Visualizing Social Media Use by Generation
Our world has never been more connected than it is today.
Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population is plugged into the matrix, with over 4.4 billion internet users across multiple device types. We use these devices for work and for play—and social media has altered the way we interact both online and offline.
Today’s infographic from Global Web Index compares key generational and regional differences of social media use based on data from nearly 114,000 internet users, highlighting how pervasive social media has become in our lives.
Note: China is excluded from the usage data regarding specific social networks and apps.
From Age to Age: Social Media by Generation
How does the use of social media vary by generation?
Boomers currently rank last in nearly every category and metric when it comes to technology and social media use. This generation didn’t grow up inundated with technology in the way today’s youth are.
However, Boomers are showing the greatest increase in activity on social media platforms. For example, usage of Instagram and WhatsApp is up 59% and 44% respectively for this group since 2016, which is more than double the global average.
Also known as the ‘MTV Generation’, the Gen X group was the last generation to grow up before the Internet truly took off. The early years of this group were marked by a burst of new technologies, from wireless phones to personal computers.
On average, Gen Xers spend nearly two hours on social media per day—less than Millennials and Gen Z, but more than Boomers.
Perhaps surprisingly, Millennials show a slow down in the time spent on social media. From 2017-2018, screen time for Millennials on social media decreased by one minute, to 2 hours 38 minutes per day. This trend points to Millennials seeking real-life experiences and better engagement from the brands they interact with online, rather than passive scrolling.
Other factors also play a role in this evolution─nearly 50% of Millennials admit that their activity on social media has caused them to overspend to impress their networks.
Gen Z is the first group in history that has never known a world without the Internet. Immersed in the online world since birth, Gen Z surpasses Millennials in daily activity on social media with 2 hours 55 minutes spent per day.
North American, Latin American, and European Generation Z-ers lead in the number of social accounts they’re actively using. Many are also moving away from platforms like Facebook in favor of multimedia-heavy sites such as YouTube and Instagram.
Social Media by the Numbers
Social media sites measure the number of unique users on the platform each month as a metric of success. Below is a snapshot of the five major social media sites shown in today’s graphic and their active user count.
Monthly Active Users (MAU) as of July 2019
- Facebook: 2.4 billion
- YouTube: 2 billion
- WhatsApp: 1.6 billion
- Instagram: 1 billion
- Twitter: 330 million
Even more striking is what happens in a social media minute:
- 41.6 million messages sent over Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
- 347,222 people are scrolling Instagram
- 87,500 people posting to Twitter
- 4.5 million videos on YouTube being watched
Social Media’s Role in Retail
Social media has evolved from simply keeping us connected to our friends. Users can now access career tools, engage with their favorite companies, stay current with global events, and find love.
Across all regions and generations, social media has propelled e-commerce into the limelight. More than ever before, social media sites are being used for product research, brand engagement, and online purchases. For example, Instagram now offers one-click shop features that allow users to buy what they see immediately, with a simple tap on their screens.
The greatest growth in e-commerce, however, has been the influencer industry. These star-studded internet personalities boast massive online followings from a wide range of demographics—and companies are taking notice.
In 2018, 72% of major brands stated that they were outsourcing a significant portion of their marketing resources to online influencers. Followers feel as though they’re getting a product recommendation from a friend, making them more likely to buy quickly.
Social Media Growth
Despite the rate of social media growth slowing down, social media use is still growing. From 2017 to 2018, the average person increased usage by three minutes per day, while becoming a new user of 0.8 social media accounts.
Social media is a broad, multi-faceted, and complex industry that appeals to a wide range of cultures, age groups, and personalities. While growth in social media activity may be slowing down, a growing global population may mean we’ll see more opportunities to stay connected.
The Problem of an Aging Global Population, Shown by Country
The data behind the world’s rapidly aging population, and what it could mean for the economy and future generations of retirees.
The Implications of an Aging Population
The world is experiencing a seismic demographic shift—and no country is immune to the consequences.
While increasing life expectancy and declining birth rates are considered major achievements in modern science and healthcare, they will have a significant impact on future generations.
Today’s graphic relies on OECD data to demonstrate how the old-age to working-age ratio will change by 2060, highlighting some of the world’s fastest aging countries.
The Demographic Debacle
By 2050, there will be 10 billion people on earth, compared to 7.7 billion today—and many of them will be living longer. As a result, the number of elderly people per 100 working-age people will nearly triple—from 20 in 1980, to 58 in 2060.
Populations are getting older in all OECD countries, yet there are clear differences in the pace of aging. For instance, Japan holds the title for having the oldest population, with ⅓ of its citizens already over the age of 65. By 2030, the country’s workforce is expected to fall by 8 million—leading to a major potential labor shortage.
In another example, while South Korea currently boasts a younger than average population, it will age rapidly and end up with the highest old-to-young ratio among developed countries.
A Declining Workforce
Globally, the working-age population will see a 10% decrease by 2060. It will fall the most drastically by 35% or more in Greece, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. On the other end of the scale, it will increase by more than 20% in Australia, Mexico, and Israel.
Israel’s notably higher increase of 67% is due to the country’s high fertility rate, which is comparable to “baby boom” numbers seen in the U.S. following the second World War.
