Australia – let the good times roll, but don’t be complacent – says Bernard Salt

Australia – let the good times roll, but don’t be complacent – says Bernard Salt
February 16, 2017 Anne Fulwood

We reached peak smashed avocado and feta at Ogilvy PR this week, when Australia’s leading demographer, Bernard Salt of KPMG, shared his insights into the mind and the mood of Australia in 2017.

The avocado reference is part of his broader argument that we are living in an “era of entitlement” – and his recent column in The Australian went viral after he discussed cost of living, discretionary spending and “middle-aged moralisers”.

At Ogilvy, he emphasised to us that 25 years of prosperity has created a culture of aspiration and entitlement. The fact is, according to his KPMG Demographics research – based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data – there has been no recession or negative growth in Australia since the early 1990s.

If you’re born after about 1991 – you’ve never known a recession, or negative GDP, in Australia.  But your parents or grandparents have.  Will the good times roll on?  How will we deal with a recession?

Are we agile enough – personally and in business – to adjust?

Bernard Salt believes that Australians need to shift our thinking and be much more proactive about innovation and new business opportunities.

Where is the work of the future?  The top six (6) sectors for growth and opportunity, to Nov 2016, are:

  • Healthcare & social assistance
  • Professional/Services/Scientific/Technology
  • Education & Training
  • Public Admin & Safety
  • Retail Trade
  • Accommodation & Food

If we want to find work – at any age and at any skill level – Bernard Salt says we need to have “fittability, flexibility and fluidity”.

Further, the “soft skills” are an absolute necessity. By that, he means our capacity for communication – especially when you’re looking for work, or wanting to stay in work. It’s imperative that we are able to engage with new work colleagues and fit in – “fittability”.

Knowledge is the driver of business of the future.  We must give everyone opportunity to learn the STEM skills: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.

However, for unskilled workers among us – made redundant by the closure or diminution of certain industries (ie manufacturing) – there is a social responsibility to ensure we give them opportunities to learn new skills, retrain for another industry and have gainful employment.

And finally, a big tick for Australians as the “most tolerant, absorbable people on earth.” As Bernard points out, we are a nation that absorbs the influences of other cultures.  For example, 42% of Sydney residents are born overseas, as are 41% of Perth residents, and 30% in Brisbane.  It just adds to the demand, and the business opportunities.

Stand by too, for the massive predicted growth as middle class China goes on holiday.  Note that 8 of the top 10 cities in China (total population, circa 100million) have direct flight connections to Australia.

In the end, why do we all want to be in Australia?  As Bernard made very clear – it’s all about lifestyle. We are obsessed with lifestyle and it will continue to affect every aspect of our economy.

As long as we are agile, we innovate, we tolerate, we communicate and we generate opportunities, we surely can keep the good times rolling!