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Society

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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Income
Collection Contents
19 Publications

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

Published on: 27 January 2021

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

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

 

Marielle van Ramshorst (35)

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

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

Income: between 1875 and 4375 euro per month

Savings: 13,000 euro

Pension is arranged? Partly

How did you arrange your pension?

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

 

What kind of work do you do?

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

 

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

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

 

How many hours do you work a week?

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

 

That is more than fulltime.

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

 

How much do you earn?

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

 

Are you satisfied with that income?

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

How much do you pay on fixed costs?

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

 

What else do you spend your money on?

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

 

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

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

 

Do you think about your old age often?

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

 

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

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

 

What could be arranged better?

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

Volgende publicatie:
'Inclusion is not something that can be checked off'

'Inclusion is not something that can be checked off'

Published on: 21 January 2021

Rapper Typhoon hopes every single coworker is going to be feeling responsible for diversity

 

Putting diversity and inclusion on the agenda is number one. Giving employees the space to co-decide on the topic is an important second step. With that message, rapper, language artist and keynote speaker Typhoon is visiting companies in the Netherlands, such as, online, APG. “Inclusion should be woven into the corporate culture.”



When you visit companies, you get a look behind the scenes. What have you been seeing?

“I’m seeing a variety of initiatives. Equal pay for men and women, applying for jobs anonymously, education and training throughout all the layers of organizations. And often a social stand is taken externally as well, by raising the rainbow flag or participating in a Gay Pride event. I see the willingness and urgency to really make this theme part of the company culture and strategy. APG can count itself among the vanguards in the movement and fighting spirit forward in this. Employees are driven and want to go deep. And that is what you want to achieve as a company. The words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ really make my skin crawl when they’re used as an end in and of themselves. When they’re on the agenda, just to be checked off. A quarterly financial report is something you can check off.”


Sounds like the working world is doing well in the Netherlands with respect to diversity and inclusion.
“Serious time and attention is being put into it, which is good to see. And, don’t forget to celebrate what’s already there, as well as the effort. Then, as a company, you don’t always have the feeling that you are lagging behind and have to catch up. Even if you are. Be brave in your discomfort. Take, for example, APG's equal pay for men and women. Even though that’s just a tip of the iceberg, it’s a good example for other companies.”

When you look at the initiative that companies are putting on their D&I agenda, is there anything missing?
“Whatever means you use as a company to stimulate inclusion, people have to feel it. The DNA of a company must be tangible in the walls and the carpet. Formulate a clear vision with diversity and inclusion as one of the pillars and build towards it, in collaboration with the employees. That’s where your success lies. My fellow speaker and corporate anthropologist Jitske Kramer puts it very aptly: ‘Inclusion is inviting someone to the party and letting them dance. But inclusion is also letting that person help decide on the playlist.” Don't impose this on employees from above; give them the space to speak up. Then everyone feels responsible and you really form a culture together.”

Is it possible to pay too much attention to the theme?
“This is about a culture change and it starts with that one thought change. For that you use words; they have power. But the fact is that everyone connects in different ways, at different times. You can hear something five times and only actually absorb it on the sixth. Because someone is using the words that mean something to you at that moment. So it’s good to keep talking to each other.”

Some issues around inclusion are very clear and visible. Like age, gender and physical disability. But there are also non-visible issues. Which ones should we be sure to discuss?

“There will always be blind spots and we need to explore them together. Systemic racism is a recent example. That term, alongside discrimination and racism, is popping up more and more in discussions. And it shows that racism is not just the personal beliefs of individuals. It is now reflected in society and organizations, creating or perpetuating unequal opportunities and outcomes for certain groups.”

 

I felt really angry and distraught after George Floyd’s death, it was closer than I had thought.

Looking at diversity and inclusion, the Netherlands is improving. At the same time, the debate seems to be hardening. Are we conducting the discussion in the right way?
“The way the discussion is being conducted makes me very sad. There is no vaccine to solve this problem immediately. It takes time and change doesn’t come without a struggle. I felt really angry and distraught after George Floyd’s death, it was closer than I had thought. I hope we can continue to see that this is part of a larger movement. We need perspective, the power of imagination, to see that change for the better takes time.”

Despite that negative feeling, you are brimming with energy when you talk about the topic. Where do you get that strength from?

“From my love for humanity. I look for the good in someone, even when you talk about polarization. Hate is confused admiration, we don’t want to hate, we all struggle with our own questions and personal crises. I know this about myself too, nothing human is foreign to me. So I am one of the Rutger Bregmans of this world, I think all people are good. There’s only the occasional person that actually has bad intentions.”

When you talk about inclusion, you are talking about being equal and being of equal value. What is the difference?  
“People are not all equal, or the same. We are all different, in color and gender, but equal as human beings. That diversity is beautiful and we should embrace it. So look at my color, because I am enormously proud of it. But first of all look at me as a human being. When I was a boy in ‘t Harde and I wasn't allowed to enter that evening, people thought and saw all sorts of things, but not who I really was.”

Do you suffer from unconscious biases yourself?
“I didn’t think so, until recently. My sister, who works for me, mentioned that a party we work with did not look at her during meetings. I hadn’t noticed and I couldn’t imagine it. So I didn’t do anything about it. Later, when I saw it myself, I was shocked. I felt guilty for not standing up for her. I could only say “I didn't see it”, just like Johan Derksen did when it was about gay violence, and it’s just not okay. But this was my blind spot. I have now resolved to take every signal seriously, any time someone comes to me to report something. Even if I don’t see it right away myself.”

You want to be part of the movement forward with your workplace inspiration sessions. Why?

“So that we can let everyone be the best version of themselves. Don’t let prejudices outweigh someone’s character. With the best versions of each other, we can work on the best version of a company and of society. And we can do that if we see each other as equals. Celebrate the differences.”

Volgende publicatie:
APG supports experts National Think Tank in developing ideas

APG supports experts National Think Tank in developing ideas

Published on: 17 December 2020

The Dutch middle class has been under pressure in recent years. People with a middle income, job or education find it more difficult to find a home and experience more insecurity on the labor market. Moreover, they often have limited financial knowledge and scope. To change this, in recent months, 20 participants in the National Think Tank focused on the question: how do we improve the perspective of this middle group? The result: eight specific solutions. And APG contributes to the elaboration of four of these ideas.

 

How do we strengthen well-being, prosperity and control for middle groups in the city and region, now and later? That question is central to the fifteenth 'edition' of the National Think Tank. Because although the Dutch economy (until the corona crisis) has grown in recent years, the position of people with a middle income, job or education has deteriorated. This group increasingly struggles with insecure employment relationships, few housing prospects and a limited financial buffer.

 

In discussion

Every year, the National Think Tank Foundation chooses a social topic and sets to work with specific solutions and ideas. Last week, the 'Think Tankers' presented eight specific proposals to Minister Koolmees of Social Affairs & Employment. APG has been closely involved in this edition as a theme partner and will soon enter into discussions with the initiators of four of the solutions presented.

 

Tools and documentaries

The initiatives involved? The first is the MomentCheck, a digital tool that supports people in making financially conscious choices at important moments in life. Nick: "This is very closely related to the activities of APG's GroeiFrabriek and Kandoor divisions. Here, we can be of value." The second solution is ZelfstandigBerekend, also a financial tool, but aimed at starting freelancers. Zie je mij?, an idea for, among other things, a documentary and a national campaign to raise the profile of essential professions, and MBO Talent Track, a talent development trajectory for MBO students, round off the list.

 

Financial fitness

"At first I thought APG would continue with two of the eight ideas," says Nick van de Sande-Korpershoek, a strategic policy officer at APG and in his capacity of point of contact for the Think Tank 2020, part of the process. "But internal enthusiasm was much greater than expected. Which, of course, isn't surprising. The middle group is the largest group of participants in the funds served by APG. All those teachers, police officers, construction workers and cleaners, for instance. In addition, financial fitness is an important theme at APG. That makes the issue surrounding middle groups extremely relevant to us."

