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at the current trajectory. The good news part of
this megatrend is that humans are doing more
today than ever before to protect biodiversity. The
world conservation network is growing in size,
and public and private sector investment, over the
long term, continues to grow.
THe SIlK HIGHWAY
The third megatrend is called ‘The silk highway’.
This plays on the concept of the Silk Road: an
ancient trade network flowing through Eastern
China west to the Mediterranean. Today the Silk
Road is reversing itself and moving much faster.
Income growth in the emerging economies of the
world is the big thing that will matter to the world
economy in the coming decades.
A London academic, Danny Quah, recently
produced a map showing hot spots of world
economic activity. In 1980, a hot spot was
positioned in the Atlantic Ocean, between the
powerhouses of Europe and the United States. In
2010, it was over Saudi Arabia. By 2030, it will be
firmly between the new economic powerhouses
of the world: China and India. The economy
of the entire globe is being pulled in a south-
The rate of change in China has been, and will
continue to be, phenomenal. It is said that the
city of Shenzhen in China was built at the rate of
a skyscraper per day and a boulevard per week
during the 1990s. Much of the raw material,
such as iron ore, needed to make Shenzhen came
from Australia. A possible challenge for Australia,
and a possible opportunity, will be the slowing
rate of industrialisation in China, as it makes
the transition to an advanced-services-sector
economy. This is already occurring. Once railway
tracks are built, they don’t need to be built
again. Instead, they now allow office workers to
commute into the city for service-oriented jobs.
A new services economy in China may want new
service-oriented export offerings from Australia.
One of these may be superannuation services.
The fourth megatrend is called ‘Forever young’.
This captures Australia’s ageing population, rising
rates of chronic illness and growing healthcare
expenditure. According to the Australian Bureau
of Statistics (ABS), 14 per cent of the nation
is currently over the age of 65. This will shift
to 24 per cent by the year 2050. The same
phenomenon is occurring across the world. The
Japanese Statistics Bureau forecasts a staggering
40 per cent of the Japanese population will be
over 50 years of age by 2050. Associated with the
ageing population is rising healthcare expenditure
and rising rates of chronic illness, such as heart
disease and diabetes. Rice Warner Actuaries
estimate that Australia also faces a staggering
$1 trillion shortfall in savings needed to enable
all working Australians to have a comfortable
retirement. This means people will retire later in
life and some may not retire at all.
The fifth megatrend is called ‘Virtually here’.
This captures the rapid rise of online retail,
‘teleworking’ and automation. Online retail
continues to increase its share of total Australian
retail year by year. Australia Post’s parcel delivery
rate is experiencing exponential growth. There’s
a possibility that shops will become show rooms,
with most of the actual purchasing occurring
in a virtual space. Teleworking is also growing.
The Australian government expects teleworking
to grow from 6 per cent of the workforce in
2013, to 12 per cent by the year 2015. The
teleworking phenomenon is associated with the
rise of the portfolio worker, or freelancer, who
sells their expertise to multiple employers. Online
retail and teleworking could reshape Australia’s
transportation systems and the design of our cities.
Automation also promises much change. The
last century saw the rise of automation inside the
factory, as car factories today are mostly robotic.
This century will see mining, defence, agriculture,
aviation and vehicles become heavily automated.
For example, in 2011, BMW sent a robot-driven
car 170km across Germany at motorway speeds,
with a driver on standby. As the mining sector
becomes focused on cost cutting, the use of
automation technologies that improve safety,
environmental performance and efficiency will
also become increasingly commonplace. The
labour market will shift into the direction of high-
skilled jobs. This may make some segments of the
Australian labour market vulnerable.
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