Right now, Australia ranks 55th in the world in terms of population, yet we have the 18th-largest economy and the eighth-highest standard of living. And the way we work is changing, as is our entire economy – it’s rapidly transforming into a knowledge and service economy and surprising as this sounds to some people, that transformation is going to keep us wealthy, not make us poorer.
Nevertheless, all these changes are unsettling, at least until we come to terms with how they affect us personally and how we can make the most of them. Really, though, change is nothing new. Had we been living in the beginning of the 20th century rather than the 21st century, we’d have lived through dramatic change, too: electricity transformed peoples’ lives; railways brought the cities and the bush closer together, the agrarian economy gave way to the industrial economy and the telephone revolutionised communication.
And for the most part, those changes were for the good. Australian life expectancy increased by 50%; household density halved and our house size quadrupled; medicine advanced in leaps and bounds; we got clean water and sewage, air travel and motor cars, and the internet. Our population rose five times, our standard of living rose six times and our GDP in real terms rose 32.5 times.
I think the trick is to understand the changes that are taking place now and figure out how to make the most of them. Kofi Anan the other day on TV said something like ‘You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can change the direction of your sail’ and that about sums it up.
Questions for discussion
How has the changing economy and the changes in the ways people work affected you? What changes do you anticipate in your industry over the next few years? What steps can you take to make the most of these changes?