with corona."



Anyone who thinks that pension funds will undoubtedly benefit financially from corona mortality is mistaken, according to Paulis. "If participants whose retirement pension hasn't yet commenced die, surviving dependents receive a partner's and orphan's pension. This could be financially more disadvantageous for the fund, especially when it concerns young surviving dependents. But if someone already received a retirement pension, that will lapse. The survivor's pension that replaces this is lower. On balance, this is more beneficial for the fund. Because it was the elderly in particular who died of corona, we have had a modest 'positive result on mortality' in the past year, as an actuary calls it somewhat clinically. But that was a drop in the ocean, so to speak – a few tenths of a percentage point at the most of the coverage ratio. Interest rates, investment returns and, nowadays, often also the premium have a much greater influence on the financial position."  


Unusable years

So for the time being, there's no reason to assume that life expectancy in the Netherlands is falling? Paulis: "That's correct. For a long-term forecast, 2020 and 2021 are the most useless years imaginable. Pension funds shouldn't be over-optimistic about the consequences of corona for the time being."

Volgende publicatie:
Dream and action: "Worrying, how differently people look at things"

Dream and action: "Worrying, how differently people look at things"

Published on: 30 June 2021

But he did not kill her,

Because between dream and action,

Laws stand in the way

And practical objections.

(from: Willem Elsschot, The Marriage)


Retirement may be something not directly of interest to Generation Z, but they are tomorrow's generation. What are their dreams? What are they doing to achieve them? And what stands in their way? In the Dream and Action series, we ask young people to talk about what it will look like for them now and in the future.

Leila Jane Ali-Dib (23) from Rotterdam: "People with a non-Dutch background have fewer opportunities in life. I get angry about that."


Who: Leila Jane Ali-Dib (23), "creative, independent, sensitive, caring, always curious and a feminist".
Lives: In Rotterdam.
Works: As a freelancer in marketing and PR, she also does modeling and hopes to get some acting jobs. "Work is very important to me. I also enjoy working on my career. I really like to work hard. Not just for the money, but also for the pleasure it brings me. Pleasure comes first. I think it's important to experience enough freedom in my work. I want to decide for myself when I work, what I do and when I do it."
Loves: Being creative, experiencing culture, traveling and spending time with good friends.

What are your dreams?

"I try to live in the now and see what comes my way, but in a way, I'm also concerned about the future. What do I want? Who do I want to be? What else do I want to do? I hope that later, I will have a family and a nice house in Rotterdam. And that my work is still my passion, and that I earn enough. I always want to keep doing my own thing and do and learn new things. I dream of seeing a lot of the world and doing more acting."


What does your dream retirement look like?

"As an employee, I have built up some pension, but nothing to write home about. To be honest, I haven't bothered with it so far. But as a freelancer, I'll have to arrange it myself. My mom always insists I have to sort it out. I don't know anyone my age who's already making plans for their retirement. It's still so far away. But then again, the sooner you start building up the better, so I'll have to look at the possibilities."


What stands in the way of your dreams, what are you worried about?

"I worry about the environment, but also about inequality in the world. There is a lot of polarization. I find it worrying how differently people look at things. I think everyone has prejudices, but I try to be aware of how I think and act. If someone I know says something politically incorrect, I try to say something about it."

"I worry about the environment, but also about inequality in the world"

What makes you angry?

"We often say that we've come so far, that so much has already changed, that the Netherlands is a free country where a lot is allowed. But if you look at what actually happens, it's disappointing. It's 2021 and women are still paid less than men. People with a sexual preference that falls outside the 'norm' are still verbally abused in the street. People with a non-Dutch background have fewer opportunities in life. I get angry about that. Sometimes I don't understand how it's still possible, in this day and age."


Have you ever had to deal with that yourself?

"No, as far as I know, I've never been discriminated against because of my surname. Maybe because I don't look very foreign. I am half Arab; my mother is Dutch, my father is from Syria. What did once happen is that because of my background, I was deliberately put in a kind of subsidy application for diversity. I thought that was mad, although I could laugh about it too. Spurious diversity is also a problem: companies that pretend to the outside world that they value diversity, but behind the scenes everyone's white. I think there is still a lot to gain there."


