Here Is Another “One Billion Consumers”: The Over 55s

Business, China, Company Strategy, Economics, Europe, US


By John Richardson

FOR too many years people have shuffled from one board meeting to the next, and one conference to the next, in order to talk meaninglessly about “the rise of China’s middle classes” and “one billion Chinese consumers”.

Why the talk has essentially been meaningless is because firstly, people bother to try and understand that what it has always meant to be middle class in China, and the rest of the emerging world, is vastly different from what it means to be middle class in the West.

And secondly, whilst yes it is of course true that China has one billion and more consumers (all you have to do to work that one out is to look at the country’s population), China is very sensibly not putting this vast army of spenders entirely into the service of overseas companies. Its government is instead doing the absolute maximum to ensure that it is Chinese companies and investors that will in the future gain the most from all the tremendous opportunities. It will, for example, be local companies like Alibaba, that gain the most from the huge growth in Internet sales and not Amazon etc.

Board meetings must therefore be more challenging, with discussions that focus on all these “grey areas”. So must every single conference paper.

And before anyone else thinks of the catchy slogan, and disappears to write some wholly misleading research paper or book on this theme, here is another one billion people to think about: The one billion who will become “New Olders”,” thanks to the increase life expectancy of the Babyboomers, between 2000 and 2030.

The above chart, based on UN Population Division data, in more detail, shows that:

  • The number of people in the New Old 55+ generation is rising from 250m in 1950 to 1.8bn by 2030.
  • In terms of total world population, their numbers will double from 11% to 22% over the same period.

You can just imagine the slickly put together, visually stunning PowerPoint slides showing armies of these people populating luxury retirement communities in Florida etc. playing endless rounds of golf and glowing with the “best that money can buy” good health.

But sadly, anyone who takes a sensible look at the next 15 years and more knows that many of this generation will struggle to get by on their pensions, and that government budgets across the developed world will struggle to cover rising healthcare costs. So the biggest opportunities for chemicals companies, and for other manufacturers, will centre on affordability and reliability –  and not luxury.


China's Latest Rate Cut: At Long Last The Right Reaction


By John Richardson HERE is the good news about China’s latest interest rate c...

Learn more

China Chemicals Exports Surge As Everything Changes


By John Richardson IN the good old days everybody could very easily export just ...

Learn more
More posts
Developed world polymers demand: layer after layer of new complexity

By John Richardson THE PROPOSITION that petrochemicals and polymers demand in the developed will see...

China rapid rebound promises another great year for petchems, but beware of the fault lines

By John Richardson IT helped immensely that as the rest of the world was shutting down, China’s fa...

Plastic rubbish: the pandemic is increasing rather than reducing the pressure for change

This is the first of a series of blog posts where I will examine the environmental paradigm shift an...

Retreat of globalisation and implications for petrochemicals

By John Richardson EVER SINCE the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and the last great geopolitical struggle...

European petrochemicals at risk of delayed demand collapse as new business model emerges

By John Richardson AS DELEGATES take part in this year’s virtual annual European Petrochemical Ass...

US polyethylene: resilient demand could be at risk from delay to new stimulus

By John Richardson THIS REMAINS a mystery that needs to be solved: why US polyethylene (PE) markets ...

China petrochemicals demand boom remains heavily reliant on finished goods exports

By John Richardson THERE will be a lot of official data released about booming consumer spending dur...

Petrochemicals and autos: the last 50 years provide little guide to the future

By John Richardson IT HAS been an amazingly half a century of innovation for the petrochemicals indu...


Market Intelligence

ICIS provides market intelligence that help businesses in the energy, petrochemical and fertilizer industries.

Learn more


Across the globe, ICIS consultants provide detailed analysis and forecasting for the petrochemical, energy and fertilizer markets.

Learn more

Specialist Services

Find out more about how our specialist consulting services, events, conferences and training courses can help your teams.

Learn more

ICIS Insight

From our news service to our thought-leadership content, ICIS experts bring you the latest news and insight, when you need it.

Learn more