Social & Human Resource Forces

The World in 2025: Social Trends 

The coming decade will bring a set of demographic shifts in the marketplace: developed economies will age, while developing economies will grow statistically younger due to higher birthrates. Race and culture lines will blur, yet consumers multicultural tastes will peak. The digital generation will turn 40, aging baby boomers won’t retire and a new generation Z – the mobile generation will hit their textbooks online.

Trends in birth, death, and migration are changing the absolute and relative size of young and old, rural and urban, and ethnic majority and minority populations within and among emerging and established powers. The populations of more than 50 countries will increase by more than a third (some more than two-thirds) by 2025. World population is projected to grow by about 1.2 billion between now and 2025 (from 6.8 billion to around 8 million). The largest increase will occur in India and China. The populations of US, Canada and other industrialized nations with relatively high immigration rates will continue to grow.

Aging World

The worlds population is aging at an unprecedented rate. Declining fertility and improved health and longevity have generated rising numbers and proportions of the older population in most of the world. In one sense, it represents a human success story of increased longevity. By 2020, roughly 60 million Americans, 1 in 6 will be over 65. The worlds population aged 80 and over is projected to increase 233% between 2008 and 2040, compared with 160% for the population over 65 and over and 33% for the total population of all ages.

As people live longer and have fewer children, family structures will transform and care options in older age may change. Shrinking ratios of workers to pensioners and people spending a larger portion of their lives in retirement will increasingly tax health and pension systems.


The US lead in highly skilled labor will likely narrow as large developing countries, particularly China, begin to reap dividends on recent investments in human capital, including education but also nutrition and healthcare. A similar decline may be found in Europe, where despite a 5 percent increase in education funding as a proportion of GDP in most countries, few universities are rated as world class.

The academic profession will become more internationally oriented and mobile but will still be structured in accordance with national circumstances. Education spending in Arab countries is roughly on par with the rest of the world in absolute terms and surpasses the global mean as a percentage of GDP, however, UN data and research findings by other institutions suggest, that training and education of Middle Eastern youth is not driven by the needs of employers, or global demand.

Women in much of Asia and Latin America are achieving higher levels of education than men, a trend that is particularly significant in a human capital-intensive global economy. Demographic data indicate a significant correlation between a higher level of female literacy and more robust GDP growth. Conversely, those regions with the lowest female literacy rates (southern and western Asia; the Arab world; and Sub-Saharan Africa) are the poorest in the world.

Improved educational opportunities for girls and women also are a contributing factor to falling birth rates worldwide—and by extension better maternal health. The long-term implications of this trend likely include fewer orphans, less malnutrition, more children in school, and other contributions to societal stability.

According to analysis by Booz & Company, 870 million global women who have not previously participated in the mainstream economy will gain employment or start their own businesses by 2020. Most of these would come from non-industrialized countries, while roughly 42 million will come from North America, Western Europe and Japan. The gender gap in earnings will narrow over the decade, approaching parity by 2020. Women will overcome the legal and traditional barriers that have historically prevented them from participating in some regions using virtual, mobile and internet technologies to run their businesses. 

View a complete list of sources consulted in the development of the global forces.

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The World in 2025 Social Trends

Overview The coming decade will bring a set of demographic shifts in the marketplace: developed economies will age, while developing economies will grow statistically younger due to higher birth
Published on December 07, 2013

An Aging World 2008 International Population Reports

Report The world’s population is aging at an unprecedented rate. This report, funded jointly by the Commerce Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, discusses the causes and implications of an aging global population.
Published on February 04, 2011

Trends in Global Higher Education Tracking an Academic Revolution

Executive Summary This report, prepared for the UNESCO 2009 World Conference on Higher Education, discusses the academic revolution that has taken place in higher education over the past half century and how demographic trends are likely to shape the world in which we live.
Published on February 04, 2011

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