Category » Socio-Economic Trends « @ Weiner Edrich Brown

CIVETS: The Newest Acronym on the Block

We’ve all heard the phrase “green is the new black,” but what about “CIVETS as the new BRIC?” Unlikely. Until now.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the so-called CIVETS group of countries—Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa—are being touted as the next generation of “tiger economies.” But why?

  1. These nations all have large, young populations with an average age of 27. This means these countries will benefit from fast-rising domestic consumption.
  2. They also are all fast-growing, relatively diverse economies, meaning they shouldn’t be as heavily dependent on external demand as the BRICs.
  3. HSBC Global Asset Management points to rising levels of foreign direct investment across the grouping, low levels of public debt—except for Turkey—and sovereign credit ratings moving toward investment grade.

However, critics say CIVETS countries have nothing in common beyond their youthful populations. They also say, liquidity and corporate governance are patchy and political risk remains a factor.

So let’s break it down by country and see what is happening:

Colombia: Colombia is emerging as an attractive destination for investors.

Indonesia: Indonesia weathered the global financial crisis better than most.

Vietnam: Vietnam has been one of the fastest-growing economies in the world for the past 20 years.

Egypt: Revolution may have put the brakes on the Egyptian economy but analysts expect it to regain its growth trajectory when political stability returns.

Turkey: Turkey has major natural-gas pipeline projects that make it an important energy corridor between Europe and Central Asia.

South Africa: Rising commodity prices, renewed demand in its automotive and chemical industries and spending on the World Cup have helped South Africa resume growth. Many see the nation as a gateway to investment into the rest of Africa.

(I just wish CIVETS rolled off the tongue as easily as BRIC.)

The New Internship:Out-ternships and/or Long-ternships?

This month’s article in the Latino men’s online magazine Llero.net talked about how the nature of internships has shifted in recent years. The economic meltdown from 2008 has impacted the employment landscape for everyone. Part of this changing climate includes the “new internship.” No longer is this position for a student or recent graduate. In fact, a number of experienced job seekers are leveraging the position as an opportunity for future employment to keep their skills sharp or simply re-define their career paths.

While I shared some of my thoughts for this article, here are some others as it pertains to “the new internship:”

(1) Outternships: The growing prevalence of “virtual” workers, or employees who telecommute and/or enjoy the benefits of VirFlex (virtual geographies, flexible times) working arrangements, may change our while thinking around the word “intern.”  With continued improvements in networking technology, personal mobile technology and virtual meeting tools, we may see more companies offering up “outternship” opportunities for people who want to get experience working remotely. Technological advancements (i.e. telepresence) also give workers off-site flexibility by still being connected and engaged.

(2) Longternships: An internship that guarantees eventual permanent, paid employment with the company in which they interned. Their value to the company may be increased by the fact that they need little to no training.

We may also see more opportunities for older workers; i.e. in South Korea, silver job fairs, established to find jobs for people 60 and older, have mushroomed across the country in the past year. Longer life spans and changes in family structure have left many people, entering the later stages of their lives, unprepared for reentry into the workforce.  Programs that encourage training and retraining for older workers will have tremendous value and utility.

What are your thoughts on the future of internships?

“Malecontentment” in Egypt

Over the last week, people around the world have been instantly struck by unbelievable scenes of turbulence in Egypt, as thousands have taken to the streets to protest against the current political regime.  In recent days things have gotten even uglier, too: American journalists have been assaulted, Molotov cocktails have been launched, and rocks and furniture have been hurled at protesters.  It’s not just the violence that’s the most surprising either – it’s the speed with which the political order in Egypt is being threatened.

But there is another significant part to the equation, and that is the alienation of the young people – primarily the young males – from the economic and political life of the country.

As we’ve seen for a while now, sex ratios are becoming skewed in much of the world thanks in part to a growing global imbalance of male-to-female ratios.  It is estimated that by 2020 there will be approximately 300 million more men than women in the world.  We’ve seen this demographic trend play out in China.  In Vietnam.  In South Korea.  A surplus of frustrated, low-status males is bound to spell trouble for society.  Some experts have argued that China might soon be bedeviled by an underclass group of malcontented single males who could stir up political instability or even armed revolts.  Sound familiar? It isn’t much different from what we currently see happening in Egypt.

In Egypt, the unemployment among young males (aged 15 to 29 years) was 32% in 2009.  In other words, one in three young men were out of a job….and, because of increased education, many more were affected by underemployment. Clearly, growing unemployment has led to insecurity over their future, which to many, seems bleak.  But when you take a generation of young males who have no future, and have no outlet for their aggression (and testosterone), a range of potentially dangerous problems could occur.