As countries prepare for the coming decades, workforce shortages are just one of the impacts of aging populations already being felt.
Managing the Risks
There are many other social and economic risks that we can come to expect as the global population continues to age:
- The Squeezed Middle: With more people claiming pension benefits but less people paying income taxes, the shrinking workforce may be forced to pay higher taxes.
- Rising Healthcare Costs: Longer lives do not necessarily mean healthier lives, with those over 65 more likely to have at least one chronic disease and require expensive, long-term care.
- Economic Slowdown: Changing workforces may lead capital to flow away from rapidly aging countries to younger countries, shifting the global distribution of economic power.
The strain on pension systems is perhaps the most evident sign of a drastically aging population. Although the average retirement age is gradually increasing in many countries, people are saving insufficiently for their increased life span—resulting in an estimated $400 trillion deficit by 2050.
Pensions Under Pressure
A pension is promised, but not necessarily guaranteed. Any changes made to existing government programs can alter the lives of future retirees entirely—but effective pension reforms that lessen the growing deficit are required urgently.
Towards a Better System
Certain countries are making great strides towards more sustainable pension systems, and the Global Pension Index suggests initiatives that governments can take into consideration, such as:
- Continuing to increase the age of retirement
- Increasing the level of savings—both inside and outside pension funds
- Increasing the coverage of private pensions across the labor force, including self-employed and contract employees, to provide improved integration between various pillars
- Preserving retirement funds by limiting the access to benefits before the retirement age
- Increasing the trust and confidence of all stakeholders by improving transparency of pension plans
Although 59% of employees are expecting to continue earning well into their retirement years, providing people with better incentives and options to make working at an older age easier could be crucial for ensuring continued economic growth.
Live Long and Prosper
As 2020 marks the beginning of the Decade of Healthy Ageing, the world is undoubtedly entering a pivotal period.
Countries all over the world face tremendous pressure to effectively manage their aging populations, but preparing for this demographic shift early will contribute to the economic advancement of countries, and allow populations—both young and old—to live long and prosper.
Visualizing How the Demographics of China and India are Diverging
The world’s two most populous countries have some economic similarities, but China and India are also diverging in one key area: demographics.
How the Demographics of China and India are Diverging
Within popular discourse, especially in the West, the profiles of China and India have become inextricably linked.
Aside from their massive populations and geographical proximity in Asia, the two nations also have deep cultural histories and traditions, growing amounts of influence on the world stage, and burgeoning middle classes.
China and India combine to be home to one-third of the world’s megacities, and they even had identical real GDP growth rates of 6.1% in 2019, based on early estimates by the IMF.
But aside from the obvious differences in their political regimes, the two populous nations have also diverged in another way: demographics.
As seen in today’s animation, which comes from AnimateData and leverages data from the United Nations, the two countries are expected to have very different demographic compositions over time as their populations age.
The easiest way to see this is through a macro lens:
Populations of China and India (1950-2100)
|🇮🇳 India||0.38 billion||1.37 billion||1.64 billion||1.45 billion|
|🇨🇳 China||0.55 billion||1.43 billion||1.40 billion||1.06 billion|
Although the countries have roughly the same populations today — by 2050, India will add roughly 270 million more citizens, and China’s total will actually decrease by 30 million people.
Let’s look at the demographic profiles of these countries to break things down further. We’ll do this by charting populations of age groups (0-14 years, 15-24 years, 25-64 years, and 65+ years).
China: Aftermath of the One-Child Policy
China’s one-child policy was implemented in 1979 — and although it became no longer effective starting in 2016, there’s no doubt that the long-term demographic impacts of this drastic measure will be felt for generations:
The first thing you’ll notice in the above chart is that China’s main working age population cohort (25-64 years) has essentially already peaked in size.
Further, you’ll notice that the populations of children (0-14 years) and young adults (15-24 years) have both been on the decline for decades.
A reduction in births is something that happens naturally in a demographic transition. As an economy becomes more developed, it’s common for fertility rates to decrease — but in China’s case, it has happened prematurely through policy. As a result, the country’s age distribution doesn’t really fit a typical profile.
India: A Workforce Peaking in 2050
Meanwhile, projections have India reaching a peak workforce age population near the year 2050:
By the year 2050, it’s estimated that India’s workforce age population will be comparable in size to that of China’s today — over 800 million people strong.
However, given that this is at least 30 years in the future, it raises all kinds of questions around the economic relevance of a “working age” population in a landscape potentially dominated by technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation.
While it’s clear that the world’s two most populous countries have some key similarities, they are both on very different demographic paths at the moment.
China’s population has plateaued, and will eventually decline over the remainder of the 21st century. There is plenty of room to grow economically, but the weight of an aging population will create additional social and economic pressures. By 2050, it’s estimated that over one-third of the country will be 60 years or older.
On the other hand, India is following a more traditional demographic path, as long as it is uninterrupted by drastic policy decisions. The country will likely top out at 1.6-1.7 billion people, before it begins to experience the typical demographic transition already experienced by more developed economies in North America, Europe, and Japan.
And by the time the Indian workforce age group hits 800+ million people, it will be interesting to see how things interplay with the world’s inevitable technological shift to automation and a changing role for labor.
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