Trend Compendium 2050: Megatrends shaping the coming decades

Trend Compendium 2050: Megatrends shaping the coming decades

The bigger picture for a better strategy

The year 2020 has shown quite dramatically that things can quickly turn out rather different than predicted. Nonetheless, corporate strategies need to rely on well-founded assessments of future trends. To help you take a step back from the daily clamor and determine what really matters, the Roland Berger Institute (RBI) has compiled a new edition of the Roland Berger Trend Compendium, now with a horizon stretching to 2050.

The Roland Berger Trend Compendium comprises six megatrends shaping the world between now and 2050. They encompass economic factors as well as social, environmental, technological, and geopolitical shifts. Our awareness and understanding of these megatrends help us and our clients develop sustainable solutions for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Megatrend 1: People & Society

Population — Migration — Values — Education

Beyond mere demographics, people and society are at the core of our thinking – People are on the move, rely on values, and are eager to learn

  • Population. Population trends toward 2050 point at a myriad of changes across the globe, for continents and countries, their growth rates and age structures: In 2050, 1.9 billion more people will inhabit our planet, adding up to a total of 9.7 billion. Our global society will be older – with nearly 3.2 million centenarians by 2050 – but with huge regional differences in median age and old-age support ratios. India will be the most populous country, overtaking China around 2027.
  • Migration. Intra- and interregional migration, in all its complexity, is mainly driven by the pursuit of economic betterment . For internally displaced people, their story is one of escape from local conflict, violence, and/or disasters within their own borders.
  • Values. The evolution of human freedoms presents a mixed picture: The global consensus on values based on human rights and personal, civil, and economic freedoms will shift alongside the global power shift.
  • Education. On the plus side, staying in education longer is now the global norm and – judging by the positively correlated per capita GDP/length of educational attainment curve – nationally speaking, it pays to stay in education longer, too.

Read more in our detailed article

Megatrend 2: Health & Care

Pandemics & Other Wildcards — Diseases & Treatments — Caregiving

It doesn't stop at pandemics: Together, policy makers and health experts must find solutions for a myriad of current and future health challenges and growing caregiving needs.

  • Pandemics& Other Wildcards. We are very vulnerable to pandemics – this much is clear in 2020 and, lest we forget, also in earlier 21st century epidemics: SARS, ZIKA, MERS, Ebola et al. Alongside this, we are increasingly facing climate change as a health risk. Now and in 2050, global access to medical care and funding will remain highly uneven.
  • Diseases & Treatments. Healthcare and medical technology predictions and expectations, including vis-à-vis technological advancements, are manifold; not all will materialize but cell and gene therapies are some of the most promising.
  • Caregiving. The trend in increasingly age-related diseases such as dementia points at a strong increase in the need for cost-intensive care. An increasing number of professional caregivers is required to support the growing number of older people and their complex care needs.

Read more in our detailed article

Megatrend 3: Environment & Resources

Climate Change & Pollution — Resources & Raw Materials — Ecosystems at Risk

Upping global climate change mitigation is a must; in the future, water, food, and raw materials face critical issues. Biodiversity is underfunded.

  • Climate Change & Pollution. Climate change mitigation efforts in the period to 2050 must be stepped up by the global community – and a rethink is on the cards regarding the current target of keeping global warming below 2°C. More recently, 1.5°C has been considered safer. This will require rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes across all aspects of society.
  • Resources & Raw Materials. On current trajectories, our 2050 global energy mix is expected to still be dominated by fossil fuels. Beyond CO2 and other GHGs, other forms of pollution are also in need of proactive, innovative action: nearly half a billion people are suffering from disabling, mostly work-related hearing loss due to excessive noise levels. In the future, water demand is going to be growing, and so is food demand – we need more calories to feed a more populous world, but we also need to waste less. Raw materials face supply-side issues; China is the main supplier of raw materials deemed critical.
  • Ecosystems at Risk. Globally, we have already lost one third of terrestrial species; to halt this trend we must make more funding available for biodiversity measures and for ecosystems that are at risk, estimated to equate to 1% of global GDP – annually.

