55+ year olds will change chemical demand

Boomers Jun11.pngLast week’s European New Normal seminar built on the successful Q1 launch in Singapore.

Attendees came from a wide variety of businesses. This led to very lively discussion and workshops, as people debated the likely impact of the major demographic changes underway:

• There was a 44% increase between 1970-2010 in the number of 25 – 54 year old Western BabyBoomers (those born between 1946-70)
• They were the world’s wealthiest and largest-ever generation

• They drove a surge in global chemical consumption, as this is the age when people’s need for housing, autos and electronics is at its greatest
• As the chart shows, this cohort (orange column) peaked at 392 million in 2010, and is now set to decline.
• Equally, the number of 0 -24 year olds (blue) fell to only 284 million in 2010, from 310 million in 1970

• The 55+ age group (green) is now key to future demand. By 2030, it will be 36% of the total Western population (arrowed line, right hand scale)

This means demand patterns are about to change quite dramatically, as John Richardson and I discuss in our new free eBook ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal (Chapter 2 is published next week).

Those aged over 55 years do not have the same needs as younger people, as their families have generally grown up and left home. They also have to save more and spend less, as they have an extra 10 years of life expectancy compared to their parents’ generation.

We also know very little about their potential needs. The 55+ group hardly existed even 50 years ago, when Western life expectancy was still around 65 years. And the over-55s are still largely ignored by consumer product companies, in spite of their increasing purchase power.

Similarly, the decline of the 25-54 generation in the West means emerging economies will have to focus on domestic consumption instead of exports to the West (now 46% of China’s GDP, for example).

This will lead to major changes in their demand. Even well-off rural consumers only have typical incomes of $100-$500/month.

The next New Normal seminar will be in Houston, USA in October. John and I will hope to see you there.

About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. He also serves as a Global Expert for the World Economic Forum. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry and the global economy over the next 12 – 18 months. It looks behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in critical areas such as oil prices, China and Emerging Markets, currencies, autos, housing, economic growth and the environment. Please do join me and share your thoughts. Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.

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