Amsterdam in the future: six trends

What will Amsterdam be like in the future? What kind of developments will the city experience over the next 20 years?

These are some of the issues discussed in a new report released by the city’s Bureau of Research and Statistics (O+S) at the initiative of the Amsterdam City Archives (Stadsarchief Amsterdam).

Amsterdam: an evolving city

The report, entitled "Amsterdam Trends", describes the capital as a dynamic and flexible city, well equipped to change with the times. A wide range of sources were used to create a picture of Amsterdam’s future based on current developments.

Major factors already having an influence on the city’s evolution include a rapidly increasing population, a healthy labour market and the encouragement of technological innovation.

The six trends of Amsterdam

Six trends and significant developments have been highlighted in the report as the main factors that will change the appearance and functioning of the city over the next decades. The six trends are:

1. A flexible work economy

The Amsterdam labour market will require more flexibility from workers, both in terms of job security and working methods. Employees will be less likely to receive a permanent contract, but will be able to better negotiate working hours and arrangements.

This is based on the increasing numbers of self-employed people and freelancers (eenmanszaak and ZZPer’s), which can be attributed to the recession, the aging workforce and the government’s supportive policy regarding entrepreneurship. Conveniently, the Dutch workforce already desires more flexibility.

Outcomes of a more flexible work economy will be:
A further increase in self-employed businesses, part-time workers and people having time for themselves to spend on training, hobbies or leisure.
Increased demand for "third places": shared public places to work and network, such as coworking spaces and cafes.
The creation of more post-industrial property or vacant office complexes in areas such as Zuidas and Sloterdijk.

2. The impact of the internet on the city

With more than 92 per cent of urban dwellers connected to the internet, Amsterdam has an extremely high proportion of residents online, including three-quarters of people aged over 65. This has a major impact on how consumers access shops, services and activities in the city.

In the coming years certain enterprises with a physical presence, such as video rental stores, will be reduced, while others, such as electronics stores, will need to evolve.

Future outcomes, many of which are already apparent, are:
A greater online marketplace to purchase and consume clothing, music and content.
The internet as a dominant competitor to media providers like music stores, video rental businesses, bookshops and cinemas.
The internet as an advertising medium for the free-time economy, promoting shopping, entertainment and restaurants.
Growth of the share-economy, think Peerby, Thuisafgehaald and Airbnb.
More wifi in public spaces such as parks.

3. Evolving mobility

Transport methods are changing, with bike and scooter usage and ownership up, and car ownership decreasing. Amsterdam is also a leading Dutch city in the practice of car-sharing.

Public transport on the other hand is decreasing and the city’s limited space creates obstacles for traffic, parking and bike infrastructure, which the city council will need to carefully manage.

Some of Amsterdam’s future mobility manifestations and outcomes are:
Increased pressure on cycling infrastructure such as crowded bike lanes and illegal parking of bikes.
Development of the public transport system with the creation of new metro lines and the reduction of bus and tram services.
Increased car-sharing.
Transition from petrol to electricity.

4. Changing needs of Amsterdammers

The city will see a more diverse demographic spread with young families raising children in the city and the ageing population also choosing to stay in town.

Previously, Amsterdam was a transitory location where young people came to study and would eventually leave when they started a family, seeking space and nature. In the future more young families will remain, in combination with the ageing population.

Future manifestations of how residents will use the city are:
More diverse family structures.
The city will be used more by families.
Greater use of all the city’s parks.
Leisure activities more scattered throughout the city.
New housing forms such as self-built.

5. The city-state-citizen triangle

The kind of dramatic change that Amsterdam is experiencing creates discussion, generating new forms of interaction between citizens and government.

The local government will have access to more information about citizens and at the same time citizens will expect more from local authorities in terms of efficiency and communication.

Fragmentation in choice of political parties also indicates that residents are either disconnecting from local politics or engaging in their own initiatives.

Outcomes of the evolving citizen/government dynamic:
Decentralisation creates more responsibilities for local government, namely youth, elderly care and participation.
Increased local community initiatives in support of, or against, council developments and programmes.
New communication channels between citizens and councils such as social media.

6. Crowding in the city and visitor types

Besides the knowledge economy, Amsterdam relies heavily on tourism. The city is currently experiencing a marked increase in tourism with visitor numbers to cultural institutions and festivals rising more than 15 and 25 per cent since 2001 respectively. In coming years tourism in Amsterdam is expected to rise even further.

Outcomes of changing visitor types and habits:
More residents, tourists and weekend visitors in the city centre.
Further development of different hotel types: luxury, student and converted buildings.
The development of international conferences based in Amsterdam.
An effect on retail variety, namely an increase in souvenir shops such as cheese and tulip stores.

Fragmentation is the future

The report concludes that the future of Amsterdam can be summed up in one main theme: fragmentation. The report researchers explain that society is increasingly made up of more and more separate and unfixed groups, stemming from a need for individual freedom and choice.

Although not necessarily a bad thing, the future challenge for Amsterdam will be to maintain solidarity in a fragmented society.

Beatrice Clarke


Beatrice Clarke

Beatrice is a native Melbournian who moved to the Netherlands in 2009. With a background in independent publishing and fashion, Beatrice honed her understanding of Dutch language and culture working...

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