Weaker middle class endangers prosperity

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The middle classes in the Netherlands have seen their share of jobs decline in the past 20 years, with both better-paid and worse-paid jobs claiming a bigger chunk of the total. This trend deserves our attention, as vital societies and dynamic economies need a strong middle class. The solution: encouraging a 'learning economy' that puts the circulation of knowledge centre stage. And not just new knowledge – we need to make better use of existing knowledge, ABN AMRO claims in its latest report out today: 'Kwetsbare klasse – De middenklasse op de mondiale snelweg' ('At risk – The middle classes further down the global motorway'- Dutch only).

Lack of mobility makes middle classes vulnerable

Computerisation and offshoring are causing shifts in the labour market, with a proportion of the work traditionally done by employees in the middle segment of the labour market and services sector now automated or offshored. And anything that's impossible to automate today, may still become so tomorrow. What’s more, companies are less tied to a place than ever and technology can be applied virtually anywhere. ABN AMRO reckons that both automation and offshoring will continue to be major trends going forward. Following a first wave of primarily industrial companies shifting their manufacturing, today’s service providers are now beating a path to emerging markets. In addition, customer-facing jobs at banks and other organisations are increasingly being replaced by internet-based contact, putting the labour market positions of employees with an average education under pressure. This group is particularly vulnerable because they’re so used to job security.

Invest in training new generations of the middle class

Technology and globalisation have upped the pressure on the middle classes, and people would do well not to take their careers for granted: tomorrow’s jobs will require a different set of competences than today’s. To secure a robust middle class for the future, education will have to continue to reinvent itself, ABN AMRO argues, as the middle classes will have to keep acquiring new qualifications. 

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