Record numbers stop smoking but one third of young Dutch adults still light up

In 2017 a record 110,000 people in the Netherlands stopped smoking, taking the percentage of adult smokers in the population to 23.1%, according to new figures from national statistics office CBS from the Trimbos addiction clinic. In addition, tens of thousands of people are smoking less, the CBS said. In total, 2.35 million people now say they smoke every day, down 170,000 on 2016. Some 27% of men say they smoke, of whom over 19% light up every day. Just under one in five women smokes, while 14.5% have at least one cigarette on a daily basis. The Trimbos institute said it is notable that the biggest proportion of occasional smokers are among young adults, with 32.6% of people aged 20 to 24 saying they smoke, but not every day. Adults aged 40 to 65 are the most likely to be hardened smokers, with just under 20% saying they smoke on a daily basis.  More >

Treasure island: Dutch high on hope

Hope is running higher in the Netherlands, according to a new survey. The Volkskrant reports on Friday that according to the country’s second annual reading on a ‘hope barometer’ – published in January – people are increasingly positive. Last month the government advisory body the SCP said that for the first time there were more positive than negative people in the country. This year’s hope barometer agrees with the reading, giving an average score of 6.1 out of 10 for seven different kinds of positivity, including spiritual, emotional and moral hope. The project, created by the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organisation and the Institute for Leadership and Social Ethics, asked 1,600 Dutch people about their hopes for the future and analysed the results. Economy It is an uplifting story, particularly focusing on people's nearest and dearest, it reports. ‘The theme of this edition was “Trust in the future” and [it] focused on trust and expectations,’ according to the project’s webpage. ‘Results showed that people are optimistic about their personal life and the economy, but pessimistic about other societal developments in for example education, healthcare and safety.’ Last year, its pilot study of 512 people came up with a lower average of 5.57, with particularly low scores for people without a job or on low incomes. But this year, with ever-falling unemployment, the picture is far more rosy. In this year’s study, 55% of the people surveyed thought the economy would improve and 35% expected an even better year for themselves in 2018 – while only a tenth thought it would be worse. However, 57% of the people thought the environment would worsen, and there was a less hopeful view on the future of society, education and health. Islands ‘You can sit hopefully on your own little island but at the same time feel that important social institutions are losing their way,’ researcher Emma Pleeging of the EHERO reportedly told the Volkskrant. ‘The further you move from someone, the less trust there is. ‘People trust their family and neighbours but have less confidence in strangers. In that respect, the local police service is closer to the people than politicians in The Hague.’ People who were self-employed were likely to be happiest, followed by pensioners – while, logically, those on higher incomes but also the healthiest and the highest-educated were most positive. Professor Paul Dekker, who investigates people’s views for the SCP, said this study confirmed their own last month. ‘Our research in March showed that people in general have become a bit more optimistic, but when it comes to cultural things like indifference, selfishness and polarisation they are more pessimistic,’ he reportedly told the Volkskrant. has contacted Prof Dekker and the EHERO project for a response.  More >

Food inspectors act on water in meat

The Dutch food safety board has given the meat industry until July 10 to come clean about how much water it adds to packs of meat and fish sold in supermarkets, the Volkskrant reported on Friday. European meat firms have been required by law to include 'water' on the ingredients list since December 2014 and add the percentage of water in the total weight of the product. But checks by the Volkskrant newspaper found a number of products on sale in Dutch supermarkets do not meet the rules. For example, a pack of pangasius fish fillets sold by Jumbo are labeled as 78% fish, but do not say how much of their weight is water. The NVWA told the Volkskrant it had found faulty labels in the past but declined to say how many. The body now says it will get tough on food processors who do not comply with the rules in the second half of this year.  More >

Dutch doctors work on melanoma treatment

Dutch doctors believe that they have found a more successful way to treat people with skin cancer, according to the Telegraaf on Friday. It reports that doctors from the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (AVL) cancer institute, who registered 50 of their melanoma patients for an international study, say that the aggressive cancer was less likely to return if surgery was followed by extra immunotherapy. Mostly younger patients, under 50, were given pembrolizumab after surgery removing the cancerous moles. The worldwide study, with more than 1000 patients in 23 countries, was reportedly co-ordinated by Dutch doctor Alexander van Akkooi and presented at the American Association for Cancer Research in Chicago and New England Journal of Medicine.  More >