Another primary reason for disillusionment among the youth is the perceived weakness of the state’s developmental role.  Because they have no way to vent their discontent to the “ruling elite,” they become more alienated.  And if the youth do not feel like services are extended to them – whether it’s a quality education or opportunity for employment – their connection and allegiance to the state and the regime will falter considerably.  Add to this the fact that many of the youth fear that the only means for social mobility is through criminal or corrupt means, i.e. bribery, nepotism or by bypassing the law entirely.

So the question then becomes this:  What do we do with the young males?  As we’re seeing now, testosterone-fueled aggressiveness can disrupt or even tear apart societies that don’t find ways to channel those drives into activities that aren’t destructive to the communities.  In a worst case scenario, it may be that countries afflicted by the imbalance could to go to war as a means of sending young men’s aggressiveness to where it can do no harm internally.

As we look at what is happening in Egypt politically, socially and economically, a combination of frustration with the existing system, a yearning for democracy, a desire to participate in decision-making and general dissatisfaction have all come together  to create the current situation on the streets.  An important lesson here, too, is the realization that if the interests of the young – especially the young males – are not taken care of, political stability in any country can be threatened.  So this may be just the beginning.

Behavioral Androgyny: Marketing Cues Hint at Masculinization of Girls

Disney just released Tangled, its 50th animated film. The film is also Disney’s latest animated feature that follows the fairy tale tradition and/or features a princess character. However, this could be the last of a long and storied line of such Disney films, as the company ponders a reinvention of sorts. Disney is now hinting that it is ready to deviate from “princess” films, fairy tales and musicals – and move more emphatically in a different direction, a direction that is tailored more toward action themes, masculine characters and boys’ preferences. This shift in thinking may be due (at least in part) to a desire to directly compete with the wave of highly profitable live-action blockbusters that have captivated both kids and adults alike in recent years.

About ten years ago, Disney launched its Disney Princess franchise. Disney Princess has been extremely successful from a commercial standpoint and has grown into a huge consumer products and experiences franchise. So, taken in a vacuum, it certainly appears that Disney is capitalizing on the power of traditional girl appeal.  It should then follow that any counter-movement from the company would seem almost wholly counter-intuitive. However, we always caution our clients and readers to consider possible counter-trends that may occur in response to (or in spite of) established trends. In this case, we may be seeing the underpinnings of a newly-emerging trend toward a not-so-subtle masculinization of girls, whereby boys’ preferences with respect to certain media or product categories are considered paramount and more universally appealing – and thus more lucrative.

Several media, game and toy companies will likely follow suit, and may already be doing so. If this dynamic were envisioned as a Venn diagram, it might look something like this:

Marketers may identify the most profitable segment with real critical mass as the segment where boy-oriented products overlap with products that have universal appeal. In essence, the assumption is that girls are far likelier to engage in male-oriented themes (action, sports, etc.) than boys are to engage in female-oriented themes, which traditionally include softer characters like princesses. So, the first marketing consideration would be the desire to avoid alienating the boy market with any new releases. Add to this that girls as young as young as 5 or 6 are increasingly placing more importance on their appearance and social status – and thus not viewing things like princesses as “cool” – and you have a profound undercurrent of social change brewing.

Other Topics to Consider:

The far-reaching effects that title IX legislation has had on gender balance in collegiate athletics is also relevant here. Proponents suggest that such legislation has simply expanded opportunities for females in competitive athletics over the last four decades. However, opponents argue that those new opportunities have arisen at the expense of funding male athletic programs where there is more inherent participation and interest. Regardless of where one stands on the issue, it is clear that more women are encouraged and able to participate in activities that were once deemed as predominantly “male.” Girls once considered “tomboys” for playing sports are now considered to be just as feminine as their counterparts. Thus, widespread social acceptance of girls liking “boy” activities, products and media could be an important consideration.

Also consider that many boys who once relied on athletics as a vehicle for releasing aggressive energy are now being forced to harness those energies – often unsuccessfully – in academia where they are increasingly failing, dropping out and/or being diagnosed with myriad behavioral disorders.