What do you do to improve the world?

"I try to be environmentally conscious. I believe it's important to be informed about this, to find out more and more and to make more conscious choices. Two years ago, I cut meat from my diet and I eat as little fish and dairy as possible. I'm also more conscious about clothing. I give old clothes away to people I know or sell them online so that someone else can still enjoy them. I try to buy more second-hand, because apparently, certain large clothing stores do not produce those clothes sustainably. I've heard that returned clothes often have to be incinerated because that would be cheaper than recycling. This also has to do with our buying behavior, so we should not close our eyes to that.

When it comes to flying, I'm a bit less environmentally aware if I'm honest. I once looked into whether I could go to Spain by train instead of by plane, but a train ticket was more than twice as expensive. And it takes much longer to get there too. I'm sorry, but in that case, I'll take the plane."

Volgende publicatie:
“A thousand trash can factories need to be built”

“A thousand trash can factories need to be built”

Published on: 28 June 2021
How do children think about the climate? In the latest video from the Kids &… series, you will find out.

Kids these days are pretty environmentally aware. At the request of APG, seven young world citizens were asked what they think about the climate. Some, like Lise (6), see it quite broadly. “The climate? That’s the wilderness where the wild animals live.” Most are remarkably knowledgeable about the issues. Like Xavi (8): “We pollute nature. Then Mother Nature gets very angry and changes the climate.” And they worry. “The more trees we cut down, the less oxygen there will be.” They also have solutions. Build a thousand more trash can factories, so there are enough trash cans for all the waste. Turning off the lights before putting on your pajamas at night.  Cycling to school on your own, instead of your mother driving you in the car. And don’t take a plane, “because that puts dust in the air and then we can’t breathe”.

Thank goodness there is ice cream at the end.

Volgende publicatie:
Dream and action: “I should hope there will still be fish in the sea by the time I’m 50”

Dream and action: “I should hope there will still be fish in the sea by the time I’m 50”

Published on: 22 June 2021

But he did not kill her,

Because between dream and action,

Laws stand in the way

And practical objections.

(from: Willem Elsschot, The Marriage)


Retirement might not be something generation Z spends much time thinking about, but they are the generation of the future. What do they dream of? What are they doing to achieve that? And what is standing in their way? In the series Dream and Action, we let young people speak about what the present and the future look like to them. Today, freelance copywriter Nina Keijzer (20) from Ridderkerk: “What do I worry about regarding the future? It would be better to ask: what don’t I worry about?”


Who: Nina Keijzer (20)

Lives in: grew up in Rotterdam, currently lives in Ridderkerk with her parents.

Works: as astrologer and copywriter. “My work is the most important part of my life right now. It keeps me busy every day. I get that from my parents. They both always worked full-time, just like my grandparents; it’s our nature to work really hard.”

Likes: writing, reading, working out, watching Netflix and playing piano.


What do you dream about?

“I’d like to publish my own books. If at all possible, I’d like to mean something to society that way, make a difference. If I can help someone in some way, I am satisfied. To me, being successful is the freedom to do what you enjoy doing. Sure, it’s nice to have a lot of money too, but it’s not the most important thing.”


How do you envision your future?

“I really think about my future too much. More than I want to. I talk about the future every day with my best friend. You’re still young, people say, don’t worry. And that is true, but we can also see that things are not getting better. How can you not worry when you have a huge student loan to pay back and you have no chance of getting a mortgage? I don’t see it happening, but I hope to be able to move out and buy a nice house for myself in about five years. In a perfect world I would not have any money worries, I can accrue a nice pension and I don’t have to worry about the future.”


What about when you are retired?

“I’m not looking forward to still having an office job and still working hard when I’m 70. I’d rather retire sooner. A passive income would be nice. If I stay self-employed, I will have to set up a pension for myself. That is something I’m already worrying about. Life just keeps getting more expensive and wages don’t seem to go up at the same rate. If houses get even more expensive, how are we going to pay for that? My generation is really into investing; you’re suddenly seeing that everywhere. I want to do it too. I hope I will be able to save enough to be able to sit in the garden without worries in my old age. But money might look very different in fifty years. That may sound like science fiction, but we already have bitcoin and other crypto coins, so the idea is not that far-fetched.”


