The world in 2014: Shrinking populations, shrinking productivity

Feb 02 2014, 03:07 IST
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SummaryEven in a poor country like India, life expectancy has increased by five years in just the last decade, while birth rates have been falling.

Contemporary trends suggest clearly that adults are living longer and fewer children are being born in countries that account for half the world’s population. Even in a poor country like India, life expectancy has increased by five years in just the last decade, while birth rates have been falling. What this means for the global population is that in six or seven years from now, over 50% of the world will face shrinking populations and a corresponding rise in the number of old people.

In global terms, it means that in the richest countries of the world, tax bases will shrink and these countries will be spending more on old-age benefits. In India, this will apply to children of retired parents, who will be living well into their 90s. In some parts of the world, a shrinking population also means a smaller workforce. The prediction is that this will lead to a reduced gross domestic product in most of the world.

Big data and you

The amount of data in our world has been exploding, and analysing large data sets—so-called big data—will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation and consumer retail, as per research by MGI and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office. Leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data. Indeed, the increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media and the Internet of Things, as it is being called, has huge implications for individuals and society as well.

Computerised sensing and broadcasting abilities are being incorporated into our physical environment, there is data flowing from sensor networks, your social media usage, surveillance cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles and increasing use of electronic services for all our normal use is a log of where we have been and where we are going. In the future, these big data streams will be integrated into services, platforms and programmes that will provide a window into all our lives and our future.

Surveillance and transparency

Big Brother will be watching even more closely. Edward Snowden revealed the amazing extent to which the US government was conducting mass surveillance and it suggested that most governments, including in India, were doing the same. The excuse is anti-terrorism and anti-crime, but that has enabled agencies to bypass privacy laws and judicial protection, and conduct cyber surveillance and data mining on

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