 

Infectious enthusiasm

APG, together with Rabobank and three ministries, among others, is involved in the process in various ways. Nick: "As a financial partner, of course. But even more so as a sparring partner for the 20 Think Tankers. Some still wanted to learn more about pensions, for instance. Alwin Oerlemans, Raoul Wilmms and I, among others, intensively helped them with that in recent months." In the coming weeks, the Think Tankers will be talking with colleagues from GroeiFrabriek, HR and Asset Management, to find out how APG can help elaborate the four ideas. But also to explore what these initiatives can yield for APG.

Nick: "They are really good ideas that can actually take the middle group further. Conceived by people who take it seriously from the start, by involving the target group themselves. And, not unimportantly, they do so with particularly infectious enthusiasm."

Volgende publicatie:
We can organize our working life much smarter

We can organize our working life much smarter

Published on: 3 December 2020

Rowan Siskens about agile living and the boomerang retirement

 

Work till you’re 67 and then enjoy your retirement. Or could it be different? A search for Plan P: innovative ideas and alternative scenarios for organizing your life, work and retirement. Rethinking for and by young and old.

Rowan Siskens: “After every three to five years of working, take a few months of unpaid leave.”

 

Retirement at age 27 

Rowan Siskens had only been working for his first employer for two years when, during his evaluation meeting, he said he wanted to take a leave of absence without pay. His managers were surprised, but also positive. Six months later he had a retirement party where everyone dressed up as an old geezer or crone, and then he had five months off. Siskens (27 at the time) went surfing in Bali, traveled around Mexico with his girlfriend and wrote a book: Agile leven. In that book he explained the philosophy behind his lifestyle: after every three to five years of working, take a few months of unpaid leave. Siskens feels that the term sabbatical doesn’t quite cut it; he prefers to call it interim or recurring retirement. A kind of boomerang retirement, instead of a long rest period at the end of our career.  

Short-cycle learning, working and resting

In his book, Siskens – IT worker by trade – draws a parallel with agile working: splitting projects up into “sprints” with interim goals. After every sprint, you look at what could use improvement and adapt your working method if need be. This way you are more agile and you can respond to change more easily. Life is really just such a project, Siskens says. That project is still being managed in the old-fashioned linear way: first you learn for 20 years, then you work for 40 years and then, if you’re lucky,  you get 20 years of retirement. Education, CAOs and pension systems follow a fixed pattern where we go through three phases of life successively and crossovers are difficult or impossible. “It has just developed this way, even though we actually could organize our lives in a much smarter and more agile way,” Siskens argues: with short-cycle sprints of working for a few years, alternated with a period of rest, reflection and possibly further education to shift the direction of your career. Sounds sensible, but how would we do this and who would pay for it?

Why retire in the interim?

Before his first job, Siskens took a world trip. He didn’t want to wait to experience that ultimate sense of freedom again until he was 67. “Because I might not even make it. I had examples in my immediate vicinity of people that died shortly after they retired.” In addition, we are running into retirement stalemate in terms of time, resources and energy, especially now that life expectancy is increasing and the age of retirement has been pushed back. Young people have time and energy to do fun things, but they don’t have the money. Working adults have money, but no time and their energy is spent on their job and a young family. Older people have time and money, but often no energy left for climbing Mount Everest or chasing some other dream. According to Siskens, interim retirement can break through that stalemate. It makes dreams come true, creates happiness at work, and could allow people to keep working longer. “If you’re happy with what you’re doing, the age of retirement becomes just a number and completely irrelevant.” Recurring retirement also fits in well with trends like working with more flexibility, digitalization and life-long learning.

Who’s going to pay for that?

Siskens had saved up 5,000 Euros for his first retirement period. That was not really enough, but he managed to get by with it, because he was able to stay with friends and relatives during his travels. His girlfriend payed for the fixed expenses. He is currently saving up for his next retirement. If you want to live an agile life, you will have to make some sacrifices: don’t drive a big car or don’t drive a car at all, and don’t buy crap you don’t need just because it’s on sale. Then, you invest those savings, for example through (index) investments. “It’s easier to save 10% than to you tell your boss you want to earn an extra 10%,” Siskens believes. The boss can contribute in a different way. For example, he could give you the option to save part of your salary and buy days with that. Or by continuing to pay your pension premium during your unpaid leave to prevent a pension gap later.

Will there be anything left for the future?   

Don’t serial retirements use up everything, so that there won’t be much left for when you permanently retire?  No, on the contrary, Siskens argues. “For many millennials, retirement is nowhere on their radar.  By taking a retirement period once in a while now, you bring the concept closer to home. You become more conscious of the importance of good financial planning so that you will be able to do things you enjoy in the future. An advance from the pension pot to finance the interim retirement doesn’t sound like a good idea to me, for example. Then you won’t have enough later.” Siskens is also the co-host of the “pension season” of the Spaarpodcast (Saving podcast).

 

“We explain the pension system in an accessible way and we try to make young people pension-wise. Maybe APG could also work on more pension consciousness among young people in an innovative way. Right now, emails and letters about pension and retirement usually go straight into the recycle bin, I’ve noticed.” Meanwhile, Siskens is working again, as an Application Engineer at the software company Mendix in Rotterdam. He wants to get promoted, but he also wants another time-out in about four years, although it is his girlfriend’s turn first. His goal for his second pension: a pop-up restaurant on the water, or building a houseboat. “Those are both on my Dream list and I also have many other plans.”

What do employers think of it?     

Siskens also sees benefits of agile living for employers: the work of the interim retiree can be done by coworkers temporarily. This will create job shifts and role rotation, people’s employability will become broader and understanding for each other’s work will increase. What does Sisken’s own boss think of his intention to retire again in a few years? We asked Radjesh Ramautar, Siskens’ immediate supervisor at Mendix, a fast-growing Dutch company with global ambitions, which was taken over by Siemens in 2018. “We have to compete with billion-dollar companies over scarce talent,” Ramautar tells us.

 

“To be of interest to the best people and get them committed, it is important for them to get the opportunity to grow, both in their work and outside of it. As a company you need to keep investing in that, but it also benefits us. During their leave, people can travel, get to know other cultures, experience new things and broaden their horizon. That will give them energy, a sense of perspective and new insights. They always come back richer than they were before and that is good for the company too.”

 

But can you still get promoted if you often take a leave of absence?

Ramautar: ‘Rowan is talented, driven and social; he has it in him to become a good manager. He would be able to take that next step sooner if he waited five to seven years to take his temporary retirement. But that is some ways in the future. Our company has a start-up mentality and is growing enormously. Even planning a few months in advance is difficult sometimes, never mind a few years.” Siskens’s pop-up restaurant may have to wait a bit longer; time for a sprint first.

Volgende publicatie:
APG climate neutral by 2030

APG climate neutral by 2030

Published on: 1 December 2020

Pension provider wants to be the best in class in sustainability

 

APG has made the commitment to be "best in class" in the field of sustainability. To give substance to this a number of steps will be taken in the coming years. For example, there is a CO2 reduction plan with the aim of having APG demonstrably climate-neutral operations by 2030.

 

There will also be an approach to sustainable purchasing and a Sustainability Board. This borad prepares the many decisions that will be needed in the near future to fulfill the sustainability ambition.

Livable world

APG takes these steps for people, the environment and society, explains Sustainability Office Loek Dalmeijer. “We want our pension participants to live in good health in a sustainable society in which they can be an integral part.”APGdoes this through the investments we make on behalf of the funds, but also by making our own business operations more sustainable and more inclusive and by taking responsibility in our supply chain.

 

Situation

“Our building in Amsterdam (Edge West) will receive the highest possible sustainability standard and work is also being done on sustainability in Heerlen”, explains Dalmeijer de current situation at APG. “We have achieved the target for 2020, set in 2018, to at least meet the requirements that we as an investor set for our investments. APG has also caught up on sustainable business operations, diversity & inclusion and mobility. But that doesn't mean we're there yet.”

