In combination with the migration of global spending power to emerging economies, the coming decade will also see explosive population growth in some countries and declines in others. These diverging trends will have far-reaching impacts, ranging from growing pressure on the supply of critical resources to sweeping changes in people’s goals and aspirations at a personal and social level.
At the heart of these effects is the ageing of the global population. Across the world, rising life expectancy is set to drive an ongoing increase in the proportion of over-60s. However, within this overall trend, some societies are ageing rapidly – meaning their supply of working-age people will decline as a proportion of the total population. In contrast, other countries have populations that are young and growing, promising ever-larger labour forces and consumer markets.
The social and economic implications of such differences are profound. With 360 million older workers set to leave the global workforce by 2050, the burden of supporting the ever-expanding ranks of retirees will put the working population under increasing strain in some countries. In others, growing populations will need to be fed, housed, educated and employed to sustain growth and cohesion. In either case, demographic shifts will be a – if not the – major force for social and economic change.