OECD Territorial Reviews

1990-0759 (online)
1990-0767 (print)
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This series offers analysis and policy guidance to national and subnational governments seeking to strengthen territorial development policies and governance. These reviews are part of a larger body of OECD work on regional development that addresses the territorial dimension of a range of policy challenges, including governance, innovation, urban development and rural policy. This work includes both thematic reports and reports on specific countries or regions.

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OECD Territorial Reviews: Netherlands 2014

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24 Apr 2014
9789264209527 (PDF) ;9789264209510(print)

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The Dutch economy has been traditionally very competitive among OECD countries. The global financial crisis however has brought new challenges, especially during the second shock, from 2011 onwards. The government’s recovery plan, which includes various measures such as fiscal consolidation, stimulating innovation and sub-national government reform has an important territorial dimension. This review focuses on how sub-national institutions and development can help the Netherlands meet its challenges. In the short-term, factors such as the contribution of all regions, better use of resources, and more efficient provision of goods and services can help the recovery. In the long term, improving national competitiveness will largely depend on a strong performance of the polycentric city structure, which characterises the Netherlands. The key policy areas explored in this review include: the recently created top-sector innovation policy; decentralisation; and territorial reforms such as municipal and provincial re-scaling through mergers or co-operation.

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  • Foreword and Acknowledgements

    Policies for growth, jobs, equity and environmental sustainability have greater impact when they recognise the different economic and social realities where people live and work. National governments are thus challenged to rethink how to harness the potential of different types of cities and regions to prepare for the future. Policies for regions and cities can generate opportunities for skills development, investment and innovation, and directly contribute to improving quality of life. Such policies actively complement traditional macro and structural approaches in enhancing national performance.

  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Executive summary

    The Netherlands is a small and densely populated country with a rich urban structure. Cities and in particular functional urban areas are key pillars of the Dutch economy hosting almost 75% of the national population. The structure of cities comprises a rich and very polycentric urban structure in the Netherlands. This is a key strength for the Netherlands given that OECD countries with more polycentric urban systems are found to have higher per capita GDP. Nevertheless agglomeration benefits are lower than in OECD member countries. Similarly, in the 5 largest functional urban areas in the Netherlands (i.e. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven) the agglomeration benefits and labour productivity growth are lower than across OECD FUAs of similar size. Nonetheless the largest FUAs are attracting population at a similar rate as comparable FUAs in the OECD. Therefore there is need to ensure that the growth in population transforms into agglomeration benefits.

  • Assessment and Recommendations

    The Netherlands is a small and densely populated country with a rich urban structure. Cities and their areas of expansion beyond administrative borders (defined as functional urban area, FUAs) are key pillars of the Dutch economy hosting almost 75% of the national population. Despite having the second highest population density in the OECD, the Netherlands’ economic and demographic concentration is lower than other densely-populated countries such as Japan and Korea. Interregional inequality is also quite low in the Netherlands. These trends are mainly driven by the country’s rich and polycentric urban structure (meaning it has a number of large cities instead of one or two megacities). The five largest urban areas – Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven – host a little over one-third of the national population and contribute to the same proportion of national GDP. Medium and smaller FUAs are also important pillars of the national economy. They are spread across the entire territory, although the largest FUAs tend to be located in the west and the medium FUAs in the east of the country. Each province contains at least one FUA, and in almost all provinces FUAs are home to more than 70% of the provincial population.

  • Regional development trends in the Netherlands

    This chapter provides a diagnosis of the main sub-national trends in the Netherlands distinguishing between the period leading to the global financial crisis in 2008 and the period afterwards. The analysis focuses on the performance of Functional Urban Areas (FUAs) and provinces in the Netherlands with respect to other FUAs and regions in OECD countries. This chapter has four broad sections. The first focuses on the main macro-economic economic strengths and challenges. The section that follows measures the main sub-national characteristics in the Netherlands capturing the degree of concentration, the degree of inequality, the characteristic of urban city structure and the main areas of population growth and decline. Section 3 benchmarks the performance of FUAs and provinces in the Netherlands vis-à-vis FUAs of similar size and TL3 regions in the OECD respectively. The last and final section measures the main drivers of growth, particularly productivity growth at the sub-national level focusing on the agglomeration effects, human capital, infrastructure and accessibility and innovation.

  • Exploiting policy complementarities for regional development in the Netherlands

    The decision of the Dutch government to discontinue the Peaks in the Delta policy in 2010, represents the end of any explicit support for spatial economic development and overarching national framework for regional development policy. Similarly there is no explicit and overarching national urban policy framework. There are currently several policies affecting the regional level: the Top Sector Policy; the National Policy Strategy for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning; the regional development plans developed at the provincial level; and the EU programmes. There is a danger of disconnecting the regional and local development agenda from a comprehensive national vision of regional development. A key challenge for a successful territorial development policy will be ensuring that the various policies having an effect on the development of regions make the most of potential complementarities.

  • Multi-level governance challenges in the Netherlands

    The aim of this chapter is to investigate the role of the subnational government structure in the Netherlands paying particular attention to the subnational government reform which is taking place. This reform has two main components which are closely interconnected: a decentralisation reform and a territorial reform. These are the two sides of the same coin, as the second one is partly driven by the first one. It entails a major overhaul of the administrative tiers and their functions, with a decentralisation of additional functions to municipalities, complete elimination of the city-regions and transfer of their competences to provinces whose competences have been strengthened in recent years. The decentralisation process is combined with efforts to consolidate both the provincial and municipal governments through voluntary mergers (up-scaling) or cooperation (trans-scaling).

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