Generational change in Asian leadership, combined with
demographic shifts and the growth in connectivity are presenting
new opportunities to Australian businesses willing to build
relationships that deepen understanding of regional
Current Asian leaders, born in the 1950s and 60s, are beginning
to hand over to a new generation schooled in the early years of
ASIA'S SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHICS
There are profound demographic differences between countries in
Asia. Sustained low birth rates in nations like Japan and China has
seen the median age rise and populations become increasingly
However, other countries like Indonesia are continuing to
experience strong population growth and have a much younger age
profile. For these countries, it will be their digitally savvy,
young people who will drive economic growth.
In China, the demographic impact of its one-child policy,
introduced in 1982, is now clearly playing out. Already one in five
Shanghai residents, some three million people, is a senior. That
ratio is forecast to rise to one in three by 2020.
Chinese pensioners will be the world's second largest
population after India by 2040, numbering around 400 million
people1. This 'greying' of the population
presents its own economic growth challenges as the proportion of
working age people declines.
SOUTHEAST ASIA'S YOUTH ADVANTAGE
Travel across the region from China to Indonesia and the
demographic differences are stark. Indonesia, with 250 million
people today, is expected to add another 100 million by the end of
this century. It's a population dominated by adolescents and
The Southeast Asian region more broadly has some strong
demographic advantages. A median age of 27 means its people are
young compared to China's median age of 35. Australia's
median is almost a decade older: at 37. The average of Europeans is
It's easier to grow an economy quickly when its people are
still young and mobile. Southeast Asia, more than almost any other
region, maintains this advantage.
THE ONLINE GENERATION SHAPING ASIA'S FUTURE
Across our region, people are also increasingly connected.
The intersection of youth and lower technology costs has
accelerated the connectivity trend, evident in the social
networking craze gripping the region.
Facebook has literally become a way of life across Southeast
Asia. Bangkok can already lay claim to having the highest
penetration of Facebook users in the world.
In Indonesia, 63 million people will access Facebook in 2015
using their mobile phone, which, at around 90 percent, is the
highest percentage of mobile logins of anywhere on earth.
Even in Myanmar, there is a huge market for new online
experiences. Falling communication costs has made mobile internet
technology available to tens of millions more people who, just a
few years ago, couldn't get their hands on an uncensored
newspaper. And for this emergent generation, adapting to continual
innovation is second nature.
Young people are leap-frogging earlier generations with their
mastery of more efficient, and often cheaper, ways of doing
business. There are game-changers in dating, in commerce and in
WeChat, a mobile text and voice messaging communication service
developed by Tencent in China, has 438 million active users; with
70 million outside of China. It is used as a replacement for many
of the services traditionally provided by western banks.
These kinds of changes show no signs of easing off, and will
likely only gather momentum as the old guard retires and moves
It will be the new generation of leaders – the offspring
of China's 'one-child' policy, Bangladesh's female
empowerment, Thailand's tech boom and Myanmar's political
liberalisation – who will be entrusted with ensuring that
Asia is a secure and prosperous region that remains good for
Generational change brings new opportunities and Australia can
make the most of it by developing the right knowledge and networks,
and through leadership.
The TPP could have a significant positive impact on the investment and financial services of Australia and Singapore.
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