 

From the inside

If you want to be best in class, you really have to be the front runner. This means that "people, the environment and society" must be part of every decision we make. Is that not possible within your work or department? Then get help to remove the barriers that lie there. A Sustainability Office was recently set up for this purpose under the leadership of Loek Dalmeijer.

 

Step-by-step

There are already many initiatives to reduce our environmental footprint. We bundle these and go one step further. “First of all, we are working towards energy-neutral accommodation. The move to Basisweg 10 is an important step in this. We are also investigating whether we can get rid of gas in Heerlen and we will soon determine the requirements that we will set for our offices in New York and Hong Kong.”

 

“Second, we will do everything we can to reduce CO2 emissions caused by transport movements. We are making environmentally friendly travel more attractive, flying less and investigating whether we can fly on more sustainable biokerosene for the flights that are really necessary.

 

Third, we involve our suppliers and colleagues in this objective. Because reducing CO2 emissions from our paper consumption, or that is caused by not properly separating our waste for reuse, is only possible if everyone makes a contribution. As a final step, we will continue to offset our remaining emissions. This share will decrease, if we are successful on the various measures.”

Volgende publicatie:
Political pension talk show, or would you prefer good lawmakers?

Political pension talk show, or would you prefer good lawmakers?

Published on: 26 November 2020

Column by Nick van de Sande - Korpershoek

Team Policy

 

The parliamentary elections will be held in March 2021. For those active on or around the political square kilometer in The Hague, the election fever has been rising for months. But a fiery election debate about retirement on a talk show sometime in the next few months on prime time is unlikely to happen. Considering the importance of expeditious implementation of the pension agreement based on solid legislation, that is a good thing.

 

After a decade of consultations and negotiations, the cabinet and social partners managed to reach consensus last summer on the details of the pension agreement. Most political parties in the middle have now embraced the pension agreement to a greater or lesser extent in their draft election programs. Even 50PLUS seems to have given up its opposition to the accord and would like to be involved again in the transition to the new pension system. In this context you can once again distinguish yourself as a pension spokesperson in the House of Representatives.

 

So what do you do then? As a standing committee for Social Affairs and Employment, you organize round table discussions about the pension agreement that last one and a half days. For which MPs can invite experts as they see fit. So that there is something for everyone and as a politician you can still put yourself in the spotlight. And so it happened on November 4 and 24.

 

As many as 21 representatives of the national pension society gave an appearance in the House of Representatives spread over two days in eleven short successive blocks. Among them, various people directly involved in the pension agreement. But also people who have been more on the sidelines to date, and who therefore passionately seized the opportunity to storm the national political stage to put forward their own (sometimes controversial) thoughts.

 

What was special about this was that key players in the realization of the pension agreement such as FNV and VNO-NCW were not even invited at first. Gijs van Dijk (PvdA) took care of this at the last minute - rightly so.

 

During the round table discussions, every Member of Parliament was able to collect his or her right from someone on some pension aspect. In order to especially appeal to their own supporters. Often they resorted to well-known hobbyhorses to show whether or not this or that person had brought in something for his supporters, or whether someone's expertise would not give cause to do things completely differently.

 

Is what is in the pension agreement feasible and enforceable? Legitimate questions that testify to the chamber's progressive insight

The "result": a self-sustaining 660-minute surrogate political retirement talk show. The neutral viewer - not helped by the much used pension jargon - was mainly confused and exhausted. Given the cacophony shown, you would almost doubt whether a historic pension agreement has been concluded at all.

 

On the other hand, the MPs cannot be blamed for wanting their own "election show". After all, for years they have been forced to observe the slow progress of the polder towards the agreement, mainly from the wings.

 

In addition, it is - of course - important for the House of Representatives to study the new pension system. During the round table discussions, for example, explicit attention was paid to implementation aspects. In other words, is what is in the pension agreement feasible and practicable? Legitimate questions that testify to the House's progressive insight. In the past, implementation aspects have remained (heavily) underexposed in other legislative processes. With dire consequences for large groups of individuals, as we have seen especially in the childcare allowance affair.

 

It is to be hoped that the further elaboration of the pension agreement and its transposition into legislation and regulations will proceed smoothly - despite a possibly lengthy formation period towards the next cabinet. In which the House of Representatives no longer searches with a political magnifying glass for so-called mutually dividing differences of opinion. However, based on diligent analyzes and legislative work in the spirit of the pension agreement, the House contributes to sound and enforceable pension legislation.

 

Because timely attention to legislative quality and implementation aspects is crucial for the creation of a pension system that can gain the trust of pension participants. For them, the millions of participants, most of whom have no idea what the new system means for them, the round table discussions shown in recent weeks were unfortunately of little (show) value.

 

 

1 See also the position paper by Pieter Omtzigt (CDA), published on 7 November this year, "The House of Representatives and the Implementation, a difficult combination", written to the parliamentary committee of inquiry for implementation services. (link)

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

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

Published on: 11 November 2020

Pay gap caused by less steep career path women

 

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

 

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

 

What were the results of the investigation?

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

 

What is the conclusion APG draws from these results?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

What will APG do with these results?

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

Volgende publicatie:
Aging happily? This is how you do it

Aging happily? This is how you do it

Published on: 1 October 2020

To live a long and happy life; that’s what we all want. And the great thing is; we can have that. How to get happy and stay happy: Josanne Huijg, scientist and expert in aging happily, knows this. Here, she shares 5 tips for being happy as you get older.

 

Ask people what happiness means to them and no two answers will be the same. “Happiness means something different to everyone,” psychologist Josanne Huijg from knowledge institute Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing says. She conducts research regarding growing old happily and meaningfully. “It may sound obvious, but in order to determine how you can be happy when you get older, you first need to establish what happiness means to you.”  Science identifies three approaches to happiness: hedonistic, eudaimonistic and an evaluation of your own life in general. “Hedonistic wellbeing means to experience positive emotions and enjoyment,” Huijg says, “for example, by enjoying art, music, good food and the company of loved ones.” Eudaimonistic wellbeing is related to meaningfulness, self-actualization and the feeling that you matter in the world.”

 

Determine your happiness factors

To know what you need to do to be and stay happy, you must realize what the focus is for you. Huijg: “Do you enjoy company? Does art make you happy, or watching movies or walking in nature? Or do you experience happiness when you can be important to others? For some people, having their family members around them is the main factor for happiness. Others feel happy being active and busy and moving a lot. So, ask yourself this question: what is important to me? How satisfied am I in that department? And what can I do or change to improve my satisfaction?”

 

Invest in relationships

The definition of happiness may be different for everybody, but there are definitely a number of factors that can contribute to anyone’s sense of wellbeing. Loving relationships, for example.  They are an important condition for being happy in old age, research has shown. Huijg: “That does not mean that not everyone has the same needs in terms of friendship and family. One person appreciates seeing a dear friend once in a while, while someone else prefers to be with someone every day. But, generally speaking, the quality of social relationships is one of the main determinants for happiness.”

 

“Loving relationships are an important condition for being happy in old age”

 

 

The advice is therefore to keep investing in friendships and cherished connections, even during periods that you may have less time for that. Huijg: “Many people between 30 and 50 are busy with their families or careers and become more selective in the relationships they want to put energy into. There’s nothing wrong with that. But in the long run, it is good to ask yourself periodically: which relationships make me happy and do I want to maintain? And to consciously make time for those.”

 

Get moving

Take a walk in the fresh air. Go for a bike ride with your head in the wind. Or go for a run. “Movement makes many people happy,” Huijg says, “exercising releases dopamine, which makes you feel good. But movement does not make everyone happy. In fact, it makes about thirty percent of people unhappy.” Nevertheless, regular exercise does contribute to being happy in old age. “Staying active keeps us healthy. And people who experience their health as positive, are generally happier.” Maybe it would be good to consider that daily walk or that yoga class after all.”

