Shifting Demographics & Social Change

Demographic and social change is foundational, impacting all other trends. People’s relationship to society, community and government evolves at different rates and in different ways around the globe, but common trends still emerge. Cities continue to attract a larger percentage of the global population. “Work” is taking new forms and requiring new skill sets. The foundation is shifting.

How can we prepare ourselves?

Shifting demographics - FACTS
  • In 2018, for the first time in history, people age 65 or older outnumbered children under age 5.
  • Nearly 50% of workers and retirees surveyed across 15 countries in an Aegon survey believe that future generations of retirees will be worse off than those currently in retirement, compared with 18% who believe they will be better off.
  • By 2030, consumers in large cities, who comprise 50% of the world population, will generate 81% of global consumption and 91% of global consumption growth12

Rapid urbanization

  • 1700s Beijing becomes world's largest city by population, with 1M+ residents
  • 1760-1840 Industrial Revolution draws labor from farms to factories
  • 1925 New York becomes world’s largest city by population, with 7.7M+ residents
  • 1950 29% of world’s population lives in urban environments
  • 1965 Tokyo becomes world’s largest metro area, with 20.5M+ residents
  • 2009 For the first time, urban population surpasses rural
  • 2013 Population of Tokyo metropolitan area reaches 37M
  • 2018 55% of world’s population lives in urban environments


Current events

Urbanization everywhere. Since 1950, the world’s urban population has risen almost sixfold, from 751 million to more than 4 billion in 2018.170 The world’s cities are growing in both size and number – nearly a quarter of the world’s population lives in one of 548 cities with at least 1 million inhabitants.171 Many of the world’s fastest-growing cities are in Asia and Africa, with just three countries (India, China and Nigeria) accounting for a third of projected urban growth.

Growth in both mega and mid. A small but growing percentage of the population live in one of 33 megacities – cities with more than 10 million inhabitants.11 That number is expected to rise to 43 megacities by 2030.171

Challenges that require smarter, more agile cities. Cities are using smart-city innovation to become more efficient and sustainable, to advance well-being, and to boost competitiveness. These “smart cities” collect data and use subsequent insights – leveraging advances in data analytics, AI, edge computing and 5G technologies – to manage assets, resources and services effectively. From Shanghai to Nairobi, from Jaipur to Denver, smart-city initiatives are being integrated into national, regional and municipal strategic plans all over the world.

The urban consumer. By 2030, consumers in large cities, who comprise 50% of the world population, will generate 81% of global consumption and 91% of global consumption growth.12 Consumption patterns – just like urban populations themselves – are becoming more diverse.

Future expectations

As the global urban population surpasses 5 billion by 2030, urbanization will continue to shape economies and societies. Urbanization has the potential to become a positive transformational force – properly planned and managed, it can improve employment opportunities, energy efficiency, public health, education and quality of life. However, urbanization can also lead to higher crime rates, increased congestion and pollution, and increased levels of inequality.13 Continued urbanization, particularly in developing countries, will put stress on infrastructure, government, climate, environment and more.

Challenges include finding the right infrastructure – both physical and technological – and services to meet the demands of a growing urban population.14 Asia alone is projected to require $1.7 trillion per year in infrastructure investment through 2030 to address new and legacy infrastructure needs,15 including piped water, sanitation, power grids, roads, public transit, housing, hospitals and schools, among others. To meet these infrastructure needs, many countries will increasingly turn to China, which has committed to financing $1 trillion over the next decade for hundreds of infrastructure projects worldwide.172

Countries and cities will also focus on meeting the needs of an increasingly urban population through continued smart-city investment, spending an estimated $189 billion worldwide by 2023.16 Much of this investment will take place in the Greater China Area (GCA) and Asia-Pacific countries, where there is an increased focus on sustainability, air quality, climate change mitigation and resilience in the face of natural disasters.17 Smart-city initiatives will continue to improve efficiency and effectiveness of transportation, energy management, utilities, water supply, waste management, crime detection, health care and other community services. Over the next decade, tech companies will increasingly provide total solution sets and integrated, smart ecosystems to cities, rather than individual components for smart-city initiatives.18 AI will continue to play a larger role as a “digital citizen,” making municipal systems more efficient. Emerging challenges will include interoperability, data security and privacy concerns, and funding constraints.