Greenpeace invests in fund-raising

Having lost more than 20% of its donors over the past five years, Greenpeace Nederland is spending nearly €5.5m this year on fund-raising, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Friday. This is 30% more than the environmental organisation's Dutch branch spent on raising money last year, the FD added. Greenpeace had 370,000 donors in 2017, down from more than 465,000 at end-2013.  'This is a trend which started a few years ago,' Joris Thijssen, one of Greenpeace Nederland's two directors, told the paper. Thijssen said there has been a shift away from 'true supporters' who back the same good cause all their lives and towards incidental gifts, often spurred on by developments in the news.  'The way the younger generation donates money - often by means of one-offs such as crowdfunding - is a real challenge for many NGOs,' he said. Greenpeace Nederland had an income of €25.4m in 2017, of which €19m came from donors, a decline of €355,000 over 2016. Income was boosted by a single donation from the Postcodelotterij of €3.2m. Greenpeace is a NGO with offices in over 40 countries. Its international coordinating body is based in Amsterdam and is separate from Greenpeace Nederland.  More >

Dutch king and queen are good for business

King Willem-Alexander and queen Maxima are good value for money and have considerable added value for the Dutch economy, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Friday. Five years ago, when Willem-Alexander was sworn in as king, he pledged to do more to boost the Dutch economy and business leaders are convinced he is having an impact, the paper said. Corporate executives, ambassadors and senior civil servants have told the paper that the royal couple are keen to see their visits to companies followed up, to make sure the firms are put in touch with the right people for financing or alliances. 'Since the visit, we have had one new order after another,' one entrepreneur from the Frisian city of Sneek said. 'It is unbelievable.' A royal visit is seen as an unofficial stamp of approval and that means a turnover boost, the paper said. The Dutch royal family cost the taxpayer some €40m a year and  it is impossible to say what sort of a return that generates. However, trade missions to China and Australia generated at least €700m in new contracts. In addition, the king's state visits always have a strong business element, the FD said. Sources told the paper that the king and queen will focus extra attention on energy transition and on citizen cooperatives in the coming years. Shareholdings Meanwhile, the royal family's website states that the king does not have any shares in companies which are Koninklijk, or royal. This means, the Telegraaf points out, that the king does not invest in KPN, Philips or Shell. However, the family has been long thought to be major investors in Shell and the website refers to the king, rather than his mother Beatrix, the paper points out.  More >

VDL joins 'biggest eye on the sky’ project

VDL ETG Projects, part of the diversified industrial VDL Groep, has been awarded a contract to build the support structure for the main mirror of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) in northern Chile, the Eindhoven-based company said in a statement  late Thursday. The European Southern Observatory will build the world's largest telescope in the Atacama desert at an elevation of over three kilometres. The support structure consists of 798 individual support structures for mirror segments, which together form the telescope's main mirror which has a diameter of over 39 metres. The project will be completed in 2024. The order is worth several tens of millions of euros, the company said. VDL comprises 94 individual companies and is owned by the Van der Leegte family. ESO Director General Xavier Barcons and VDL Groep President and CEO Willem van der Leegte signed the contract for the order on Thursday at the headquarters of the ESO in Garching, near Munich. Van der Leegte said this marked the first time an astronomy-related contract of this size has gone to a Dutch party. The ELT is the same size as a football stadium. The ‘eye’ of the telescope is nearly as large as half a football field and will capture more light than all other existing large, professional optical telescopes combined. The ELT will enable new scientific discoveries related to planets, the composition of nearby galaxies and the deep universe. The design was created in collaboration with the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), with support from the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA). The main mirror with adaptive control system will form the largest-ever telescope for visible-light observations. With 15 member states, the ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far.  More >