 

Do something (for someone else)

Doing something for someone else: it is not only noble, it also makes you happy, research shows. “It is important for your wellbeing to feel like you matter, to others and to society,” Huijg says. “It is therefore essential to mentally prepare for the time after you retire. Because that time can arouse a sense of freedom and rest, but also sometimes a feeling of emptiness and alienation. How do you ensure that you keep experiencing a sense of value? To keep working in an adjusted way may contribute to that. But also doing volunteer work. Babysitting the grandchildren. Or caring for a neighbor that needs help. Older people who regularly do something for others experience more meaning in their lives.”  Recent research in Germany has shown that grandparents who babysit their grandchildren even live longer. But, Huijg nuances, you definitely don’t need to be working as a do-gooder all the time. “Doing something small for someone once in a while will already provide more moments of happiness.”

 

Practice feeling satisfied

When you’re satisfied, you always have enough, the cliche says. But cliches are often true. Practicing feeling satisfied is one of the most important things you can do to get happy and stay happy, according to Huijg. “Happiness doesn’t depend on the circumstances so much, but rather on the way someone experiences those circumstances.  Older people that have a lot of physical limitations can still be very happy. And there are also those who have very few limitations, but really suffer from them. In general, you can say: happy older people know their limitations and focus on opportunities and possibilities.” Is it not your nature to count your blessing? There is still hope. Because satisfaction is something you can practice. “Every day, write down a few little things you appreciate. When it comes to happiness, we often focus on external factors,” Huijg says. “But research has shown: being satisfied with what you have, that’s what really makes you happy.”

Volgende publicatie:
Does corona make us more lonely?

Does corona make us more lonely?

Published on: 29 September 2020

“People are not missing friendly little chats so much, but real, meaningful connection”

 

October 1 is the first day of Anti-Loneliness Week. How lonely are people living in the Netherlands? And has the corona crisis increased those feelings? Professor of sociology at the Free University of Amsterdam, Theo van Tilburg says:” Nearly one in three Dutch people missed a close connection with others during the pandemic.”

 

Experiencing a sense of emptiness. Missing people you feel connected to, that you can rely on. Or just needing to socialize. Everyone, young and old, feels lonely sometimes. Sometimes for a short time, sometimes longer. Big changes in life – such as a divorce, losing your job, a move, a birth or a death – can make people feel like they have to fend for themselves.

Bouts of loneliness are part of life, however, and are not necessarily damaging. But long-term loneliness can have serious consequences. “People who are lonely for long periods of time, can get into a negative spiral that becomes more and more difficult to break out of,” explains professor of sociology Theo van Tilburg from the Free University of Amsterdam. “Long-term loneliness may lead to depression, alcohol-addiction, cardiovascular diseases, sleeping problems and a lowered immune system.”

 

Difference between wishes and reality

Contrary to what is often thought, loneliness is not always related to a lack of friends or social contacts. Loneliness happens when there is a difference between the desired situation and reality, in terms of relationships and social contact. So, you may be lonely because you have fewer social contacts than you want, but also because the social contacts you do have do not meet your wishes or expectations. A lack of social contacts is sometimes called social loneliness. Missing a deeper, emotional connection, is what we call emotional loneliness.

Loneliness is not always related to a lack of friends or social contacts

The number

How lonely are we, in the Netherlands? Last year, 9 percent of the Dutch population age 15 or older experienced strong feelings of loneliness. 26 percent felt somewhat lonely and the remaining 66 percent was not lonely. Single people in general and single parents, felt lonely more often than couples and kids living at home. A third of people over 75 felt somewhat lonely and 9 percent feels very lonely. This was shown by numbers from the CBS. There is increasingly more attention on loneliness among young people, the last few years. Dutch numbers are not available yet, but based on Flemish and other international research, it is estimated that between 3 and 10 percent of youth is chronically lonely.

 

No loneliness epidemic

But is there really a “loneliness epidemic” going on, as sometimes suggested by the media? All things considered, the Netherlands has had reasonably stable numbers for years. Long-term research by the Free University of Amsterdam, which Theo van Tilburg conducted in collaboration with sociologist Biance Suanet, showed that today’s seniors even feel a little less lonely than older people did over twenty years ago. The researchers suspect that older people are feeling like they have a bit more of a grip on their lives now. They are more educated, they often have a partner and more - varied – social contacts. The chance of becoming lonely at a later age has slightly decreased on the individual level. But on the collective level, loneliness is still a growing problem, because the number of older people is increasing. Above the age of 75, the chance of loneliness increases, because the chance of illness, disabilities and the loss of loved ones increases.

 

And then corona showed up

What has the effect of corona been? Did the pandemic make the Netherlands more lonely? The report 'Welbevinden ten tijde van Corona' (Wellbeing during corona times) by the Social and Cultural Planning Bureau showed that nearly one in three Dutch people indicated that they felt emotionally lonely during the corona crisis.

Striking: the number of people that felt socially lonely stayed the same, but the number of people that was dealing with emotional loneliness rose. From 21 percent in 2019, this percentage rose to 26 percent in the past few months. People that were 75 or older felt lonelier than other age groups during the corona crisis. The portion of lonely people in that age group more than doubled in one year: from 16 percent in 2019, to nearly 37 percent in 2020.

 

“Particularly older people living alone, have been missing, not so much the friendly little chats, but mostly the deeper connection with others,” says Theo van Tilburg. “People that live with a partner, kids or other housemates, at least still have intimate contact in a smaller circle.” Also connected to emotional loneliness was the loss of loved ones who deceased, a general sense of threat, less trust in institutions and lack of help.

 

The feeling that you matter

“Being isolated and having less social contact for a while was not necessarily the biggest problem for everyone during the lockdown. People that understood the situation temporarily adjusted their visiting and social contact. It also helped that everyone was in the same unpleasant boat.” But the period after the restrictions were eased turned out to be more complicated for many vulnerable groups, because the clarity and solidarity disappeared. And that is a situation that is still continuing.

Van Tilburg: “The fact that a portion of society has now seemingly picked up where it left off, while others still cannot participate may increase their sense of loneliness. We should all be alert to that. A sense of meaningfulness, a feeling that you matter, that you belong to something, that is very important for people’s wellbeing.”

 

So, how do we go on from here? According to van Tilburg, it is important that the long-term effects of the corona measures are carefully monitored - for all groups in society. “Research is showing that people should focus especially on decreasing emotional loneliness now; not on facilitating Zoom meetings, or sending flowers to seniors, but on facilitating real, intimate connections. People are not missing the friendly chat with the neighbor so much, but a hug and a real talk with someone they are close to.”

Volgende publicatie:
“We can certainly use the talents of the newcomers”

“We can certainly use the talents of the newcomers”

Published on: 4 September 2020

The Netherlands of Tomorrow

 

For many people, pension is something for tomorrow. The pension system is changing; this is a fact. But what does this mean for our society? What does the Netherlands of tomorrow look like? We asked people from a cross-section of society. In this episode: Thami Schweichler, founder of Makers Unite, a social enterprise that offers employment opportunities to people with a refugee or migration background. “In the Netherlands of Tomorrow, everyone should have equal opportunity.”

 

In the Netherlands, we hate waiting. We consider five minutes at a bus stop to be wasted time. Fortunately, we have our smartphones so we can quickly send a text or a tweet or watch a video. Refugees sometimes have to wait for seven years before they receive residency status in the Netherlands and the ability to go on with their lives. Seven years in the waiting room, before they are allowed to “enter” and start working. If they can even find a job. They are on the sidelines, along with over a million other people in the Netherlands: Seniors, people with little or no education, and people with a migration background. Thami Schweichler wants to help build an inclusive society in which everyone can participate. He founded Makers Unite to give newcomers in the Netherlands their confidence back, both in themselves and in their future, and to help them get jobs.

 

What do you hope the Netherlands of tomorrow will look like?

“I hope everyone will have equal opportunities to use their talents. Compared to developing countries, the Netherlands is a prosperous country, and everything is organized very well here. But for newcomers, the start can be difficult. They come here with their dreams and ambitions, but then often get stuck in all kinds of complicated systems and procedures. After ten years in the Netherlands, half of the people with refugee status still don’t have a steady job. That is a missed opportunity, both for the newcomer and for our economy: in an aging society, we can really use their talents. If we become more inclusive as a country, that will also increase our economic potential.”