What is your dream for the Netherlands?

“We work a lot in the Netherland. It would be great if that changed; that we start working less for the same money. It would be a nice experiment. Everyone wants to work less for the same amount of money. You might get as much done in 30 hours as you do in 40 hours, because you only have a limited number of productive hours in a day, and you can’t be focused non-stop. It could also make a big difference in terms of burnouts. I enjoy my work and it is important to me, but the balance between work and leisure should really be more towards leisure. I think that my generation is very aware of that: you only live once and there is more to life than just work.”


What kind of world would you like to live in?

“I hope that big companies and countries will want to take more responsibility. A lot still needs to be done to reach the climate goals. It is a serious matter, which in my eyes is being treated much too casually. It’s great we want to go to Mars, but let’s take better care of the Earth first.”

What worries you when you think about the future?

“It would be better to ask me what doesn’t worry me. Climate change is on my mind a lot. What if it makes the sea level rise even higher in the Netherlands? And I watched a documentary where they were saying there won’t be any fish left in the sea by 2050 if the fishing industry keeps going at the current rate. That scares me. I should hope there will still be fish in the sea by the time I’m 50. What are we going to do now to prevent that?”


What stands in the way of your dreams?

“The housing market worries me. How on earth am I ever going to get a good mortgage? The price of houses is rising like crazy in the Randstad and everything is selling above the asking price. My generation and the generation after me will have to bring at least 20,000 Euros if we want to buy a nice house. My mom lived on her own when she was 18. She rented apartment for 250 guilders a month. When I hear that, it makes me want to cry. You can’t get anything like that for even 500 Euros in the Randstad now. We can’t keep going this way. Soon we will still be living with our parents well into our thirties, because we can’t afford to buy our own homes.”


Are there any other obstacles?

“Yes, we also have huge student loans to pay off because they stopped providing the basic study grant. Some of my friends owe 60,000 Euro and they have no idea how they are going to pay it. Everyone thinks my generation is all about having fun, but my friends are working like fiends to be able to pay for everything. People forget how expensive everything is; even just renting a room costs a lot of money. It would be wonderful if they brought the basic study grant back. That would eliminate so much stress. We are the future and governments should invest in the future.”



What are you doing for a better world?

“My parents and I are very consciously working on sustainability. We don’t have any plastic shopping bags and bottles of water anymore, we throw away much less than we used to and buy organic whenever possible. We are also all vegan, we only eat plant-based food. My mom became a vegetarian when she was 14. I became a vegetarian when I was 15, but a few months later I decided to go vegan. Both of my parents said, okay, we’ll do it too. I’m very grateful for that. Even my dad quit eating meat, dairy and eggs cold turkey. Plus, every day, I go for a walk and pick up any garbage I come across on my way.


One person can make a difference, but at the same time, I think that the responsibility is put on the individual too much instead of on the big, polluting companies. I hope that is going to change in the coming years. Because we can all stop buying plastic straws, but as long as cucumbers are all sold individually wrapped in plastic, that is not going to make that much of a difference. I also think it’s too bad that sustainable is often more expensive. That makes a lot of people go for the less sustainable options.”


Volgende publicatie:
“Women should take better care of their finances”

“Women should take better care of their finances”

Published on: 18 June 2021

How do you deal with work and money for now and for the future? Do you live one day at a time, or are you consciously planning your financial future? And are you going to take care of the future yourself or are you part of a pension fund?

Elisabeth van der Meer has just retired. But not completely: “I enjoy my work and I want others to be able to benefit from my experience.”



Elisabeth van der Meer (66)

Profession: was an entrepreneur, is now retired, but still working as a coach and trainer

Works: about 25 hours a week

Income: 10,000 Euros net per year, plus Old Age Security and pension around 2500 net per month.

Savings: “Enough”

Pension set up? Yes


You recently retired. Is it time to relax now?

“Not really; I didn’t stop working completely. I have changed my work into something I can organize the way I like it. I want to keep working, because I enjoy it, but also so that I can let others benefit from my experience. I’m a tax economist by trade. Now I am training and coaching people and giving works