10 Global Insights into a Transforming World from 2019
Every day, global trends are reshaping society and the business landscape.
Today’s infographic from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) presents a snapshot of 10 insights into how the world is changing, based on its research work from 2019.
How did we get here, and where are we going?
A Connected World in Flux
Globalization is making the world “shrink” every day, as humans and trade become increasingly connected. However, there are signs that point to a new phase of globalization that is leading to different outcomes than prior years.
1. Globalization in Transition
Global exports are fundamentally shifting. Although manufactured goods are traded at higher volumes, certain services have grown up to three times faster.
The compound annual growth rate (CAGR, 2007-2017) for different sectors are as follows:
|Sectors||Global CAGR (% of GDP)|
|Telecom and IT services||7.8%|
|IP charges services||5.2%|
|Financial and insurance services||3.2%|
This has a profound impact on the mix of industries and countries involved in this shift away from goods and towards services. Asia is coming of age in this phase of the global economy.
2. Asia’s Ascent
Trade with and within Asia is rising, and shows no signs of slowing down. The region’s economic might is growing rapidly, and with higher disposable incomes, consumption is growing too.
In China, there is a new dynamic at play.
3. China’s Changing Relationships
Compared to other developed nations, China’s economy is relatively closed. The country is re-balancing its focus towards domestic consumption and relying less on other countries for trade, technology, and capital.
At the same time, the rest of the world is increasingly exposed and tied to China for the same things—and such unequal engagement has a ripple effect on everything from financial markets to flows of technology and innovation.
Technology and the Future of Work
New technologies like artificial intelligence are sparking new opportunities, but they also raise questions about the future of work across geographies and gender.
4. Increasingly Digital India
As the costs of devices and data plummet, India’s digital adoption is surging—it closely competes with China for the highest digital population across everything from smartphone ownership to social media users.
As mass adoption of digital technologies continues, it is poised to add significant economic value to the Indian economy.
|Digital sector||Current economic value||Maximum potential value (2025E)|
|Core digital services|
e.g. IT business process management
|Newly digitizing sectors|
e.g. Financial services
Companies worldwide are also integrating new technologies—changing the nature of work itself.
5. New Geography of Work
By 2030, talent and investment in the U.S. will be concentrated in a few regions—with 60% of job growth coming from just 25 hubs.
These are just some examples of places which see double-digit potential net job growth by 2030. However, all regions will face unique challenges in the next decade.
6. Automation’s Effect on Gender at Work
Globally, women and men are at similar risk of losing their jobs to automation by 2030.
- Women: 107 million FTEs
Share of female employment, 2017: 20%
- Men: 163 million FTEs
Share of male employment, 2017: 21%
*FTE: full time equivalent. Based on midpoint automation scenario.
While everyone needs to adapt in the age of automation, women face more barriers. They spend up to 1.1 trillion hours on unpaid care work, nearly three times that of men (400 billion hours).
Women are also often in lower-paid roles or male-dominated professions. Additionally, many women have less access to digital technology, and limited flexibility to pursue education. These factors make it harder for women to “catch up” and bridge the gap left behind by automation.
Inequalities and Uncertainties
It’s clear that while technology generates opportunities, it also creates new social challenges. Low- and middle-income households face stagnating incomes, higher debt, and rising basic costs.
7. Declining Labor Share of Income
The U.S. labor share of income has been dropping for years—but ¾ of this decline has occurred since 2000.
According to McKinsey Global Institute, boom-bust commodity cycles and rising depreciation are the main factors behind this trend, more so than commonly-cited automation or globalization.
Stagnating incomes mean less purchasing power, while the cost of basics are sharply rising.
8. Changing Consumption Costs
The global inequality gap has narrowed, but within developed economies, it has actually increased.
Technology and globalization have made many discretionary goods cheaper. However, basic costs such as education, housing, and healthcare have ballooned compared to the rate of inflation over the past decade.
With wages stagnating, the higher costs for basics have eaten into disposable incomes in many mature economies.
A Changing Business World
Global trends drastically influence how companies compete with one another, transforming corporate dynamics worldwide.
9. Corporate Superstars
In just two decades, the distribution of economic profits has been growing increasingly wider. The top 10% of companies (>$1 billion in revenue) brings in an ever-larger share of total profits, while the losses of the bottom 10% share deepen.