 

How do we do that: become more inclusive?

“It starts with trust. Newcomers first need to gain back their own self-confidence to be able to build a future here. At Makers Unite we help people see what their strengths are and how they can use them. So far, we have guided a hundred and sixty people in a six-week process. Nearly seventy percent of them had an internship, job or education program at the end of that. We make sustainable products, such as laptop covers made from the lifejackets of refugees. Making a cover like that is also a way to bring people closer together, to create connections. Because society also needs to gain trust in the newcomers. They often feel like they are only seen as refugees and not as individuals with their own story, identity and capacities. For ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s we therefore designed a clothing line called Meet Me Halfway. The message: as a refugee or migrant, we have come so far; let’s meet halfway and continue on together.”

Ben & Jerry’s is part of Unilever. How important it is for all companies, big and small, to take their responsibility in terms of inclusivity?

“Ben & Jerry’s is a bit of a rebel inside Unilever. They show how important it is for newcomers to be able to participate and that, as a company and a society, you can only benefit from that. Social enterprises are leading in this, but hopefully that “social” label can come off in the future because it will be normal for every company to give everyone the same opportunities. We’re not there yet: first we must dare to have the discussion about racism and discrimination. Ben & Jerry’s are an example: they admit they are much too white as a company and they want to change that. Hopefully, the Netherlands of tomorrow will be characterized by more color in, for example, management and other important positions.”

 

How can pension administrators like APG contribute to a more inclusive society?

“As an employer, they can show the right example and as a big investor, they can address companies regarding diversity and inclusivity. APG is already doing that. They can also help in restoring trust. Refugees distrust the government and public organizations, because, in their country of origin, those were the ‘enemy’. Only after you explain that we all together are the government and that that man on the corner and that lady in the supermarket pay for the allowances, do they let go of their distrust. That also applies to pensions: newcomers are also entitled to a pension later, which employers and employees pay for together. That can also increase confidence.”

Ben & Jerry’s is an example: they admit that as a company, they are much too white, and they want to change that

As a society, can we learn something from newcomers?

“Yes, brotherhood, for example. I have a Brazilian father and a Dutch mother. So, I am a product of two cultures. In Brazil, people don’t have as good a life as they do in the Netherlands, but they have a warmer bond, they are more there for each other. And that sense of solidarity is sometimes missing here. In the Netherlands, we also have a tendency to look at things from a problem perspective: what’s going wrong? Refugees on the other hand have the perspective of hope: that their lives will be better than they were before. They think in terms of opportunities, rather than risks. That lifejacket is a symbol of that. We can certainly learn something from that positive approach and unconditional brotherhood: that we must work together to create a better existence and take care of each other more. If you look after each other well, you’re ultimately looking after yourself too.”

Volgende publicatie:
“Our society has to become more of a unity”

“Our society has to become more of a unity”

Published on: 27 August 2020

The Netherlands of the future

 

Pension to many people is something for tomorrow. It is a fact that the pension system is about to change. But how about our society? What will the Netherlands of tomorrow look like? We ask people from a cross-section of society. In this edition: Björn Vennema, co-founder of Social Finance NL, an organization for measuring, financing and enhancing social impact.

 

We are living in a prosperous country, but not everyone benefits from this prosperity to the same extent. The corona crisis emphasizes that once again: people with a non-western migration background, less education and an occupational disability, for example, seem to be additionally vulnerable to the loss of employment and poverty. These vulnerable groups also have to benefit from prosperity and well-being in the Netherlands of the future, according to Björn Vennema, co-founder and co-director of Social Finance NL. How? By utilizing money in a smarter, more objective and more honest way to solve social issues.

 

How do you perceive the Netherlands of today?

“The Netherlands is flat to the eye, but a polarized landscape is hidden below the surface. The contradictions in terms of politics, culture and the social aspect are huge. The gap between rich and poor also increases. Less and less money is made available to support the vulnerable groups within society, such as the underprivileged youth and the elderly. This means the dichotomy in the Netherlands is growing. If we don’t do anything about that, the social issues will only become bigger.”

 

How should the Netherlands of the future look like in your opinion?

“Our society has to become more of a unity again. The bottom of society should also be given opportunities to fully participate and to access all means available. In order for that to happen, we have to change our financial system. Most investors are now mainly taking a risk-return approach when deciding to invest money in a certain project or sector. If they would also look at the impact of a company or project to society, you can establish societal changes together. For example by consciously investing in solar energy, in social housing or in a project for debt assistance.”           

 

But aren’t there all kinds of government institutions or charitable organizations for that types of purposes?

“Those institutions and organizations often focus on the system and not on the human-being. People with psychological problems or debts asking for help sometimes get lost in a maze of organizations all working in isolation. Moreover, the social sector usually doesn’t have a businesslike disposition: they are not focusing enough on how an as large and positive impact on society can be realized. This means a lot of social value is not utilized. An example is Ctalents, a secondment organization for people suffering from an audiovisual impairment. Joining and guiding jobseekers and employers took more time and energy than for the average candidates but those efforts didn’t translate into a higher fee. This meant Ctalents was unable to compete with commercial employment agencies. That’s a shame. A better earnings model would allow us to help more people, but such earnings model for social enterprises is still lacking in the current financial system.”

An earnings model for social enterprises is lacking in the current financial system

You are saying we should change the financial system, but how?

“We have to adapt a different approach towards value, towards result. Until now, we mainly measure success based on money, on financial value. But we also have to start looking at the societal costs and returns: how much would it benefit or maybe harm society? That could also come with a price tag. Besides the financial gain of companies, you could look at, for example, the costs for society when damage is caused to the environment or when people have to apply for unemployment benefits due to reorganizations. For government organizations or subsidized projects it is possible to look at how much societal ‘gain’ these create, for instance in the form of more prosperity, less loneliness or more labor participation. Once you know that and are able to compare, investors can invest in a targeted manner in companies and organizations that return the most financial and societal value.”

 

Tangible example?

“You can use Social Impact Bonds to link money of investors and social objectives. An example is a project to reduce the youth unemployment in Rotterdam South, the highest level in the country. Only if that has truly been accomplished, the municipality pays back the investors, with a return. If the project does not succeed, the investors lose their money and therefore bear the risk. In this case, 72 percent of the 250 participating youth found a job. This means everyone benefits: the young people get a job, the municipality saves on benefits and investors realize returns. Such Social Impact Bond will now also be introduced for fall prevention of the elderly. That could lead to less bone fractures, less healthcare costs and more elderly who are able to live independently for a longer period of time.”    

 

Are these new forms of financing also interesting for pension providers, such as APG?

“We are currently mainly working with governments and social entrepreneurs and financers. Major investors, such as APG, need more large-scale projects to realize sufficient returns in order to pay our pension. It is our dream to achieve that needed scale in the future, maybe helped by a national government fund and local crowdfunding. It will then also become interesting for major investors, such as banks, insurers and pension funds. APG already integrates sustainability and social policy into all of its investment decisions, but then you would be able to assess the costs and returns for society in an even more targeted manner. And participants will then have an even clearer understanding on what that will yield for their pension pot and society. Most important: financing in a different way could help accomplish that everyone in the Netherlands of the future gets its share and reaches its full potential. That is our ultimate goal.”

Volgende publicatie:
“You move faster on your own, but cover more distance together”

“You move faster on your own, but cover more distance together”

Published on: 7 August 2020

Pension to many people is something for (the day after) tomorrow. It is a fact that the pension system is about to change. But how will our society develop in the years to come? What will the Netherlands of tomorrow look like? We ask people from a cross-section of society. In this first edition: Katja Staartjes, the first Dutch woman ever to climb the Mount Everest.

