The edge of demographic shifts

At this year's AMP Amplify event global thought leaders shared their ideas on emerging trends shaping our future, including a dynamic presentation from leading demographer Bernard Salt.

Here we highlight just a few of his fascinating insights into shifts in Australia's demography – how Australia's lagging behind in innovation, why so many people choose to live abroad, how we compare to the Australia of sixty years ago and shifts in retirement.

Australia needs to foster innovation to keep up

Unlike Australia, the USA has, a culture of innovation. It has been able to reinvent itself as an economy, culture and people on a global level. Salt calls this 'world class benchmarking'.

A great way to see this is to look at the top ten companies in the USA, based on market capitalisation. One thing is very clear, half of the biggest businesses in America today were formed in a single generation.

United States of America Year founded USbn
1. Apple 1976 690
2. Google 1998 565
3. Microsoft 1975 490
4. Berkshire Hathaway 1955 402
5. Amazon.com 1994 386
6. Facebook 2004 381
7. Exxon Mobil 1870 343
8. JPMorgan Chase 1799 310
9. Johnson & Johnson 1886 309
10. Wells Fargo  1852 283

Despite America being 13 times bigger than Australia, economically and demographically, looking at Australia’s top ten companies based on market capitalisation, you'll notice a big difference. Putting aside Macquarie Group, the most recent big business created in Australia occurred back in 1924—that's almost one hundred years ago. 

Australia Year founded USbn
1. BHP Biliton 1885 198
2. Commonwealth Bank 1911 108
3. Westpac Banking 1817 83
4. ANZ 1835 65
5. National Australia Bank 1893 62
6. Telstra 1901 46
7. CSL 1916 39
8. Wesfarmers  1914 35
9. Woolworths 1924 25
10. Macquarie Group 1970 22

What this list really tells us is that if Australia wants to keep up, we must develop a culture of innovation.

'We are not innovative, we are not creative, we are not entrepreneurial. It comes down to the heartland. The heartland of America admires entrepreneurship, but to the contrary, Australia is the third richest on earth and is settling for complacent prosperity', says Salt.

Transnational residency

An increasingly common phenomenon is to make your money in one country but live in another, particularly for our greatest wealth generating nation—China. We saw it in the nineties in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where many would park their family and lifestyle in Dubai to get out of a troubled region. The same applies to Russian billionaires who you’ll find residing in London or other European cities and commuting to Moscow.

Many Chinese choose Australia because of the better lifestyle options. Salt believes the Chinese will continue to do so for as long as the Australian and Chinese regulatory partnership allows it.

How the average Australian house has changed since the 1950s

Out went the back verandah, in came the deck, and now we have the alfresco area. 

1950s Today
¼ acre block 500m2 block
3 bedroom brick veneer, 1 bathroom  4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Kids slept in bunk beds (two in each room) Everyone has their own room
Mum and Dad plus four kids  Mum and Dad plus two kids 
Dad is the breadwinner
Mum is stay at home house wife
Two income earners 

Once upon a time guests and suitors were entertained in the front room of the house, known as the good room or the parlour. Often this room would have a mahogany side stand with a silver tea service which signified the wealth, prosperity and social status of the household.

These days, the kitchen is the wealth and prosperity hub of the home. This is where you’ll mostly find your guests milling around. Typically, an island bench made from Italian marble, kitchen sink with German tap ware and Danish soft closing mechanisms for our minimalist cabinetry. 'We’re impressed by these cosmopolitan influences on our changeable migrant culture—the most dynamic migrant culture on earth', says Salt.  

He also spoke about life expectancy in 1937, 1977 and what it is today—what this means for retirement and what retirees are seeking. Interestingly, the most common age for retirement these days is 58, not 65, and time in retirement is being used as an opportunity for baby boomers to reinvent themselves. They’ve worked all their life, raised their children, paid their taxes, got their super and are ready to be rewarded.  

Hear more about our shifting retirements, China and its remarkable growth story plus more fascinating trends in the full video here. 

Bernard Salt, is an author and columnist with The Australian and Herald Sun newspapers. One of Australia's leading social commentators who uses demographic and social change to interpret how society and business might evolve. 

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