- Average profit per company, 1995-1997
Top 10%: $0.85B
Bottom 10%: -$1.02B
- Average profit per company, 2014-2016
Top 10%: $1.36B
Bottom 10%: -$1.56B
*In 2016 dollars. Considers corporations with ≥$1 billion average sales (inflation-adjusted). Sample sizes: 2,450 companies (1996–1997) and 5,750 companies (2014–2016).
In essence, the bottom 10% destroy as much value as the top 10% create—and it has only intensified in 20 years.
10. Latin America’s Missing Middle
Latin America best exemplifies this corporate trend of companies “thriving” versus “surviving”.
Compared to similar economies, Latin American countries lack mid-size companies with over $50M in revenue. The Latin American average for firms per $1T GDP is 65 firms, while 100 firms is the benchmark average.
While Asia’s share of the largest firms is widely distributed across countries, Latin American enterprises are lagging behind.
What does the Future Hold?
CEOs and leaders will need to adapt to the new age of disruption—and quickly. To become a 21st century company, they must ask 10 crucial questions about how they operate in an increasingly complex world:
- What is our mission and purpose as a company?
- How far do we go beyond shareholder capitalism? How are we accountable to different stakeholders?
- Who benefits from our economic success? How?
- What is the time horizon for managing our economic success and impact?
- What is our responsibility to our workforce, especially given future-of-work implications?
- How do we leverage data and technology responsibly and ethically?
- What are our aspirations for inclusion and diversity?
- What is our responsibility for societal and sustainability issues involving our business, and beyond?
- What are our responsibilities regarding participants in our platforms, ecosystems, supply and value chains and their impact on society?
- How should we address the global and local (including national) imperatives and implications of how we compete, contribute and operate?
As the 10 insights suggest, global trends are profoundly altering the course of our future. Their impact varies greatly depending on demographics and region.
Everyone—business leaders, policy makers, and individuals worldwide—will need to adapt to the realities of a world in transformation.
Visualizing the Recent Explosion in Lumber Prices
Lumber prices in the U.S. continue to break records as pressure from both the supply and demand sides of the market collide.
Visualizing the Recent Explosion in Lumber Prices
Lumber is an important commodity used in construction, and refers to wood that has been processed into beams or planks.
Fluctuations in its price, which is typically quoted in USD/1,000 board feet (bd ft), can significantly affect the housing industry and in turn, influence the broader U.S. economy.
To understand the impact that lumber prices can have, we’ve visualized the number of homes that can be built with $50,000 worth of lumber, one year apart.
A Story of Supply and Demand
Before discussing the infographic above, it’s important to understand the market’s current environment.
In just one year, the price of lumber has increased 377%—reaching a record high of $1,635 per 1,000 bd ft. For context, lumber has historically fluctuated between $200 to $400.
To understand what’s driving lumber prices to new heights, let’s look at two economic elements: supply and demand.
U.S. lumber supplies came under pressure in April 2017, when the Trump administration raised tariffs on Canadian lumber. Since then, lumber imports have fallen and prices have experienced significant volatility.
After a brief stint above $600 in April 2018, lumber quickly tumbled down to sub $250 levels, causing a number of sawmills to shut down. The resulting decreases in production capacity (supply) were estimated to be around 3 billion board feet.
Once COVID-19 emerged, labor shortages cut production even further, making the lumber market incredibly sensitive to demand shocks. The U.S. government has since reduced its tariffs on Canadian lumber, but these measures appear to be an example of too little, too late.
Against expectations, COVID-19 has led to a significant boom in housing markets, greatly increasing the need for lumber.
Lockdowns in early 2020 delayed many home purchases until later in the year, while increased savings rates during the pandemic meant Americans had more cash on hand. The demand for homes was further amplified by record-low mortgage rates across the country.
Existing homeowners needed lumber too, as many Americans suddenly found themselves requiring upgrades and renovations to accommodate their new stay-at-home lifestyles.
How Many Homes Can You Build With $50K of Lumber?