As a separate (but similarly relevant) consideration, recent research indicates that women are primed to be more attracted to strong, aggressive, typically-“masculine” men when selecting a casual mate or dating partner – yet they become more attracted to sensitive, intuitive men when choosing a long-term mate or father to their children. Within this area of research is an intriguing study that examined how women are more immediately attracted to men who display “masculine” scars, but that they view those same men less favorably when selecting marriage partners. Will a potential increase in androgynous characteristics among members of both genders affect these long-engrained principles of attraction?

Broader Implications:

What are the long-term repercussions of all of this? For the last several years, observers have asserted that male culture – particularly urban male culture – in the U.S. is becoming increasingly “metrosexual” (i.e., adult males – and sometimes even adolescent males – are spending much more time focusing on their appearance, fashion and beauty than ever before), and therefore more feminized. Will both of the aforementioned trends (feminization of many male adults; masculinization of many female children) continue? And if they do continue, would they truly constitute opposite trends, or are they actually signaling the same dynamic? Perhaps, similar to the centrist movement we often see with political ideology, greater percentages of those that encompass both genders are moving from the extremes (i.e., displaying traditionally strong gender tendencies) toward a more amorphous middle. It will be interesting to consider whether much of this is being driven directly by marketers who have a financial stake in shaping these markets and behaviors – or whether this is more the result of an organic evolution borne out of the reinforced behaviors in today’s social environment.

The Emergence of a Global “She-conomy”

The emergence of a global “She-conomy” will have a major impact on everything from education to marketing and branding to fertility levels. There are already many more women than men enrolled in and graduating from universities. Women have just overtaken men in the U.S. as the majority in the workforce. Women increasingly serve as household breadwinners and white-collar executives – and they are widely considered the most powerful and growing demographic with respect to global consumer power. Many indicators point toward women comprising a greater percentage of white-collar professional positions going forward, while men who have been displaced will need to find alternatives – perhaps through vocational training or entering trade professions.

In the “she-conomies” that are emerging, communication and leadership styles that resonate with, inspire and include women will also be in greater demand.

Here are some noteworthy statistics:

  • Women account for more than half of college students and half the work force, which has delayed motherhood and marriage. For the first time, a majority of mothers, 54 percent, have a college education, up from 41 percent in 1990.
  • Women have suffered less than men in this recession. They were more likely to be in health care and other sectors/jobs that were not hit as hard as construction and manufacturing. They are also increasingly likely to have the education required. One in five men 25 to 54 is not working. The jobs that many of these men once had will not return. Institutional demand for workers with limited education is waning.
  • Globally, women total $13 trillion in yearly earnings and could reach $18 trillion in the next five years, representing a growth market twice as big as China and India combined.  But many women still feel underestimated and undervalued in the workplace, and few companies have responded to their need for time-saving solutions. While more mothers are working, more have considerable guilt about leaving their children at home. Thirty-four percent of mothers with kids under the age of 18 opt out of the workforce altogether, thereby depriving the workforce of a vital source of talent.
  • Japan is suffering from a productivity problem because they are squandering one of the world’s best educated labor forces on mundane jobs that do little to make the economy grow. Japan’s ability to emerge from the recession will depend partly on its ability to make its service sector – which makes up 70% of Japan’s economy – more productive. Evidence of low productivity in the service sector is everywhere. Retailers employ twice the average number of workers as their peers in other countries. Women are central to this issue because they are placed in menial jobs, and their talents and skills are wasted.
  • 1 billion additional middle class women expected to enter the global economy over the next decade. If China and India each represent 1 billion emerging participants in the global marketplace, then this “third billion” is made up of women, in both developing and industrialized nations, whose economic lives have previously been stunted, under-leveraged, or suppressed.
  • We are also learning more about the impact of testosterone levels in the workplace. We have long known the link between males and testosterone, but we are now learning more about how it applies to women. However, we have yet to discover the relationship between high testosterone women and productivity.

Workplace Benefits of the Future: Nap-Time?

In an effort to boost employee productivity, more companies are now formally encouraging their employees to nap during the workday — in some cases, even providing designated areas meant for employee napping. Nike and Google are among those leading the charge in this area.

For a long time, encouraging “sleeping on the job” would have been considered counter-intuitive to productivity. However, a growing body of research indicates that productivity increases as people are better-rested. A recent Stanford study suggests that Americans average fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night (far fewer than are recommended to be both healthy and productive), and around 20 percent of Americans suffer from sleepiness during the day. As a result, companies in aggregate can save several billions of dollars per year.

