Five Global Shifts Reshaping The World

Jul 22, 2021

Five Global Shifts Reshaping The World


The five global shifts reshaping the world we live in. What are the implications for organisations, industries and wider society, right now and in the future? How can we shape and respond to them?

Rapid Urbanisation

Our future is set to be urban. Today, more than half of the population live in urban areas and 1.5 million people are added to the global urban population every week. A staggering 90% of this urban population growth will take place in African and Asian countries with rapid urbanisation placing huge demands on infrastructure, services, job creation, climate and environment. But this global urban transition presents significant opportunities too, with vast potential for emerging cities to act as powerful and inclusive development tools.

1.5 million people are added to the global urban population every week

Climate Change & Resource Scarcity

Climate change is, of course, a very long-term trend. However, the biggest change in this area over the last couple of years has been the increased certainty and accuracy of scientific predictions about the rate and effect of human impact on the climate.

While scientific debate continues, we believe the fundamental analysis of the challenge facing the planet is correct: the planet is unable to support current models of production and consumption. Without significant global action, average temperatures are predicted to increase by more than two degrees Celsius, a threshold at which scientists believe significant and potentially irreversible environmental changes will occur. At the same time, the pressure on resources will increase dramatically.

A growing global population is expected to demand 35% more food by 2030. And the type of food increasingly demanded as populations’ incomes rise – vegetable oils, dairy, meat, fish and sugar – will have a particularly high impact on energy and water. The interconnectivity between trends in climate change and resource scarcity is amplifying the impact: climate change could reduce agricultural productivity by up to a third across large parts of Africa over the next 60 years. Globally, demand for water will increase by 40% and for energy by 50%.

In short, the world’s current economic model is pushing beyond the limits of the planet’s ability to cope.

Shift In Global Economic Power

Emerging economies that were growing rapidly, particularly Brazil and Russia, are both now in recession. Commodity prices have played a considerable role in sending these economies into reverse, although this has been compounded by political developments in these countries.

The previous major engine of global growth, China, has also seen its economy slowing. Although still growing at a brisk pace compared with mature western economies, by the double digit standards that China set for itself in past decades it is unquestionably experiencing slower growth. This has happened at the same time as, and is related to, China rebalancing its economic growth model from reliance on exports and capital investment towards domestic consumption and services. One consequence of this has been lower demand for imported commodities, which has been one factor depressing global prices, particularly in areas like metals.

Demographic & Social Change 

By 2030 the world’s population is projected to rise by more than 1 billion, bringing the total to over eight billion. 97% of this population growth will come from emerging or developing countries. Equally significantly, people in all regions are living longer and having fewer children. The result is that the fastest growing segment of the population will be the over 65s – there will be 390 million more of them in 2030 than in 2015.

The pace of change will vary substantially across different regions. Africa’s population – the fastest growing – is set to double by 2050. Europe’s is projected to shrink. Fertility in Latin America will remain higher than mortality. The average age in Japan in 2050 will be 53 – in Nigeria it will be 23.

These developments have profound implications both locally and globally. All countries will need to implement bold policies to cope with these demographic changes. 

By 2030 the world's population is projected to rise by more than 1 billion

Technology Breakthroughs

Digital change is constant, ubiquitous and fast. Emerging technologies and global megatrends are colliding to disrupt both business and society. Little wonder that 51% of CEOs are now making significant changes in how they use technology to assess and deliver on wider stakeholder expectations. There have been periods of intensive change in history before, of course. But unlike other periods of significant upheaval – the agricultural or industrial revolutions, for example – the digital revolution has no boundaries or borders. Emerging economies are adopting technologies as fast – or in some cases faster – than developed markets.


  1. Megatrends – PWC  


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