A chapter of the book, Generation Move, highlights the 4bn restless young people who will transform human geography by voting with their feet. Will they see themselves as global citizens, or will their movements drive the promotion and protection of their national identity?
It’s both. And both evolve. The notion that people are tuning back into their heritage doesn’t mean they’re reproducing the past. The example in the book is Germany, because they are embracing changing German-ness. They call it Die neuen Deutschen – the new Germans – and they are creating a debate about what it means to be German. In China, [youth] are becoming in touch with their past – what are called Millennial Maoists, more extreme [socialists] than their parents.
We can say categorically, however, that young people across the whole world – whether rich, poor, north, south, east or west – believe in connectivity, mobility and sustainability as their three cardinal virtues. That’s a really big deal; people have never had so much of a sense of global consciousness in a feedback loop with their own identity. So, when you have Black Lives Matter, or defund the police, or general social justice pressure and sustainability movements, it’s because there are young people who see each other and they have much more trust [in their peers than older generations].
You describe a future war for young talent. What is underpinning this and what will fewer, more mobile young people mean for the future of work, employment and skills?
You have collapsing fertility already – Millennials are not having children, and that pattern will probably continue with Generations Z and Alpha, so that means fewer young people. Then it depends on where; for example, a country could be socially liberal and desirable but environmentally degraded, so people may want to leave. Some countries are offering benefits and tax breaks to young people, like Poland, to desperately stem the emigration of talented youth. If you are a Polish Millennial, you will not pay taxes, but many Polish youth think ‘Nah, the government still sucks because they’re conservative.’
That also applies to the labour force. When we consider the future of work, some companies are choosing remote work for ever, others are adjusting salaries based on where people are moving to – if you live in Panama, you’re not going to make a San Francisco salary. Then there is the four-day working week factor, which Japan and Finland are trying, which will raise employment, because you’re creating jobs for people the other three days of the week. Of course, automation will take over some roles, which means diffusion of skilled and unskilled people. In reality, all of this is already happening every day.
1. While Covid-19 has accelerated some of the mega-trends underpinning global migration, technology, the climate crisis and politics will continue to play a major role in why, when and how people move nations.
2. For brands and organisations, consider how you can instil a more elastic approach to your business workings and values to ensure you are able to retain talent and relevancy in a more nomadic future.
3. By 2050, global borders and continents could be re-zoned based on the benefits or attributes they offer – with young people set to define and augment populations based on their changing values and needs.
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