Key demographic and population trends have emerged in the 21st century – with growing, younger populations in Africa and South Asia becoming ever more important future markets. It means brands must challenge their assumptions about language inclusivity to thrive in an increasingly globalized and digital world.
The demographics of the human population are changing. The United Nations estimates that the global population numbered 8bn at the end of 2022 and made a prediction that it will peak at over 10bn in the 2080s. The pace of growth is slowing and obviously it’s not uniform across the world.
More of us will be living in cities (60% by 2060) and more of us are crossing borders: since the start of the century migration has increased with 25% more people no longer living in the country of their birth.
Human population patterns and trends will be different in the next six decades when compared to the 20th century. But it seems that many brands have yet to understand them, let alone respond, or even embrace what will be dramatic changes in how, and where, our species lives on the planet.
The new global North – South divide
If the last century was marked by a distinction between East and West, then the 21st might see the world developing a North – South divide. Countries with older, often shrinking, populations can now typically be found in the north of the planet. In Japan the average age of people is over 48. The average German is 46 and in the UK it’s 42 and there is no prospect of those levels decreasing in the foreseeable future.
Look south for younger populations. In Kenya the average age is 20 and in Nigeria it’s 19. Generally, the world’s population growth is, unsurprisingly, focused on nations like this further south on the planet. The UN predicts that 50% of human population increase in the next 25 years will come from just six countries: Congo, Egypt, India, Nigeria, Philippines and Tanzania. The population of Africa is predicted to be 4bn by 2100: a quadrupling in a century.
Don’t blame the young
Internationally it is not unusual for people to want to consume media and receive communications in their own languages. It’s also a natural human trait to take pride in your national history and heritage. 44% of people say that the dominance of websites in English is frustrating, according to our Unlocked 2023 report. Our research also found that globally, 71% of people identify with and take great pride in their nation’s history, culture, and language. In Kenya, India, Nigeria and Ghana this sentiment clocks in at over 90%.
This is unsurprising. Digital cultural norms (consider Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram) mean you must tell the world, people you do not know, about yourself. It is vital to develop an individual identity, create a personal narrative and, in essence, present your honed unique brand to the world. Leveraging your national identity is a powerful differentiator on the global stage.
And, it seems, that younger populations demand even more from brands when it comes to speaking their language and require language inclusivity. 48% of people around the world aged 18 -34 say it’s extremely important to be able to deal with companies online in their own language.
Are you speaking their language?
In this age of globalization it’s tempting to imagine that we all have one global language. English.
And whilst billions of people have their own understanding and talents in English, people think in their own language. Our local language is usually what we speak at home as we eat. That is how we feel most comfortable and competent communicating.
The true test of inclusivity and diversity isn’t whether one size fits all but whether we can celebrate the diversity and difference of the 10bn people who will populate planet Earth in 2080. And those people represent your future customers.
The findings and statistics quoted in this article come from a recent report by RWS: Unlocked 2023: In Understanding We Trust. The report examines current and future trends impacting how brands can drive effective and trusted communications with global audiences. To find out more, you can download the report here.