As Program Director at Brainport Development, Yvonne van Hest is responsible for the PEOPLE domain. In the coming period, she will be writing a number of columns for Innovation Origins on regional developments, backgrounds and future trends in education and the labour market.

Yvonne van Hest SAEYSYesterday, I received a phone call from a Volkskrant reporter. He wanted to talk about expats and our growing international community. He had interviewed a number of internationals about housing in our Meerhoven neighbourhood and wanted more information. I began to tell him that the term expat is almost a thing of the past; the correct term is ‘international knowledge workers’. And that also implies the change that our region has undergone. I have lived in Meerhoven for 14 years now, and have worked for 8 years at Brainport Development. Among other things, I am responsible for attracting and retaining international talent.

“Wow, a lot has changed!”

When I told the journalist about the developments of the past 10 years or so and started thinking about this further, I thought “wow, a lot has actually changed”. When I enter the Lidl supermarket now, I always hear at least three foreign languages. When I call my doctor, the first choice I get is whether I want to be addressed in Dutch or English. And at the primary school in our district, there are already kids with more than 25 different nationalities. Eindhoven has grown from a nice tech city in the province to an international, innovative high-tech city in Europe. And that’s not just smart branding, but it’s really visible. Of course, there are people who have questions about the arrival of all those extra internationals? On the other hand, with an unemployment rate of 3.2%, we desperately need everyone (and of course we also want to get those who are unemployed to work!). Don’t forget that every new international creates about six extra jobs. And I also see that multicultural teams in our companies are igniting innovation.

Are there no negative effects of this growing group of internationals? Well, housing is indeed in danger of becoming a challenge. This is not due to the increasing number of people from other countries, but to the increasing number of inhabitants as such. I always say: “those internationals are just like people, they have the same housing needs as we do”. We see that more residents are putting pressure on the availability of housing and that the prices for housing are rising sharply. And I think that is something to be alert to in the near future. We are growing as a region, but we should not fall victim to our own success, as you can see in Silicon Valley and Amsterdam. Let’s jointly use our multicultural innovative capacities to meet this challenge.