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

COVID-19's impact on shifting demographics & social change

COVID item

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated negative effects on demographics and positive effects on social change in the short term. From a demographic perspective, massive unemployment caused by the economic downturn in the U.S. has disproportionally affected Hispanic women, immigrants, young adults and those with no college education. The pandemic has stifled immigration as countries have adopted travel restrictions and closed borders to limit the spread of the disease. COVID-19 deaths disproportionally occur to people age 65 and over, men, ethnic minorities, and individuals with underlying health conditions. A recently published study from MIT Sloan School of Management suggests the disease is more likely to be fatal to African Americans due to social factors such as the quality of insurance, chronic stress and systemic discrimination – more so than preexisting health conditions. In terms of urban growth, COVID-19 may damage the allure of megacities in the short term, as citizens fled cities to quarantine away from the largest population centers.

As far as social change, the economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus could push U.S. voters to favor policies supporting social security measures like universal health care or stronger retirement benefits. COVID-19 has revealed the current safety net’s serious shortcomings in coping with the loss of income, loss of access to health insurance, and disruption of public services provided by state and local governments resulting from mass unemployment. For employees working remotely, the disrupted working conditions created by the virus have helped employers envision more flexible working arrangements and evaluate the need for expensive corporate real estate. Companies like Twitter, Square and Facebook are allowing employees to work remotely permanently – although their salary may be adjusted to reflect their local cost of living.

COVID-19 will have a long-term effect on how we choose to work in the future and the lens we use to understand the economic and social vulnerabilities of those who have been most impacted by the pandemic.

Endnotes & Acknowledgements

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Many 3M colleagues supported this effort by generously sharing their time, knowledge and resources. We would like to recognize the authors from our Strategy & Marketing Development group who made this publication possible by exploring and synthesizing collective knowledge to provide these updated megatrends. Please learn more about our authors and research on our Endnotes & Acknowledgements page.

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