Pensioners live longer in their own homes

The percentage of people over the age of 85 who are still living independently at home went up from 65% to 72% between 2012 and 1016, according to research by the Dutch healthcare authority NZa. The government has been actively encouraging people to stay at home since 2013, and the survey results show this is beginning have an effect, the NZa said. In particular, the government has introduced new health checks for admittance to a home. Now, almost half of care home residents have some form of dementia, compared with just 25% in 2012. There are some three million people over the age of 65 living in the Netherlands, but their number is set to grow to 4.5 million - or a quarter of the population - by 2040. The over-65s currently account for almost half of all spending on healthcare, but most of that goes on the small group who live in residential homes. Assets Finance ministry research earlier this month showed that today’s pensioners in the Netherlands have more disposable income than in the past and their assets have increased due to soaring house price. But even excluding home ownership, pensioners have more assets on average than the rest of the population. Dutch pensioners are also well off when compared with other countries. Just 2.6% of Dutch pensioners are said to be poor, compared with 8.2% of households in general.  More >

'Enormous task' to retrain energy workers

The transition from fossil forms of energy to new types such as wind, solar or geothermal requires huge investment, not only in technology but especially in people,'  the government's highest advisory board SER has told parliament. The government plans to phase out coal-fired power plants as part of its strategy to meet the terms of the Paris climate agreement and 2,700 jobs at five plants are at stake. The pending closure of the Dutch onshore and offshore gas fields will swell the ranks of workers in the fossil-fuel fired energy plants who need retraining for jobs in the sustainable sector. In total, SER says, tens of thousands of jobs are affected. Workers at power plants are well paid and highly specialised, making a move to new jobs in or out of the energy sector difficult. Some of the coal- and gas-fired power plants can be switched over to other forms of electricty generation such as biomass or wood chips. The government's CO2 reduction goals, however, rely heavily on sustainable energy production. 'The energy transition offers opportunities for employment, innovation and a more sustainable climate. But bottlenecks in the larbour market need to be adressed urgently. And this requires cooperation on all levels,'said SER chairman Mariëtte Hamer. However, skills, training schemes and pay-and-conditions agreements differ widely and some workers even face loss of pensions, experts in the field told the Financieele Dagblad in reaction to the SER report on Friday. The technical  installation sector expects some 20,000 job vacancies by 2020, according to its employers organisation Uneto-Vni. It has opened an energy transition desk and claims workers can move easily into new, green jobs in the sector. Uneto-Vni has 5,000 members with combined annual turnover of €13bn and a workforce numbering 120,000.  More >

Speed up gas free homes say builders

The building sector has said that the government plan to phase out gas in homes for heating and cooking must be speeded up. At present the aim is to ensure one in four Dutch homes no longer relies on gas by 2030 and that all homes should be gas free by 2050. According to builders’ association NVB Bouw, whose members build three quarters of new housing, the process must be speeded up and not a single new home should be fitted with gas connections from next year. At the moment builders can still opt for gas which the association says is tempting because homes relying on heat pumps for energy are significantly more expensive to build. NVB Bouw advocates a ban on gas and a transition scheme for builders who already have projects in the pipeline. A ban would create a level playing field for the sector, the association says and will make building gas free homes cheaper in the short term. ‘Some 60,000 homes are built each year in the Netherlands. If all these would all be built using gas free systems we would create leverage and prices would go down quickly,’ NVB Bouw chairman Piet Adema told the AD. Home owners According to Adema, the builders are ready to take on the job but the association of home owners Eigen Huis is not happy. ‘A precipitate move to make homes gas free must not happen at the expense of quality,’ spokesman Hans André de la Porte told the paper. De La Porte says homes are now ‘patched up’ with a heat pump or a balanced ventilation unit. ‘But what is needed is a radically different approach, including new blueprints.’ Eigen Huis also said there are not enough experienced technicians to install the equipment. ‘Buyers invest big sums of money in their homes. But what we see is sloppy work and home buyers are angry,’ the AD quotes him as saying. The government plans to wind down gas production by 2030 in a reaction to the earthquakes caused by years of gas extraction in the province of Groningen. In Amsterdam and Utrecht new housing developments are already gas-free.  More >