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The view from Australia’s best known demographer is that the global upheaval of the pandemic has shifted the thinking of middle Australia, with great generational and attitudinal change blowing in.


In his presentation titled The Customer of the Future: Savvier, Flexier, Lifestyle Obsessed, The Demographics Group Managing Director Bernard Salt also assured the audience that Australia’s economic prosperity is not under threat.


Australia currently ranks as the 14th largest economy in the world, an impressive feat for a country with a relatively miniscule population, according to Salt. “There is no country ranked above Australia that has a lesser population. We are really rich per capita,” he said.


Projections from the United Nations’ Population Division suggest the world’s population will grow from 8 million currently to 10 million over the next 60 years before plateauing by 2080. While this will place increased demand on resources, food, energy, space, security and lifestyle, Salt said Australia is well placed to deal with such demands.


“We should be a prosperous nation for the rest of the century,” he observed.


Salt delivered three key messages for the RESET audience.


1. Australians are lifestyle obsessed 

More than any other nation, Australians spend their wealth and prosperity on housing, quality of life and lifestyle, according to Salt. “We are a lifestyle-obsessed people. Anything that delivers quality of life and lifestyle to the Australian people is a good business to be in.”


The lifestyle obsession was obvious during the pandemic when people chose to flee to “lifestyle zones” – regional areas blessed with nature but also cafes and other city-like amenities – but also through the rise of the fly-in fly-out concept of the 2008-12 resources boom. Where previous mining booms led to the creation of towns, such as Ballart, today Australians are not willing to sacrifice their comfortable lifestyles.


2. Customer behaviour is changing

Salt likened the Covid-19 pandemic to a war in its impact on Australians’ behaviour and attitude. 


Among the greatest changes was what Salt described as “the great app shift”. While most observers lambasted the federal government’s Covid Safe app for failing to work, Salt said the $20 million spent on its development was money well spent because it introduced Australians of all ages to app usage.


As one example, Salt pointed to the widespread usage of the HotDoc app through which Australians can book doctor appointments, freeing up receptionists at GP practices to carry out more important tasks – amounting to what Salt described as a productivity gain.


Working from home was another behavioural change turbo-charged by the pandemic, playing into “the relentless pursuit of lifestyle [that] defines Australia”.


3. Settle in for the skills shortage

Closing Australia’s borders for three years delivered a blow to the country’s population growth and availability of talent. Projections for the next 40 years indicate ongoing low levels of incoming population, Salt said, adding: “We’re going to have to get used to shallower labour pools.”


Like anything, the skills shortage challenge can also provide opportunities. “A good business to be in would be those that deliver digitisation, that magnify the impact of labour – such as artificial intelligence,” Salt said.

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