The IM: measuring globalisation

/ Author: Masja de Ree
© Sjoerd van der Hucht Fotografie
The Internationalisation Monitor, a regular publication by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), has existed for ten years. It has been commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2017. To mark its 10th anniversary, CBS Director General Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi formally presented the latest edition to Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation on 4 April 2018. ‘Major economic changes are happening at International level. We as Foreign Ministry must respond quickly to these changes,’ says Guido Landheer, Deputy Director-General for External Economic Relations.

How is international service trade developing? What role do multinationals play in the Dutch economy? What are the effects of international political decisions? The answers to these questions and more can be found in the CBS Internationalisation Monitor (abbreviated as IM). For ten years already, it has described the consequences and characteristics of globalisation as they apply to the Netherlands in an accessible manner (Note: not all editions are translated, Tr.). 

Questions on globalisation

Ten years ago, the IM was introduced to serve as a source of information about international economic developments for scientists and policymakers as well as for society. Marjolijn Jaarsma, the specialist project leader of the IM, explains: ‘We began receiving more and more questions about globalisation. CBS had no ready-made answers to these questions using its existing statistics at the time. In the IM, microdata from all parts of the organisation were linked to each other so CBS could come up with the appropriate answers. Sometimes this would entail pioneering work, pushing the boundaries of numerical analysis. It has always been an innovative product.’

Essential information

The internationalisation monitor is frequently consulted by policymakers at Dutch government departments, but also by such organisations as the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW) and the EvoFenedex association of entrepreneurs in logistics and international trade. Jaarsma cites an example: ‘With Brexit fast approaching, it is crucial to know more about the relationship between the Dutch and the British economy. Our figures contribute to this knowledge. Not only do we know that Dutch goods exports to the UK are worth around 52 billion euros, but we can also tell you the net earnings for the Netherlands: 21 billion euros. Just think that altogether one-third of our GDP is connected to export of goods and services and you immediately realise the significance of internationalisation for our economy.’

Fact-based policies

Since 2017, the IM has been part of a broader research and publication programme called Globalisation, financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The themes and topics covered in the IM are being selected in agreement with the Foreign Ministry. Guido Landheer: ‘We see major changes taking place on a global scale. Aside from Brexit, for example, discussions are being held around steel trade with the United States. Our Ministry must be able to act quickly in response. We want these actions to be evidence based and we use CBS’s figures to underpin our policies. For example, the Foreign Minister’s new strategy contains measures that are supported with concrete figures from CBS. The latest IM paid a lot of attention to developments around both new and traditional markets, topics which are important to us.’

Powerful collaboration

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs values collaboration with CBS. Landheer: ‘Both the Ministry and CBS have an interest in high-quality data. We hold regular meetings with open discussions about our requirements. We also use CBS’s expertise to develop our own indicators for use in our policy memoranda.’ Jaarsma: ‘We look forward to continuing this collaboration in the same comfortable way. Despite the heavy budget cuts which CBS has had to implement in recent years, the Foreign Ministry has been committed to sustaining the development of knowledge and information within this programme. We are also actively seeking partnerships with other institutions and researchers, for example at Groningen University, PBL (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency) and the OECD.’

Interaction with stakeholders
The Internationalisation Monitor was launched in 2008 as an annual publication, taking the appearance of a sizeable book. Jaarsma remembers the early years well: ‘We put a lot of time into analysis and the description of trends, e.g. the link between internationalisation and innovation in the Dutch private sector.’ The IM is now issued quarterly: ‘As of Q1 2018, the Monitor comes in a new, flashy format and is also available as a web publication.’ This makes it easy to browse and scroll through the Monitor on a tablet or smartphone. According to Landheer, the online version could still be developed further: ‘We could make the information contained in the Monitor more widely accessible by producing an interactive web publication and by making sure that our stakeholders can respond to the figures.’ Overall, Landheer would like to discuss the themes for IM with a wider range of partners, including SMEs and the manufacturing industry: ‘It is essential to find out what our stakeholders find important, so that we can put those topics on the agenda.’