July 12, 2011
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
A colleague sent me U.S. Census Bureau projections of the world in the year 2050. For those of us building institutions, communities, and businesses, this is important stuff.
Too often, leaders plan for the present based on the past while ignoring the future. What do the demographic shifts mean for your current work? What do they mean for new products, policies, and services for the global marketplace?
Population shifts in a nutshell: India will be the most populous nation, surpassing China around 2025. The U.S. will remain in third place, despite its projected growth of 115 million people.
Declining birth rates for two current economic and political powers, Japan and Russia, will lead to a fall from current spots as the 9th and 10th most populous nations, respectively, to 16th and 17th.
Russia will suffer most: the nation has been undergoing steady depopulation since 1992, not only from declining birth rates but low life expectancy due to alcoholism and poor diet. Russia’s population will drop another 21% by 2050.
Western Europe’s long-declining birth rate is reversing, and Spain and Italy are on track for a population “uptick" thanks to that and to immigration.
Africa’s poised for a boom, with Nigeria and Ethiopia on track for the biggest gains. Nigeria’s population will jump from 166 million to 402 million by 2050. Ethiopia’s is predicted to triple from 91 million to 278 million, placing it on the list of the top 10 most populous countries in the world.
Most of the changes for the U.S. will be internal. More than half of children under age 2 currently are ethnic minorities. That percentage will grow; and the aging of the non-Hispanic white population, immigration, and differing birth rates among races and cultures will lead to big shifts in the country’s ethnic composition.
So what does all this mean for you? You’ll need to figure the specifics for your work. My crystal ball sees things like:
1. An increasing need for and use of clean, affordable alternative energies
2. The need for new ways to make sustainability everyone’s responsibility – we learned from China that managing the impact on the planet of population booms like those predicted for India and Africa will not be easy
3. Attention to global water policies and usage
4. Rising markets in the U.S. and abroad for more diverse and ethno-centric products and services
5. New national and global policies that anticipate shifts in world power and economic dominance – and deep diplomacy skills and negotiation-based strategies to handle strife, manage diversity, and deal with the realities of increasing competition for the world’s resources and markets
6. Global attention to health and welfare issues and the need for new ways to understand diet, nutrition, mental health, addiction, the spread or eradication of disease, healthcare, and more
7. Advances in food production, transportation, and storage: Africa’s expected population growth, for example, significantly compounds current food-supply issues in many of its nations
8. Increases in global travel with all its ramifications
9. The internationalization of higher education
10. More internet-based businesses and services to respond to the realities of an increasingly global marketplace.