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Changing Demographics: Q&A with Andrew Bolwell

By Srdjan Vejvoda, Managing Editor, HP Labs — December 9, 2016

Andrew Bolwell is the Global Head of Technology Vision and HP Tech Ventures.  In this role he is responsible for driving HP’s long-term innovation and technology vision for HP, as well as for HP's venture activities, working across start-up and venture capital communities to identify, source, commercialize and invest in early-stage disruptive technologies.  Liaising with HP Labs, business groups, customers and partners, Andrew is defining new market segments, products and business models that will help shape HP’s future growth.



Today we’re sharing Part 3 of a five-part series discussing HP’s future technology vision, and how key global forces known as Megatrends are being used to shape that vision and our future. Megatrends are global socio-economic, demographic and technological forces that will have a sustained and transformative impact on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal lives in unimaginable ways in the years to come.

One of the megatrends that will dramatically shift the tapestry of our society is Changing Demographics. We sat down with Andrew to learn more about this trend and how it will impact our future.

Q. How would you describe Changing Demographics?

A. On one hand, we have a new generation that is beginning to enter the workforce, a generation known as Generation Z (Gen Z).  This is the generation born between 1995 and 2010, and numbers 2.6bn globally.  Gen Z comprises about a quarter of the US population and will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020.  By 2020, Gen Z will make up 36% of the GLOBAL workforce. [Source: US Consensus Bureau]


This is the first generation that has never known a world without the Internet and who were practically born with a smart phone in their hands.  Having never spent a day of their lives offline, they are acutely aware of the issues and global challenges happening in the world around them.  As a result, they are 54% more likely to say they want to have an impact on the world as compared to millennials. [Source: Sparks & Honey, Millennial Branding, Salt]


Yet at the same time more countries are becoming super-aged, which means more than 20 percent of their population is over the age of 65. By 2030, we’ll have twice as many people over age 65—nearly one billion.


In fact, thanks to people living older and having few babies, per the World Bank Databank, by 2060 we’ll have 3B more people over the age of 30 than we do today. China is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Today 26% of their population is over the age of 55. And according to UN Population data, that number will grow to 43% by 2030. To deal with this shift, China recently rescinded their one child policy after 35 years.

Q. How will this new populous affect the workforce? 

A. Gen Z’s attitudes toward work and employers is very different than previous generations, as almost half of them consider working for a company that helps make the world a better place as important of a consideration as salary.  Their nomadic lifestyles have them craving more flexibility in where, how and when they work.  As active participants in the “Gig Economy” –an environment where short-term, freelance positions are preferred over full-time jobs—Gen Z is a driving force behind new collaborative learning, technology and workforce trends.


Q. What impact will this have on global economies?

A. An older population leads to a shrinking and aging workforce, putting increased pressure on healthcare and retirement. The aging workforce will also put a strain on economies and government spending, simply because as the world ages, there will be fewer people working to support the number of people retiring.

On the bright side, an aging working population also means a significant market opportunity. Often referred to as the “silver generation”, this population has a greater purchasing power than their younger counterparts, and represents a significant untapped opportunity for companies in the future. The European Commission estimates that by 2020, the spending power of people over 50 will reach $15T. This will create a significant shift for brands who today devote the majority of their marketing spend to people under the age of 30, even though in places like North America half of the money spent is actually by people over the age of 50.


Those under 50 might see different spending patterns however based on where they live in the world and their financial status.  It’s expected that most of the world will be middle class by 2018. But this global middle class will not be uniform across the world, neither will it be homogenous.


In developed regions like the U.S. and Europe the middle class is on a decline.  In stark contrast Asia-Pacific is expected to account for 66% of the global middle class in 2030, representing nearly $32.5 trillion in global middle class consumption.  This is leading the way to new consumption patterns with value brands rising in importance in declining middle class regions and luxury and premium branded goods consumption rising in emerging and newly developed countries.


Q. How does HP use this information to stay ahead of this change to reinvent experiences for the future?
A. We are constantly looking at Megatrends to determine what we must we do, based on where the world is headed demographically, economically, and environmentally.  Using this information, we ask ourselves how can HP best cater to a diverse and aging workforce and customer base?  How do we best serve customers in emerging economies?  How can we best support the passions of GenZ to change the world?  This might mean engineering simple, secure, and seamless printing and computing for the “silver generation”.  Or how commercial wearables can make us more productive at work and on the go.  Or exploring how disruptive healthcare solutions and robotic solutions can drastically improve our lives.

At the “world’s largest startup,” our work on Megatrends – including Changing Demographics – is not only about predicting where the world is headed, but about boldly ensuring a successful and relevant place in it for HP and our customers.
To read more from Andrew, visit AndrewBolwell.com and follow him on Twitter