Read more in our detailed article

Megatrend 4: Economics & Business

Globalization Revisited — Power Shifts — Sectoral Transformation — Debt Challenge

Global value chains are under revision. A new power bloc is emerging. Sectoral industrial transformation processes are progressing. The pandemic accelerates the global debt burden

  • Globalization Revisited. Since the Global Financial Crisis, global rates of growth have nearly halved, with global supply chains weakened; a trend toward more domestic production has been observed.
  • Power Shifts. The newly announced Asian trading power bloc, RCEP, is taking its position as a global force; this also highlights future opportunities for other established power blocs in terms of ease of trade.
  • Sectoral Transformation. On a sectoral analysis, industrial transformation is the key challenge. The main drivers are decarbonization and new technologies across sectors such as utilities and automotive, among others. For states and governments, the rise in national debt levels – partly due to the cost of the coronavirus pandemic – will be a challenge.
  • Debt Challenge. There is significant uncertainty about how the global economy can deleverage without significant adverse implications for economic activity. The next decade could bring a reflationary fiscal response, in sharp contrast to the austerity measures undertaken in the 2010s.

Read more in our detailed article

Megatrend 5: Technology & Innovation

Value of Technology — Artificial Intelligence — Humans & Machines

Technology investment and innovation capabilities remain key – AI's evolution promises vast future potential and applications – concern for human values must take center stage

  • Value of Technology. A tale of two halves: While technology and innovation drive prosperity, the lack of such capabilities is a major hurdle for developing countries to draw level with developed nations. While the latter have made high levels of investment commitments going forward, e.g. in quantum computing technologies, AI, and cybersecurity, such levels are simply not within the reach of the former.
  • Artificial Intelligence. Particularly in the field of AI, an ever more evident number of technologies are being lined up and/or are coming out of the pipeline.
  • Human & Machines. AI experts predict a near limitless progression of the capabilities of AI technologies; such powerful developments are faced with enthusiasm mixed with concern for human values and agency.

Read more in our detailed article

Megatrend 6: Politics & Governance

Future of Democracy — Governance & Geopolitics — Global Risks

The decline of democratic traits accelerates – Autocratization trends and rising levels of democracy fatigue are posing future challenges to global governance. Global risks are dominated by environmental concerns.

  • Future of Democracy. We find that the future of liberal democracy is under threat, as electoral autocracies have surged over the past decade; freedom of expression markers are displaying a downward trend. Democracies appear to suffer from democracy fatigue, as the public mood indicates rising dissatisfaction levels. We are keen to see what will happen at the ballot box in 2024, a mammoth election year around the globe.
  • Governance & Geopolitics. The future of global governance appears to be in a state of flux as the international powerplay is shaped by new geopolitical alliances and rivalries.
  • Global Risks. Global governance failure is the most likely geopolitical risk for the decade ahead. In the last decade, the risk outlook has shifted from economic to environmental risks overall.

Read more in our detailed article
(Published in January 2022)

Valued by clients around the globe

For us, the topic of megatrends has been on a slow burner for years: Almost one and half decades later, little did we know that a successful cooperation with the World Economic Forum would evolve into a deep, analytical understanding of global megatrends. Since then, the Roland Berger Trend Compendium – now in a completely revised, fourth edition with a 2050 horizon – is our firm's most in-demand global trend resource; our understanding of megatrends has been beneficial to clients around the globe in a vast number of projects across all industries and issues.

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Trend Compendium 2050: Megatrends shaping the coming decades


The Roland Berger Trend Compendium 2050 comprises six megatrends shaping the world in the coming decades. These megatrends encompass economic factors as well as social, environmental, technological, and geopolitical shifts.

Published December 2020. Available in
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