To see how burgeoning lumber prices are impacting the U.S. housing market, we’ve calculated the number of single family homes that could be built with $50,000 worth of lumber. First, we established the following parameters:
- Lumber requirements: 6.3 board feet (bd ft) per square foot (sq ft)
- Median single family house size: 2,301 sq ft
- Total lumber required per single family house: 14,496 bd ft
Based on these parameters, here’s how many single family homes can be built with $50,000 worth of lumber:
|Date*||Lumber Price||Total Lumber Purchased||Total Homes Built|
|2021-05-05||$1,635 per 1,000 bd ft||30,581 bd ft||2.11|
|2020-05-04||$343 per 1,000 bd ft||145,773 bd ft||10.05|
|2015-05-01||$234 per 1,000 bd ft||213,675 bd ft||14.74|
|2010-05-01||$270 per 1,000 bd ft||185,185 bd ft||12.77|
*Exact matching dates were not available for past years.
As lumber prices continue to set record highs, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has reported that the cost to build a single family home has increased by $36,000. Most of this cost can be passed down to the consumer, but extremely tight supplies mean homebuilders are unable to start more projects.
The Clock is Ticking
Despite their best efforts to increase output, it’s likely that sawmills across the U.S. will continue playing catch-up in 2021.
“There was a great fear among sawmills to prepare for a downturn. When home buying surged, they could not open up capacity quickly enough.”
– Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors
Analysts are now warning that lumber prices could reach a flashpoint, where affordability becomes so limited that demand suddenly falls off. This has led the NAHB to ask the Biden administration for a temporary pause on Canadian lumber tariffs, which currently sit at 9%.
U.S. tariffs on Canadian lumber were first introduced in 1982, and represent one of the longest lasting trade wars between the two nations. The U.S. is currently appealing a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that states its 2017 tariff hike was a breach of global trading rules.
Mapped: The State of Small Business Recovery in America
Compared to January 2020, 34% of small businesses are currently closed. This map looks at the small business recovery rate in 50 metro areas.
Mapped: The State of Small Business Recovery in America
In the business news cycle, headlines are often dominated by large corporations, macroeconomic news, or government action.
While mom and pop might not always be in focus, collectively small businesses are a powerful and influential piece of the economy. In fact, 99.9% of all businesses in the U.S. qualify as small businesses, collectively employing almost half (47.3%) of the nation’s private workforce.
Unfortunately, they’ve also been one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy amid the pandemic. From the CARES Act to the new budget proposal, billions of dollars have been allocated towards helping small businesses to get back on their feet.
Small Business Recovery in 50 Metro Areas
During the pandemic, many small businesses have either swiftly pivoted to survive, or struggled to stay afloat. This map pulls data from Opportunity Insights to examine the small business recovery rate in 50 metro areas across America.
So, has the situation improved since the last time we examined this data? The short answer is no—on a national scale, 34% of small businesses are closed compared to January 2020.
San Francisco is one of the most affected metro areas, with a 48% closure rate of small businesses. New York City has spiralled the most since the end of September 2020.
|U.S. Metro Area||% Change in # of|
Small Businesses Open
(As of Sep 25, 2020)
|% Change in # of|
Small Businesses Open
(As of Apr 23, 2021)
|7-month change (p.p.)|
|New York City||-21%||-42%||-21|
|Salt Lake City||-18%||-23%||-5|
Data as of Apr 23, 2021 and indexed to Jan 4-31, 2020.
On the flip side, Honolulu has seen the most improvement. As travel and tourism numbers into Hawaii have steadily risen up with lifted nationwide restrictions, there has been a 16 p.p. increase in open businesses compared to September 2020.
Road to a K-Shaped Recovery
As of April 25, 2021, nearly 42% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, even with this rapid vaccine rollout, various segments of the economy aren’t recovering at the same pace.
Take for instance the stark difference between professional services and the leisure and hospitality sector. Though small business revenues in both segments have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, the latter has much more catching up to do:
This uneven phenomena is known as a K-shaped recovery, where some industries see more improvement compared to others that stagnate in the aftermath of a recession.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit Endures
Despite these continued hardships, it appears that many Americans have not been deterred from starting their own businesses.
Many small businesses require an Employer Identification Number (EIN) which makes EIN applications a good proxy for business formation activity. Despite an initial dip in the early months of the pandemic, there has been a dramatic spike in EIN business applications.
Even in the face of a global pandemic, the perseverance of such metrics prove that the innovative American spirit is unwavering, and spells better days to come for small business recovery.
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