 

The Netherlands 2020: more than seventeen million people are gathered together in a figurative tent in the base camp. We are at the beginning of a joint expedition to the top of the mountain: the Netherlands of the day after tomorrow. For the time being, that top is still clothed in mist, although we are sometimes able to see the contours. What social changes will we go through in the next fifteen years and what type of leadership do we need on our way to the Netherlands of the future? Cooperation in particular becomes increasingly important, according to Katja Staartjes. She climbed a number of eight thousands, mountains with an altitude of more than 8,000 meters. In addition, she has extensive experience as an (interim) manager and she is also a trainer, coach and writer. The title of her latest book: Topteams. Samen bergen verzetten (Top teams: moving mountains together, ed.).


How you do perceive the Netherlands of the future: what do you think you will find at the top of the mountain?

“I see two core developments. One: the need for sustainability, to halt the depletion of the earth’s resources. Two: a growing need for inclusiveness, for being open to differences and for creating solidarity. Climate change and political unrest lead to a flow of refugees. Besides that, we witness division in society: between different cultures, between the disadvantaged and the advantaged. We must find a way to close the gap between those intensified opposites. And we are also right in the middle of the corona crisis.”


Uncertain times you might say. What type of leadership does this require?

“First of all: make sure the basics are in order. That offers footing in times of uncertainty and change. Not enough gear during a climb may cause major problems. Without a rope attached to my glove, it may fall into the depth and my hand could freeze. The tiniest forgotten detail can save lives or actually cause fatalities. Think about the lack of face masks in the care institutions during the corona crisis. But if you carry too much gear going to the top, your backpack becomes too heavy which is slowing you down.”


Dead weight, while in times of change you should be agile?

“Exactly, agility is starting point number two. High on a mountain, the weather could suddenly change or unexpected obstacles arise, such as crevasses and ice walls. We often believe that everything is feasible, we try to hedge every risk. But without taking any risks, you will never make it to the top. This means we have to let go, improvise, accept the fact that things can go wrong and show resilience in times of setbacks. The third starting point: Less is more. The conception of progress has led to a stalemate on our planet. We have to think and do more in terms of sustainability: set limits to the growth, go back to the essence and think and act more in the long term.”


What can we learn from mountain climbing in that respect?

“If you want to get to the top too quickly during a climb, signs of altitude sickness will arise due to the thin air and you could even die. It is with good reason that an altitude of 7,500 meters or more is called the Death Zone. In order to get used to the lack of oxygen, we climb in stages and go a bit higher every time. We return to the base camp in between to recover. We sometimes refrain from going to the top if the risks are too high. And if we do make it to the top, we still have to descent. Just as in daily life: you can cheer because you closed a megadeal, but you have only reached your goal if the client is satisfied and your product is not harming the environment. It is all about sustainable and shared results.”


What characteristics of leaders will become more important?

“Uncertainty calls for strong leadership: someone who is not just talking but also takes action and who has the guts to make tough decisions, liking daring to stop a non-sustainable activity or bureaucratic hassle. The common interest is guiding, not the own ego: servant leadership. A leader who is able to enthuse people for a mutual goal and the direction chosen. Because you have to ensure that everyone in the team wants to climb the same mountain and takes the same path. Especially now working from home seems to become the standard because of the corona crisis and digitalization. A good leader is able to also inspire and connect people from a distance and exudes confidence. The same applies to climbing, when you are hanging on a rope together on a steep mountain cliff and are unable to see each other.”


Working together as if your life depends on it?

“Literally, yes. It also means good communication. We often agree on signs during climbing, such as: two pulls of the rope means ‘safe’. In order to realize effective teamwork it helps to reinforce the weakest link: if someone is struggling to keep up, reduce the weight of his or her backpack and let someone else take the lead in deep snow. That way you move on faster together. That necessity for more and better cooperation does not only apply to teams, but also within companies. And beyond, with increasingly complex collaborations.”


Why is that so important?

“Challenges such as the energy transition are too big to handle on your own. We need each other, especially in the future, and a sense of community and solidarity is becoming more important again. That also applies to pension: even though the system changes, we still have to continue to take care of one another as a society. Effective teams are diverse which brings me back to that inclusiveness. It doesn’t make the cooperation any easier, but the final result will be better. Even though there are differences, having a common goal makes you all want to reach that top. The key is mutual respect. Future-proof leadership means that you also want others to succeed, to show exemplary behavior, to be honest: only claim that you reached the top if you actually did. These are timeless truths that are more topical than ever.”

 

Volgende publicatie:
Athletes opt for stones

Athletes opt for stones

Published on: 4 August 2020

“Their investments for the future mainly involve buildings. Buying and renting out houses.” The experienced sports manager Dennis Klaster knows better than anyone how Dutch top athletes are engaged in their financial future. He manages, for example, the popular short track champions Sjinkie Knegt and Suzanne Schulting, and top ice-skaters Jan Blokhuijsen and Ronald and Richard Mulder. “The trend is for athletes not to only invest in stones, but also for talents to receive professional commercial support from the moment they take their first steps into the world of top sports. There are hardly any derailments to be witnessed anymore.”

 

Heerenveen has the most top athletes per square kilometer. Ranging from ice-skating icon Sven Kramer to Olympic gymnastics champion Sanne Wevers. The facilities for top sports in the Friesland municipality are impressive. Not only the legendary Thialf ice-rink but also the impressive gymnastics hall where Epke Zonderland shed blood, sweat and tears to achieve his Olympic success.


The Heerenveen entrepreneur Dennis Klaster is in his element in these centers for top sports. Everybody knows Dennis and Dennis knows everybody. As a manager of popular sports heroes, he especially wants to make his athletes aware of the harsh fact that a career in sports is only short and that investments in the future must be made. Those are tough conversations at times and in those cases he will be joined by fiscal expert Hans Visser of accountancy firm ACCON-AVM. Visser is very familiar with the ways to help top athletes secure a good financial future.
He always remains modestly in the background, but the Friesland tax specialist is helping dozens of top athletes realizing the best possible constructions for a financial future without worries. Dennis Klaster and Hans Visser are happy to provide some insight into their activities but are not allowed to mention any names for reasons of privacy.

 

Houses are trendy

Dennis Klaster: “I think most athletes are more concerned about their performances and realizing their goal, than about their pension. The day-to-day affairs. Two categories of top athletes can be distinguished when it comes to finances. One category is earning really good money. That category is involved in finances, but not in terms of pension. They just see: How much will I have later on, how will I be able to make it through and I just buy a house or something like that. There are also young athletes who are very much involved in their finances and who, no matter their age, have already bought some real estate in Heerenveen. They don’t even earn enormous amounts yet, so they invest in their future early on.”

 

Financially conservative

Hans Visser: ”There are also athletes who spend everything they earn and think: I live now and time will tell. Only when the liquid position becomes dire, the realization arises that things have to change. And then they all want real estate to rent out, just as trendy in sports such as ice-skating as tattoos are for soccer players. Most top athletes are conservative when it comes to finances. A few of them have been successful in trading bitcoins, but eventually they switch to real estate. It is not just the ice-skaters who think that way.


This is no different with cyclists and top swimmers. The ‘big earners’ in soccer have other financial constructions, but everyone below that level buys and rents out real estate. That provides security and peace of mind, is the prevailing opinion. Athletes shouldn’t have too much worries on their mind. If the interest rates were not this low, the money would just be stalled in a bank. Many athletes own a BV (private company, ed.) from which they pay themselves a fiscally responsible salary and from which money also houses are purchased.”

 

Pension-aware on the ice-rink

Hans Visser tells the story of a known ice-skater who managed to realize a carefree financial future without making it to the absolute top. “She took good care of her money and skated wherever she could. She never cancelled a World Cup. She was ranked in the top of the world, not often at the highest level but always part of the best. You don’t want to know how much money she managed to gather, without being part of a large team. That is pretty much at the level of a carefree future. She did what was needed on the ice-rinks with pension in the back of her mind. An exception.”


Dennis Klaster: “You should actually ask the question what an athlete considers to be pension. When it comes to pension, many athletes think about an old-age provision and as long as I have real estate, I have rent. But pension is much more than that, it can also be an investment in some education for later.”


