Demographics are a strange thing. They single a shift from the centre and if you are not paying attention, that shift can create an imbalance from which it is hard to recover. Demographic shifts are usually perceived as slow yet unexpected events can cause the shift to happen with startling alacrity. Like the three monkeys of ‘hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil’ here are three demographic shifts that ‘has happened, is happening, might happen’.
3 MonkiesHas happened: China is the centre.
The realisation for many westerners that China is the undisputed centre of the world has come as something of a shock. The reality is however that but for a brief interlude that we call the ‘industrial era’, China has pretty much always been at the centre. A combination of Western bias (and teaching of history) and Chinese non-meddling has allowed us to escape this reality. Try as I might, I could never get my late Mom to understand that China wasn’t the ‘far-East’ but rather was the, ‘near-East’. “When are you going back to the far-East?” I can hear her saying and then completely ignoring my gentle (yet persistent) corrections! China has always known far more about the West than the West has known about China. China as the centre shouldn’t be news and if it is…then you have lots of homework to do! Best pack your bags and plan a trip to see and understand first-hand. If you want to understand China’s past 100 years, visit Shanghai; if you wish to understand China’s past 1000 years, visit Beijing; and if you want to understand China’s past 2000 years and longer, visit Xian.
Is happening: Retiring Boomers are shifting the landscape
Boomers are in full-flight when it comes to retiring. This takes on many meanings as, for the most part, Boomers are not doing retirement as the script dictates. In the business landscape Boomers are stepping out the mainstream and creating alternative streams that exercises their wealth of experience, willingness to work hard and belief in reaching for the stars. These alternative streams will create their own causeways resulting in an altered business landscape…and just when the younger generation thought they were rid of the Boomer imprint! In the United States the geographic movement of retiring Boomers to rural areas is shifting the traditional political demographic and leading to greater diversity. Rural America has traditionally been hostile territory to Democrats but a paper released by the academic journal, Political Geography, reveals a new emerging landscape. With some 70million Boomers set to retire in the next 20 years, watch this space!
Might happen: Mass exodus from cities
Scenario-planners suggest that a possible (some say ‘very likely’) scenario is a grid-meltdown that will precipitate a lemming-like run for the hills. With the staggering rate of urbanisation and the emergence of the mega-city, many believe that the likelihood of a grid breakdown is no longer a matter of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’. In many cities the infrastructure is simply unable to keep pace with the numbers and the early warning signs are there to be seen. Lagos, Nigeria, which has the highest urbanisation rate in the world, is a prime example of this increasing imbalance. One simply has to visit Lagos to realise the impending catastrophe of a complete grid breakdown and how ill prepared authorities are to deal with such an event. In the USA, Homeland Security have admitted that they have no contingency plans in place for such an event – and this is the United States we are talking about!
Who said demographics was boring? Understanding demographic shifts should be the lifeblood of strategic thinking but in today’s world, where short-term return dictates our horizons and dominates our view, it has been all too easy to ignore the story being written under our very noses – the story penned by demographic shifts.
Best we pay attention! Anyone for a story?

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