Making the best of a Big Australia

If current population trends continue, Australia will have 40 million people within 40 years, putting enormous strain on infrastructure – but there are a couple of emerging trends which could help alleviate the worst of it.

In case you missed it, the ABC’s 4 Corners program put together a thorough investigation into Australia’s response to an expected rise in population.

It turns out that Australia doesn’t have a formal policy response, or minister responsible for population policy.

That’s problematic, to say the least.

While the knee-jerk reaction to the problem would be to cut immigration immediately, business leaders make the point that immigration leads to more economic prosperity for the nation.

More people mean more customers and more competition, which usually leads to great ideas.

We also have an aging population, with baby boomers currently in the middle of transitioning from the workforce into retirement.

To fund the expected rise in health-care costs and make up for the new shortfall of tax income, we’ll need more taxpayers.

It’s a Catch-22.

Embrace the future of work

We already spend, on average, 54 minutes going to and from work.

If you thought your morning commute was bad now, just wait until there are 8 million people in Sydney trying to get to work.

But what if a lot of them didn’t need to brave the train or jump on a congested road in the first place?

One of the major emerging trends in the nature of work is that a lot more of it can be done in the cloud – and you won’t even have to leave the house. Technology like holograms, even in their commercial infancy, can allow people to beam into meetings.

READ: Remote work is working

While it’s not suitable for all industries, a lot more industries (such as accounting) have been opened up to the possibility of remote work – and just how happy it makes their workers.

How much more could you get done with your life and business if you didn’t have to spend time commuting?

You could spend that time much more productively, or simply seeing your kids before they head out for school.

While the infrastructure challenges associated with a booming population are mind-boggling, one way to alleviate some of the strain is to become more comfortable with remote working.

READ: How to work from the pool

Encourage growth in regional areas

Transport director at think-tank The Grattan Institute, Marion Terrill, previously told The Pulse that the industries of the future will be ‘knowledge based’.

Think along the lines of business services and finances.

Those jobs are, by and large, in Australia’s CBDs – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Australia’s regional centres such as Geelong, Newcastle or Bunbury could be set up in such a way to encourage canny companies to set up in those towns.

After all, if this type of knowledge work can be done remotely, then there’s no reason why it needs to be done in a major CBD.

Terrill made the point that the decision on where an employer sets up is dictated by cold, economic realities rather than government policy – and the population explosion in our capital cities could be a blessing in disguise.

If commercial property in CBDs becomes so expensive that it’s unsustainable for smaller business, then regional centres could become more attractive.

Already, canny operators such as Launtel in Launceston are thinking about the future by installing gigabit connections – with the aim of attracting globally minded companies.

The focus has been on getting cities ready for a ‘big Australia’, but what if the focus was on alleviating pressures on cities by distributing the load?

That would make for an interesting conversation.