Hans Visser: “I don’t know any athletes who put money in a pension policy. Nobody, that’s just not something they do. It’s more like: I have money in that BV, what shall I do with it? And indeed, ice-skaters all invest in real estate. But not just the ice-skaters. Top athletes in other sports also start investing in real estate.”

 

Smart sponsor deal

Dennis Klaster: “A great example. I concluded a sponsor deal with a construction company. That always revolves around the amount it should entail. Wouldn’t it be great if construction companies could just say: We build a house for an Olympic ice-skating champion? She purchases the land, that construction company will build that house for her and she then has her pension provision. Hans Visser and I then come up with a construction that is also approved by the tax authorities. Eventually two smaller houses were built. One to rent out and the other house to live in herself. In addition to the value increase, she has rental income for a lifetime.”

 

Everyone does it

Hans Visser: ”Nearly all athletes handle their money responsibly. They have to work hard to earn it and their horizon is short. I don’t know of one athlete who invests in high-risk funds. They prefer depositing their money into a bank account. No matter the 0.1 percent interest, but at least he or she knows for certain no crazy things could happen. Those athletes even consider an investment fund to be a major risk. They often don’t think about their pension yet. The horizon more often is something like: I will have something left after my career is finished. Some of them are smart and also invest in an education, but also start buying buildings early on because they hear: He or she has a building, so I need to buy another one as well. That has become more trending in recent years, but it applies to all athletes. Whether it involves swimming, sailing or ice-skating, the athletes all do it.”


Dennis Klaster: “You never know what lasts forever, but it works for them.
They also receive commercial support much earlier on in their careers. Most sports talents already have managers who are handling the commercial aspect professionally, meaning there are way less derailments than there were in the past.”

 

 

Volgende publicatie:
“Are you prepared to call your assumptions into question?”

Gerard van Olphen in response to Black Lives Matter

 

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has increased the global demand for joint actions in order to put an end to racism. The media and the public debate in the Netherlands have also paid a lot of attention to the subject. What is the position of APG in this discussion? Four questions to Chief Executive Officer Gerard van Olphen.

 

Is APG drawing conclusions from the developments related to Black Lives Matter?

 

“The global protests against institutional racism and police violence have caused a worldwide shock wave we cannot and will not ignore.” As an organization, we want to become more diverse and inclusive, also because we work for pension funds and their participants. We strive for an employee population reflecting the participants population of these funds and of society in general. In pursuing that objective, we want to encourage everyone at APG to be themselves and to present themselves. That is only possible when we make a statement against discrimination and work towards a culture in which inclusion is not an ambition but a reflex. A culture in which people are appreciated, regardless of cultural background, gender, and all other aspects in which people may differ from one another. As a matter of fact, we already started this development. The global social response evoked by Black Lives Matter confirms our belief that the attention for inclusion is incredibly important.”

 

Is discrimination something people within APG are affected by?

 

“It is not a theme capturing a lot of visible attention within the organization. But it would be naive to assume there is no discrimination within APG, that we do not have any people affected by it. Not everyone who is confronted with such conduct reports it - for any reason whatsoever. And not everyone who is guilty of discrimination, is aware of that fact. We all have our assumptions towards other people, sometimes even biases. That is almost inevitable. However, it is more important to ask yourself whether you are prepared to call those assumptions into question, to become aware of it and to adjust your behavior and beliefs. The subject is at least more existent, colleagues talk about it more often than they did in the past. And we also encourage colleagues to share their concerns and ideas. So we are able to show leadership that contributes to eliminating the disadvantages some people and groups have in this society, whether it involves race, gender, sexual preference or beliefs.”   

 

What are the actions APG takes to combat discrimination?

 

“We already initiated a number of initiatives in the past years in the field of Diversity & Inclusion. In the coming period, we shall work our way from valuable initiatives towards a clear D&I vision and ambition. In order to achieve this, we will engage in a number of elements. Integration of D&I into our strategy, for example, but also the creation of awareness and exemplary conduct by role models within the organization. Our approach will be data-driven and is refined based on insights from HR data & analytics. Diversity and inclusion will also be reflected more expressly in our recruitment and selection efforts, for example by working with more diverse lists of applicants and selection committees. I firmly believe in that approach.”

 

When has APG achieved that objective of being a diverse and inclusive organization?

 

“If there is anything we have learned from our conversations with other companies, it is that realizing Diversity & Inclusion requires perseverance. We still have a long way to go, but the development has started.”

Volgende publicatie:
“Crisis? We want to know what is going on with our holiday allowance”

“Crisis? We want to know what is going on with our holiday allowance”

Published on: 18 June 2020

Founder Tom Romanowski about financial platform Kandoor

 

As long as the government is still providing generous support to the millions of Dutch affected by the crisis, financial platform Kandoor has not seen a rise in work pressure yet. But it will not take long for that to change, is the opinion of founder Tom Romanowski.

The nails of the crisis are already scratching on your front door, you fear for your income, you could really use some help and you enter “Help with... In the top five of the lists of suggestions within your search engine, the keywords “low income”, “losing weight”, “debts”, “depression” and “divorce” are competing for the top position. Comforting to know you are not the only one with worries. But what to do now? The ads of financial consultancy offices are forcing their way in, while you are only looking for someone who thinks along selflessly about the loss of income, so you are able to continue.

 

Ability to continue

 

Ability to continue - Kan door! That is exactly what business expert Tom Romanowski (38) thought five years ago when pension provider APG asked him to think about a platform providing people with an answer to their financial questions. There already were plenty of questionable forums with desperate people and fortune hunters, and foreign companies were very eager to shake up the market completely. But APG was looking for something different. “Not a system with perverse incentives where others are making money out of your problem”, Romanowski says. “APG wants to contribute to a healthy financial system, a humane economy, based on helping each other. The so-called sharing economy, assisted by technology and the independent commitment of people who understand their business. It is all about trust. When you are indebted to the hilt, you do not talk about it until you really see no way out anymore and start looking for a smart uncle or friend. Someone who makes you feel safe, with whom you are able to discuss the issue after which you are able to continue.”

 

A lot of stress

 

When will I get my holiday allowance? How much money will I be paid exactly? Can I get an advance payment? Is my employer allowed to withhold that amount? “Many questions can be answered quite easily, but every question can be asked in twenty-five different ways or more”, says Romanowski. “There are users who ask a question in a few words, other users need half a page to explain their issue. That already shows how people sometimes struggle when it comes to financial matters. They also wait as long as possible, allowing the stress to rise abnormally high. The government also extends more and more responsibility to us. The communal facilities have been cut back in the past years, the labor market became more flexible and the retirement age moved up. People underestimate the financial consequences these measures have for them.”

 

Online neighbor

Of the meanwhile fifty thousand questions Kandoor receives every month, 98 percent is handled automatically by a chatbot. Questions that are too complicated or more personal are transferred by the “Kanbot”, as they call the chatbot at Kandoor, to one of the hundreds of guides. “We call our volunteers guides. Guides are experts. They include the chairs of pension funds, financial advisors, mortgage advisors and account managers. There are also many APG professionals among them. And they answer the questions in their spare time because they want to help people and at the same time to stay informed about what's going on in their field.‘
A moderator monitors if an independent consultant is not trying to get some business from the platform but that has not happened yet, according to Romanowski. “Guides also check each other’s answers to prevent people from being assisted incorrectly. It is a way for them to keep up to date with everything that is going on in their profession. A user commented: Kandoor is an online neighbor in my pocket. I was really happy with that comment as that is exactly what I was aiming to make. Someone else said: But what is the catch? There is no catch but people find that hard to believe.”

 

Increase in concerns about income
The success of Kandoor illustrates the importance of independent information, especially during the crisis at hand. Romanowski notices this from the questions asked. While three-quarters of the questions previously related to pension and taxes, he now sees more questions from sole-practitioners and employees with expiring contracts. But there is no big rush yet. “A lot of the questions are currently related to the entitlement to holiday allowance. I have witnessed an increase in concerns about income, but I do not see the sentiments on our platform like the ones on a forum such as Radar. Possibly because we do not feel the full pain yet because of the support provided by the government. But that pain will surely come.”

