WRR and KNAW launch scenario study on broad impact of coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus crisis has hit Dutch society hard. Having lived with this virus for over a year, it is now time to consider where we go from here. The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) are therefore launching a joint scenario study on the broad impact of the coronavirus crisis to provide strategic support for the Dutch government. This joint approach will consider the medical-virological aspects of the pandemic, but will focus primarily on the broader issues affecting society as a whole.

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The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic will leave no one and no area of our lives untouched. Yet at the same time, there are major differences in how these consequences play out, depending on age, work situation, wealth and a range of other factors. These differences are already being measured. But the implications for the longer term are much harder to predict. What long-term impact will the crisis have on inequality and inclusion in society, on public health, on the economy and the Netherlands’ ability to compete internationally? What does it mean for other major issues, such as climate change and demographic developments? Last but not least, it remains to be seen how the pandemic itself will develop. Will vaccination dissipate the threat from the virus or will new variants emerge to compromise the effectiveness of our existing vaccines? The answers to all these questions are key to formulating adequate policies.

A scenario analysis can shed light on all of these areas. While it cannot predict the future, analysis of this kind offers plausible narratives for a range of different futures to enable us to anticipate likely issues. In light of the major uncertainties ahead, we urgently need to develop scenarios that present a well-founded picture of what the Netherlands will look like in three-to-five years’ time and the policy challenges the Dutch government will face.

The scenario study is being carried out by a joint WRR and KNAW project group co-chaired by Tanja van der Lippe, chair of KNAW’s Social Sciences Council, and André Knottnerus, former chair of the WRR. The project group will draw on the expertise of a supervisory committee consisting of Catrien Bijleveld (WRR), Godfried Engbersen (WRR) and Maarten Prak (KNAW).