Media

The trends that will change where and how we live

BERNARD SALT
The Australian
January 19, 2012

Stuck in a boring meeting? No problem. Simply pull out your smart phone and teleport to a place where your ennui is appreciated, even admired. Source: AFP
WHAT are the key trends that will shape the way we behave, where we choose to live and how we work in 2012? Here are my views on the three most important social and demographic trends for the coming year and beyond.

Behavioural: The Rise of Techno Teleporting: The concept of teleporting has been around in science fiction for some time: this is the idea that you can dematerialise in one location and instantaneously rematerialise in another. And think of the time, effort, money and carbon footprint saved from all that old-fashioned physical transportation across land, sea and air.

Well, all those traditional forms of transport – the plane, the train, the car and even the bicycle – are rendered all but obsolete with the arrival of the smartphone.

Are you a bit bored in that meeting, while waiting for the movie to start or sitting opposite a loved one as they tell you a tedious story? Note: any story is tedious if it doesn’t involve you. (What? You expect me to sit here and listen to you talk about other people!)

If you feel frustrated by these situations then here’s what you do. You whip out your smartphone and you search for something more exciting: answer an email, review a joke sent by a mate, scroll incoming texts, check your Facebook status; tweet your fans – sorry, followers – that you are, like, trapped in, like, the most boring meeting ever, he-he, and within seconds back will come the validation you so desperately crave.

In the 21st century there is no need to put up with boring situations or tedious people. You don’t actually excuse and remove yourself – you techno-teleport yourself from tedium into excitement and/or validation.

Techno-teleporting is a winning concept for two reasons: it offers cheap and accessible communication, but it also delivers self-esteem.

No one need subjugate their time and engagement merely in order to satisfy others; with techno-teleporting we are all at the top of our own pyramid of self-esteem.

And this is why social media is surely the most important social development of the 2010s decade.

Business needs to master the medium. The great challenge in property, and indeed in all customer-focused business, is how to connect a product into the new world order of the way individuals now see themselves. An apartment must not only meet needs, but it must also now validate and reinforce the brand of who you are.

Geo-demographic: The Great Regional Resurgence: After a decade of drought and even more years of demographic erosion, the regions are finding a new engagement with the Australian people.
For a generation it has been the coast that has attracted retirees, transients, visitors, lifestylers and others no longer dependent on city jobs. But inland regional options are rapidly surfacing largely due to the rains which have injected spending into formerly parched pastoral and grazing towns.

More workers generate more spending, bringing demographic resurgence, self-confidence and house price competition to regional cities like Dubbo, Wagga, Ballarat, Mildura and Mt Gambier.
The west’s wheatbelt remains dry, but in that state a familiar force is driving The Great Regional Resurgence: mining. Suddenly, the fastest growing communities are no longer coast-side but inland, accessed by an airport by phantom resident workers who fly in and out. Ultimately, this new-found spending and wealth must translate into a cultural and political force more confident of demanding their share of the investment in infrastructure.

In the final dying, writhing years of the boom it was Sydney and the intoxicant of financial services bonuses that propelled top-end spending. Wealth in the 2010s, or at least 2012, will be differently configured. Get thee to the regions to capitalise upon the on-flow from a rising economic force.

Workforce: The Rise of Older Workers: Again for decades, older workers, defined haphazardly as the over-55s, have been consigned to the demographic dustbin of retirement or near-retirement. Not any more, and most certainly not in this year or in this decade. Some say it was because of the global financial crisis that those boomers are choosing to remain in the workplace.

But this shift to engage with older workers was always going to happen in this decade. And the reason is that baby boomers are unable to live frugally in the early years of retirement.

This will most surely lead to social change where diversity is suddenly measured by the number of workers over 60 in an organisation. This in turn will require businesses to reorganise work allocations: younger workers will complete more physically demanding tasks, leaving filing, mentoring, sorting, reporting and measuring to older workers.

Given modern society’s predilection for political correctness, I suspect this latent social movement is waiting for a leader, an Old-Worker Messiah, if you like, to lead old boomers out of the workplace wilderness and into that mythical happy land of Fashionable Workplace Minorities.

KPMG Partner Bernard Salt is an adjunct professor at Curtin Business School

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