The municipality of Heerlen ended the partnership in January 2012 The City of Heerlen is a former mining region on the periphery of the Netherlands close to the German and Belgian borders. It is situated in the Province of Limburg which is historically renowned for its international orientation, multi-lingual population and innovative industrial development. Heerlen has 89,285 inhabitants and the count increases to 240,000 inhabitants when considering the active collaboration in the Parkstad Region (Heerlen, Kerkrade, Landgraaf, Brunssum, Onderbanken, Simpelveld, Voerendaal en Nuth). Heerlen is the largest city of the Parkstad Region, home of the Dutch Open University and the best rated large Dutch University of Applied Sciences: Hogeschool Zuyd. In cooperation with the Provincial Government of Limburg, they developed an initiative called NEIMED to tackle issues of demographic change. The aim is to generate collaborative research-based knowledge about the quality of life in societies affected by population decline. Heerlen has been experiencing demographic decline since 1997 and became politically active in this field in 2004 due to the increasing problems in the housing market. Since then, many local government actions have taken place to explore ways of turning a shrinking city into an opportunity for those living and working there. Heerlen places particular attention on economic, education, and labour market themes to stimulate quality of life and increase the attractiveness of the city
The key challenges include the current labour market mismatch, unemployment, engaging citizens in the city’s social and cultural life, restructuring the city’s physical surroundings and, the further development of regional co-operation as a way to tackle demographic change more holistically. Improving the image of the city is key for retaining and attracting young people to Heerlen.
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