Cities across the globe are facing unprecedented challenges in both the short-term and long-term. We are well aware of the short-term (pandemic-related) challenges regarding business failures within retail and hospitality, plus the shift to working from home and the acres of empty office space.
But the longer-term challenge is perhaps even more daunting – in just nine years’ time the United Nations estimates that the urban population is set to increase by almost 700m people, reaching a total of 5.2bn, an increase of almost 16%. In mid-2021, around 4.5bn of the 7.9bn people worldwide lived in towns or cities. This represents 57% of the global population. By 2030 this figure is set to reach 60%. This equates to more than 200,000 extra beds needed in cities, globally, every day until 2030.
While it would be easy to write-off this huge expected rise in urban living as a ‘developing world’ issue, it would also be wrong. The latest UK Government data on urbanisation, released in June this year, found that 56.3m Brits lived in urban areas in 2019 (82.9% of the population). While this data is ‘pre-pandemic’ the recent surge in homeworking due to COVID (or do we just call it ‘Delta’ now, it is hard to keep up), will not stop the urbanisation trend in the UK in the longer term, according to the latest The UK in 2030 report by Future Agenda.
Looking ahead with a high degree of accuracy
The report estimates that by 2030 over 85% of the UK population will live in urban areas, one of the highest rates in Europe. Future Agenda has a good track record and since 2010 it has been exploring decade-long trends with a high degree of accuracy. For example, The World in 2020, which was written in 2010, accurately anticipated a range of developments such as the global pandemic, the challenges around data privacy, the scaling up of electric and autonomous vehicles, the widespread use of drones and the building impact of solar energy.
It used a similar approach to explore the pivotal shifts ahead for the UK, following multiple expert discussions with academics, regional and central government, plus social and business leaders.
The intro to The UK in 2030 report states: ‘At a time when there is much speculation on what the next 12 months may bring, some are also looking ahead to prepare for the longer term. What will the UK be like in 2030 when the nation is post-Covid, post-Brexit and post-Johnson? Now that vaccines are being rolled out and the initial outline hard Brexit deal has been done, how will the UK fair over the decade – economically, socially and demographically? Based on numerous discussions with a wide range of experts across the UK in late 2020, this document explores some of the key potential trends for the next decade and highlights where the UK may be heading.’