About Us

Demography + Urbanisation


Our workshops in China and Hong Kong are always fascinating. China’s population is set to rise to upwards of .5 billion by 2050, from .3 billion now. By then 85% of the planet’s population will live in what are now developing countries. Hong Kong has been at the vanguard of economic growth but now other parts of China are rapidly catching up. Hong Kong’s water and air are poisonously polluted, the harbour has been treated as an open sewer, and smoke disgorging factories, non stop ceaseless building and nose to tail vehicles make the air dangerous to breath. Developed nations have externalised their pollution to Asia, and China has become the world’s factory. China has pollution and population issues to deal with, which are unparalleled in the history of the world. The global economic system is not sustainable, but will politicians and business leaders have the courage for dramatic transformation?

Nearly all the population growth of about .3% a year is occurring in the poorest developing countries, with demographic trends in rich nations trending downwards. Reproductive rates on average in OECD countries are below the break even average of 2.1 children per woman. The population in OECD countries is getting older while that in developing countries is getting younger. This will lead to fewer people in the active working population in the developed world and more people dependent on those that are working to contribute to unfunded national pension schemes. Demand for skilled labour will exceed supply as more people from the baby boom generation move towards retirement, and there will be increased pressure for skilled immigration, and for outsourcing of jobs to the developing world. Unskilled labour will also move into developed nations to take the jobs that the indigenous population do not want. As has happened the world over, some of these people will be better skilled, from a more advanced education, or be more motivated than the indigenous population and will displace lower end local workers, resulting in the potential for racial tension, discrimination, intolerance and conflict.

Emigration of skilled labour from poorer nations will compound their problems. The people of poor nations already have extreme difficulty in meeting basic needs. The expanding population will place even more pressure on already depleted economic and agricultural systems, leading to the potential breakdown in civil society.

The global trend towards urbanisation goes hand in hand with these demographic shifts. In 1950 shortly after Mike was born only 2 cities in the world [London and New York] constituted what are now know as megalopolises – cities with more than 8 million people. By 2006 this number had grown to 22. By 2015 according to UN predictions that number will jump 50% to 33, 27 of which will be in what are currently least developed nations. Only one megalopolis from the rich nations – Tokyo - will make it in the top ten. And by 2030 only 10% of the global population will live in developed countries and more than half will be over 65.

Demographic trends are known and this is one of few aspects of forecasting that are predictable with reasonable accuracy. The implications for business are profound. Ensure your business models embrace bottom of the pyramid, diversity and multiculturalism for the developing world, and/ or develop products and services that are relevant to the burgeoning senior population.