The South-Limburg region has been struggling with a shrinking population for several years (CBS). As natural population growth is stagnating more and more in the developed world, it is unlikely that the region will be able to reverse this shrinkage without attracting people from elsewhere in the country or from abroad. The city of Maastricht has two ways to attract people from elsewhere in the country. The first and most obvious one is to retain talent that has come to the city to study at Maastricht University or Hogeschool Zuyd. Contrary to expectation, Venhorst et al. (2011) found that this process of ‘brain gain’ is already in place in Maastricht. However, there are negative consequences to this process. The largest part of talent that is retained in the city comes from smaller towns in the South-Limburg region. Hence, the problem has shifted, but has not been solved (Venhorst et al., 2011).
The question imposed during this research project is therefore how to attract people from more distant communities to Maastricht. According to Luis (2009), people who voluntarily move to distant communities have three characteristics. First, they are young, which means 25-to-34 years old. People in this age group have typically finished their education and have a solid idea on where they want to go in their professional career, but they did not yet develop deep roots in a certain community. Second, they are single. Because there are no spouses, life-partners or children to take into account singles are more flexible with regards to reallocation. Additionally, singles can find more flexible housing arrangements, allowing them to move to high cost areas (like cities) when earnings are relatively low. Third, people that move to distant communities tend to be well educated. Higher educated people might find their knowledge and skills in higher demand in distant communities. The higher income and career opportunities might be a positive trade-off for moving away from familiar surroundings.
Next to these characteristics, Luis (2009) suggests two reasons why people move to distant communities; employment and lifestyle. Individuals can be forced or pushed to move from economically less ideal environments, to areas with better opportunities. A certain culture of lifestyle in a city or region can pull people to that area, because they want to experience this way of living. Current policies of the municipality of Maastricht are focused on these pull factors. By stimulating the development of the creative industry, they are hoping to create an innovative and buzzing lifestyle in the city. During this research project, we will study master students and recent graduates of Maastricht University and their intention to stay in the region after graduation. Which factors drive them to migrate or to stay? Are economic factors pushing them to other regions? Can this be influenced by increasing the pull factors? More specifically, what effect does stimulation of the city’s creative industry have on these pull factors?
This project is being executed in collaboration with the UCM PEERS programme.