Harrowing cases
Kandoor is confronted with some harrowing cases though, but that has always been the case. “People who slip through the safety net, are not entitled to any form of support and who have reached rock-bottom. They are sent back and forth and eventually end up with us, feeling devastated. Despite the fact that we are not always able to help them practically, they appreciate being able to tell their story. We have experimented with a hotline to the Social Insurance Bank, but things have been made so complicated in the Netherlands that there is no person ultimately responsible for every problem.”

The engagement must be increased
Finances: it is not something we are enthused about. But Romanowski refuses to give up the fight. He aims to do more than just offering ad hoc first line support, he wants to be ahead of distress and help people structurally to get their financial planning in order. Even more so: he wants to make finances more fun.

“Or maybe not fun but engaging. The engagement must be increased. The health care industry has already succeeded pretty well with apps and suchlike. Checking out the pedometer every day, we are already more proactive than we used to be. Having people monitor their financial health will be a lot more difficult, but wouldn’t it be great if everybody starts monitoring his/her financial life-planning as of the age of eighteen? Of course, you have a lot less influence on your income, pension and investments than on daily exercise and the composition of your meal, but if we make it extremely accessible and reduce the process to small steps, maybe, just maybe you will enjoy it someday. This crisis could potentially be the time to add some discipline to your financial life.”

Great deal of knowledge
The guides of Kandoor are meanwhile doing what they do best: helping people move forward. They may be facing some busy times, especially if they are well versed in dismissal law and debt rescheduling. “They have not joined us to handle monotonous questions. They have a great deal of knowledge and experience and want to use this to help the people who need it the most. Well, this will be their time to shine.”

Any questions about financial matters? Pay a visit to www.kandoor.nl

Volgende publicatie:
"Our ability to change is considerably larger than we thought"

"Our ability to change is considerably larger than we thought"

Published on: 12 June 2020

How do three top managers in Dutch business deal with the company- and personal challenges that the global corona crisis poses for themselves and the organization?

 

What insights has the crisis yielded so far, what does Activity Based Working mean for the organization and what will these managers take into account in the much-discussed 'new normal'?

 

These questions were at the heart of a virtual roundtable on leadership in crisis time with directors from different sectors. Board member Annette Mosman was one of them.

 

Read the full article (Dutch) in Management Scope.

 

Photography: ABN AMRO / Maartje Geels / APG

Volgende publicatie:
"Search for young people in places where they often come"

"Search for young people in places where they often come"

Published on: 28 January 2020

For a day, Salma Ahabbat was in charge of APG. As Tomorrow’s Leader 2020 (Baas van Morgen), the 14-year-old MAVO student took place last week in the chair of Francine van Dierendonck, member of the board of directors. She helped think about how the subject of pensions can be made more interesting for young people. Before that, Salma visited a number of teams that are all working with participant communication: Marketing Intelligence, De Groeifabriek, the Customer Contact Center and Webcare.

 

With her critical and fresh look, she let APG people look at their own work through the eyes of a 14-year-old. Salma: “Look for young people in the places where they naturally come a lot and let them get acquainted with the subject of pensions. For example at bus stops, because we travel a lot by public transport. ”She also gave tips on how APG can use social media even better.

Looking back, Salma is happy that she participated. "It was a fun, educational day. I am happy that as one of 350 students throughout the Netherlands, I had the opportunity to look into the kitchen of a large company. So I could see at close quarters how things work in a company and I could ask questions. " Salma had imagined the atmosphere at APG very differently. "I expected it to be boring and old-fashioned. But it was just the opposite."

 

Francine found Salma very self-assured and spontaneous. "What touched me was that she said" I want to work in healthcare, because then I can help other people." That is in line with what we at APG consider important." The visit to APG has ensured that Salma is now choosing a different career. "I would like to have the same position as Francine, so a member of the board of directors. That is also a way of caring for people, but on a different level."

 

Tomorrow’s Leader is an annual project from JINC to help children who can use a helping hand with a fair chance on the labor market. Francine: “By participating I hope to show Salma and other children, boys and certainly also girls, and believe that the world is at their feet. Always stay curious, keep playing, keep learning and always dream much bigger than you had ever dared!”

Volgende publicatie:
APG will reward female employees equally

APG will reward female employees equally

Published on: 22 May 2019

Equal work will be rewarded equally at APG. More than 125 female employees of the pension delivery organization have received a letter today stating that from 1 June their salary will be brought to the same level of male colleagues with similar positions, experience and years of service.

 

APG conducted a study across the APG offices in the Netherlands. The study shows that women at APG in The Netherlands, receive an average 2.2% less salary at APG. More than 125 female employees will receive a salary increase on June 1. That is 13% of the total number of female employees. For the remaining 87% of women working at APG, there is no difference in pay with comparable male employees. APG employs around 3,000 employees, including 960 women.

The higher remuneration of this group of employees with an unequal salary is achieved within the existing budget of APG.

 

Marloes Sengers, HR director at APG: “At APG we stand for equal pay for equal work, which is why we rectify this today. The difference in remuneration will also be solved by us in a sustainable way: financially and with additional attention to managers and employees. In this way we prevent repetition in the future and we tackle the causes of the unequal pay in a sustainable and fundamental way.”

Volgende publicatie:
APG and BF+DA: Pledge to Improve Human Rights in Apparel Sector

APG and BF+DA: Pledge to Improve Human Rights in Apparel Sector

Published on: 6 December 2018

APG and BF+DA (Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator) introduce the Brooklyn Pledge to Accelerate Change, named after the location of an inspiring event with apparel companies, investors and stakeholders which spawned the pledge. This pledge is intended to address human rights within the supply chain of the apparel sector. “The apparel industry accounts for 2% of the world’s GDP and employs 60?75 million workers worldwide. Unfortunately, this industry is still characterized by poor working conditions, i.e. unsafe workplaces and underpaid workers. Improving this is one of the thematic engagements for APG, but also for ABP and bpfBOUW, some of the pension funds APG provides Asset Management services to,” says Anna Pot, manager responsible investments at APG US.

 

57 recommendations

The pledge is part of a whitepaper that lists 57 recommendations to improve human rights and sustainability within the industry, for example through transparency in reporting, empowering employees, adjusting sourcing programs, building consumer awareness and demand for more sustainable clothes. The recommendations are 57 concrete actions defined by the professionals and experts who attended the ‘Connecting Finance and Sustainability: A dialogue towards action on human rights in the apparel sector’ event in September at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. APG and BF+DA now lead the call on apparel companies investors and stakeholders to pledge action on one more of the recommendations from the list.

 

Making progress

“Of course, APG needs to walk the talk. We focus primarily on making and keeping sustainability top of mind for the boards of companies that we invest in. We talk to senior management of relevant companies about their sustainability agenda and progress in the implementation. Between 2015 and 2018, we have corresponded, spoken on the phone and met with 19 apparel companies. As a result, overall brands and retailers have strengthened their procurement policies and audits, and some have limited the number of suppliers. We also ask for more transparency about where and how clothes are made, so consumers can make educated decisions. As of November 2018 an organization called Fashion Revolution counts 172 brands and retail chains that have published their supplier list on their website. More investors calling for transparency will help get this number up,” explains Anna.

 

Partnerships in the US

She continues: “Sustainability has become a more and more mainstream discussion in much of Europe, whereas companies and investors in the US are still finding their footing on this topic. We partner with respected US institutes like BF+DA to catapult the discussion here into more mainstream forums. My personal target for next year is to speak about sustainability in the apparel sector at US investor conference outside the ‘sustainability bubble’. Somewhere where this topic is not yet top of mind, but needs to be!”

 

BF+DA is a hub for ethical fashion and design located in New York. One of its key aims is to increase the level of sustainability within the apparel sector.