Written by Eamonn Noonan,
Europe faces both challenges and opportunities: some readily apparent – others still hidden. Foresight is needed; a habit of lifting the view from everyday concerns, to take a look at what else is coming over the horizon. The Global Trendometer seeks to flag emerging issues, and to bring new perspectives to those already under consideration. A new edition includes essays on African demographics, taxation, and international trade, and shorter pieces on issues ranging from the digitisation of journalism, new weapons technology, and the scarcity of sand.
Demographics, taxation, trade, and more
This publication includes detailed analysis of three trends:
- Demographic transition in Africa
Africa’s population is set to double in the next few decades. This can give the continent a powerful lift, or it can intensify existing problems. In similar circumstances elsewhere, an initial fall in the mortality rate was followed by a fall in the birth rate, resulting in a demographic dividend. The empowerment of women is crucial if Africa is to follow a similar path.
- Taxation and redistribution:
Revelations of large scale tax avoidance and concerns about inequality have prompted a new look at taxation policy, also in relation to redistribution. The influential view that economic growth is key to redistribution is being challenged by research suggesting that the arrow of causation goes in the other direction: that redistribution helps economic growth.
- International trade: between multilateralism and protectionism
After the financial crisis, international trade is growing more slowly. But are we seeing a major change – a shift from multilateral trade to protectionism? What factors would drive this change of direction, and what would hinder it? What policy options might mitigate this trend or deal with its impact?
The Global Trendometer also includes concise presentations on other issues. These are:
- the decline of traditional journalism,
- advances in weapons technology,
- the scarcity of sand,
- gender imbalance in China,
- the need to reuse water,
- the decline of the middle class, and
- new ways to measure socio-economic progress.
In each case, a two-page spread presents key trends, uncertainties and possible disruptions.
The Global Trendometer is a series by the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS). It offers Members of the European Parliament a concise overview of significant medium- and long-term trends. The Trendometer considers issues facing Europe in coming decades, many of which are complex and cross-sectoral. The aim is to identify policy options and contribute to informed discussion; it does not make policy recommendations.
Look before you leap
Foresight can help us to tackle an issue before it becomes a problem, and a problem before it becomes a crisis. In a period of rapid change, it helps to look for signs of new trends in different sectors, and across sectors. This can give clues about how to make the most of opportunities and how to minimise risks. ‘Look before you leap’ is still a useful adage, especially at a time when there is vast scope for uniformed or misinformed decisions.
Read the complete study on ‘Global Trendometer: Essays on medium- and long-term global trends – Summer 2017‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.