What will life be like in 2030

Humanity will be better off in 2030, but not well enough: What data can tell us about the future

The future belongs to rich Americans and the young Indian middle class. And of course the old man. Such insights - and much more - can be gained with the tools of the World Data Lab. The start-up wants to democratize access to data that reveals something about human development. It was co-founded by World Bank economist Wolfgang Fengler. In an interview with 1E9, he explains how the corona pandemic is already causing more poverty.

From Wolfgang Kerler

The World Poverty Clock is currently running in the wrong direction. Actually, more than 60 people would have to make the leap out of poverty every minute if the world wanted to achieve the United Nations' most important sustainability goal: the end of absolute poverty by 2030, in which people, by definition, live when they live less than 1 per day $ 25 is available. But because of the Corona crisis, the already sluggish progress has not only slowed down, but vice versa.

The number of those affected by absolute poverty is currently increasing by 102.2 people per minute. If the global community does not change course, the number of poor will therefore not fall to 0 by 2030, but only from the current 706 million to 596 million people. This can also be read from the poverty clock developed by the World Data Lab based in Vienna.

"The pandemic has already left extreme marks," says Wolfgang Fengler, one of the co-founders of the lab, about 1E9. “In contrast to 2009, we are currently experiencing a severe recession - for the first time in this century - not just regionally, but worldwide. It's a completely different league than the financial crisis. ”The long-term effects depend on how quickly the world leaves the crisis behind. “But we have at least fallen behind for a year or two,” says Fengler. "Nevertheless, Corona will not change the fact that humanity will be better off in the future, just as it is better off today than in the past."

Abstract, global data become tangible

But let's take a step back first, also because it is the thirtieth anniversary of a decisive day: July 8, 1990. On that day, the German national soccer team became world champions for the third time. And Wolfgang Fengler landed as a new high school graduate in South Africa to begin his trip across the continent. With the backpack from Cape Town to Cairo. After that, it was clear to him that he didn't want to deal with small issues professionally, but with the whole world.

As a result, he now works as an economist, more precisely as the chief economist for Southern Africa for the World Bank and is a co-founder of the World Data Lab. The start-up has set itself the goal of making available data on global population and income trends accessible and understandable. Why? "Because we want data not only to be used backwards to explain the past," says Wolfgang Fengler, "but also in real time and even with foresight."

You are the 3,766,231,368 living person in the world.

To this end, the World Data Lab has already developed three tools based on meaningfully linked data from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations and the OECD. In addition to the World Poverty Clock, this includes Population.io, which gives a fascinating insight into personal and global life expectancy.

For example, a woman who was born in Germany on July 8, 1990, receives the following information: “Do you feel young or old? You are the 3,766,231,368 living person in the world. That means that 49% of the world's population and 28% of the people in Germany are younger than you. ”She learns that - statistically speaking - she still has over 60 years to live. However, if she had been born in Nigeria, she would only have 39.6 years. With just one click, she can find out. In China, by the way, 68,603 people were born on the same day.

The world population clock runs above the personalized display on Population.io, making it possible to experience global population growth live. And not just in terms of number, but also in terms of the countries where children are born. The second in which this sentence is typed, the world population is 7,759,651,565 people. And a girl was just born in Malawi.

“The story of the World Data Lab began with Population.io, which I presented at a TED Talk in 2014,” says Wolfgang Fengler. “The basic idea at the time was to democratize data and bring demographics closer to the general public.” Inspired by the success of the project, the lab began working on the other tools - always with the aim of abstract data about global relationships - in the past, the Present and future - to be illustrated, quickly understandable and thus usable. "And not only for scientists and activists who exchange ideas about it at conferences, but also for the general public."

With the data, Wolfgang Fengler and the World Data Lab team also want to help back up social debates with facts. Because often widespread views are not supported by numbers - that starts with population growth.

"By 2030 the number of people will increase by almost 700 million to around 8.5 billion," says Fengler. “But there won't be any more children. Because, contrary to what many people think, it is not the children who are responsible for the population growth, but the adults. ”In particular, the number of the elderly will increase, he explains. “Fortunately, people are living longer and longer, so there are more. So debates about how to reduce the birth rate are of relatively little use if one wants to slow down population growth .“

Zoom to the district level

The third tool of the World Data Lab is called Market Pro and, unlike the other two, is aimed at commercial users. They receive forecasts about the development of the population and the purchasing power of the people - and not only for individual countries, but for an increasing number of countries even down to the level of individual districts. “You can zoom in and out like with Google Maps,” says Wolfgang Fengler.

The US rich are the number one market in 2030.

Another example that could be relevant for many companies: The number of “rich elderly” - that is, people over 65 who have a daily purchasing power of over 100 dollars - is currently 266,150 in the Upper Bavarian administrative district. By 2030 that number will rise to 491,357. A lucrative, growing target group. From a global perspective, however, two other segments of the population are particularly interesting. "The rich in the US will be the number one market in 2030," says Fengler. "The number two market is the lower middle class in India, people who can spend around $ 30 a day."

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Progress slows down

But to come back to the big picture again: humanity in ten years. Will it really be better? "Guaranteed," says Fengler. "Much better. Even if many people perceive it differently because we are worse off in 2020 than in 2019. But the situation is still much better than in 2010 or 2000. “By 2030, not only will poverty continue to fall, but other values ​​too - such as child mortality or crime.

Exclusively for 1E9 members: Live session with Wolfgang Fengler

Would you like to find out more about the work of the World Data Lab? See the tools in action? And get further insights into global trends from Wolfgang Fengler that are relevant for politics, business, but also science? Or do you just have a few more questions for him? Then join the digital live session on July 16 at 3 p.m. You can find information and registration here!

“But the progress will unfortunately not be as clear as it should be - and as it was in the past twenty years.” Because so far, the economic upswing in many Asian countries, above all in China and India, has provided for one significant decrease in poverty. "But Asia has almost made it by now," says Fengler. “The big challenges now lie in Africa. But we see stagnation there because some countries are making progress, while others are stepping backwards. ”The“ ultimate challenge ”for the world is therefore fighting poverty in Africa.

Incidentally, Wolfgang Fengler does not deny that forecasts based on historical data can also be wrong because they do not include events such as a pandemic. He compares the tools that the World Data Lab is developing with a navigation system. “That doesn't know a traffic jam beforehand either,” he says, “but adjusts the route and the journey time as soon as it finds out about it.” The world poverty clock also shows what he means by that. Before Corona, it was still moving in the right direction. Now progress is turning back on it.

Cover picture: Getty Images