I think we might look back on 2010 as quite an important watershed year in the world of work. Since mid 2009, our team at TomorrowToday has been saying that the global financial downturn has been more than a financial crisis. We believe that as we emerge out of recession we’ll find that a number of key forces have been accelerated by the downturn – and these forces will change the shape of the world significantly. Five or more years from now we’ll look back on 2008 through 2011 and realise that it was a turning point in corporate history.

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Those who understand this fact now, can begin to strategise for what the new world of work will look like in just a few year’s time, and can get the jump on their competitors. But that’s another thought for another day (look at the ‘strategy’ and ‘future trends’ categories of this website for what we’ve already written about these issues). In this post, I’d like to just point out some of the markers of radical change we’ve experienced this year so far, and add a few we’ve seen recently accelerate with the downturn (please also read the articles I link to – there’s some important information here):

  • In many countries, youth unemployment is as high as it has ever been. In the US, for example, the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds are currently employed (46.1%) than at any time since the government began collecting such data in 1948.
  • This has led to the highest number of “stay at home” young adults in recorded history. This is a trend that happens every recession (see a report here). This particular trend will most likely reverse after the recession, but the number of young people staying at home, the number of years they stay at home and their propensity to “boomerang” back home in their early thirties have all been on the increase for the past decade – and we predict that these trends will not start reversing for at least the rest of this decade.
  • Last month (June 2010) US Labour Department statistics showed that for the first time in recorded history, the number of people aged over 65 in the workforce exceeded the number of people age 16 – 19. (See report and graph here). This is a combination of youth unemployment and changes in attitudes of the Baby Boomers as they head into old age, and decide not to retire.
  • In the last few years, Italy, Japan, Germany and Monaco have led the trend of having more people over the age of 60 than under the age of 20. Many European countries will follow this trend soon (see a list of the percentage of people over age 65 by country).
  • As the Baby Boomers hit 60 years old, they’re bringing their lifestyle choices to retirement (or re-tyre-ment, as we prefer to call it). One example of this is that every year for the last 5 years there has been an increasing record number of divorces among those 60 years and older (Read a UK report here). I think I understand the demographic and sociological stats enough to predict that after the recession, divorce rates will jump again. And I believe that this will be especially evident in the Boomer age group (age 45 to 65 in 2010). The stress of the financial downturn will push many Boomer marriages over the edge.
  • In January 2010 in the US, there were officially more women in the workplace than men, for the first time in recorded history (Read a report about it here). Canada were actually the first country where this stat was true – it happened there in 2007. It will happen in many developed economies over the next few years, with the UK expected to reach this mark sometime in early 2012 (Australia has already reached this milestone). The past four recessions have seen more men retrenched than women (a recent Spectator article we blogged about on this site even went so far as to call them “mancessions”). Read The Economist’s report on this issue. This trend will probably reverse after the recession, but return again in the next few years.
  • No-one knows exactly when it happened, but in the last few years we have gone past the tipping point of the number people living in cities. The world is now officially majority urbanised. (See a 2003 list by country – I believe consensus is that this “weighted average” was a bit ahead of its time. I think that 2005 is considered the year when this shift took place.)

These are markers that indicate that we live in shifting times. How are you going to respond?

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