In many cases, people report to work without receiving the proper amount of sleep the night before, and this actually hurts their overall productivity and ability to focus on the tasks at hand. The causes of sleep deprivation and fatigue are complex and manifold: sleep-related disorders like insomnia, family-issues (e.g., feeding schedules of babies and young children), commuting, excessive recreation on “work-nights,” and the compounding nature of being both overworked and overstressed at the office.

Take for example, the following scenario: If an employee works for 7 hours and naps for one during the middle of the day, then that employee may very well get more accomplished — and the quality of work may improve — versus someone who works for a full 8 hours per day but is over-tired. Also consider the physiological reality that many employees feel fatigued in the afternoon hours after lunch — and this could serve as a perfect time for companies to offer their employees a much-needed siesta.

Many progressive and forward-thinking companies have already begun to encourage on-the-job napping. It could very well be that these companies stand to gain a tangible competitive advantage in the future as their employees become more productive on a day-to-day basis. Also consider that in a day and age where employees (specifically younger ones) care about corporate culture more than ever, companies who have on-the-job napping policies and/or novel office space that accommodates relaxation stand to attract more and better talent in the long-term.

Most importantly, will friends and family members become jealous of one another over policies like this? I don’t know too many people that would argue with a workplace napping policy — or who would not resent those around them who benefited from such policies! Picture the benefits package of the future: 401(k) matching, gym memberships, generous group health and dental plans, on-site childcare facilities…and of course, a state-of-the-art napping facility! It’s already starting to happen…

Earlier Puberty Among Girls: Important Considerations

Mounting evidence now suggests that girls are entering into puberty at even earlier ages that previously thought. Specifically, newly emerging research indicates that increasing percentages of girls in the U.S. are exhibiting premature development — most notably, the growth of breasts — as early as 7 or 8 years of age. Considering that these girls are still in the early years of grade school, this is a profound trend. Additionally, some female infants in china are beginning to exhibit the same symptoms of premature development. In China, there is some speculation as to whether tainted milk and baby formula is a possible cause of these infant cases. Research has yet to determine with any certainty whether that or other causes are to blame. More broadly, researchers posit that a combination of exposure to certain chemicals and inappropriate diet/nutrition could be underlying these trends. The reality that girls may be entering puberty at earlier ages not only leads to an important discussion of the causes, but also the long-term repercussions:

1) Health: The earlier that girls experience puberty, the greater their risk for various diseases, ailments and reproductive issues later in life. For example, we may eventually see increased incidence of certain types of cancer among women as a result of this.

2) Reproduction: The implications here are two-fold. First, as girls are able to have children at earlier ages, there will undoubtedly be an uptick in risky behavior — specifically, unwanted teenage and pre-teen pregnancies. Secondly, women who experience earlier puberty will have diminished reproductive capacities at earlier ages than ever before. This may cause many women to reconsider putting off children until later life, in favor of career and income development — as has been the macro trend across much of the developed world.

3) Education: As more girls enter puberty earlier, the developmental divide between girls and boys (who already tend to develop later) could increase. As a result, educators around the world dealing with this issue will have to adopt strategies for educating many children of the same “age” in the same classes who will be at staggered, advanced or inappropriate developmental levels.

4)  Family & Parenting: Will parents be cognitively flexible to the reality that their child may be entering puberty at what would historically be considered an “incorrect” or “inappropriate” time? How will parents adjust their strategies in raising these children, and will intra-familial conflict — so often the trademark of parent/teenager interactions — become a growing concern among girls as young as 7 or 8 and their parents?

5) Gender Dynamics: What will the long-term implications be for this as it relates to gender interaction? Will girls who enter puberty be ostracized and/or have a “leg up” on their female peers? Alternatively, will some sort of divide broaden between the performance and maturity of girls and boys? (note that several issues are already leading to many boys falling behind socially and in educational systems around the world)

Inevitably, if this trend increases, it will undoubtedly lead to an explosion of new product and service opportunities as global marketers look to capitalize on a never-before seen demographic niche — and their parents. Not only will education and advocacy programs be important, but entirely new health, beauty, pharma and reproductive product markets will emerge.

Target a target? Welcome to the Future of Reinventing Venting

In a recent Working Paper, Jared Weiner highlighted the evolution of  several personal, professional and sociopolitical venting outlets.  From all of our research, we have seen several factors leading to what we call “the reinvention of venting.”  The reinvention of venting is profoundly changing social, political and cultural expression.  What it means to express oneself or share opinions in an open forum is shifting dramatically – thanks in part to the enormous growth of social media.

This trend is putting a spotlight on the realization that consumers (or people in any context) will be resourceful in finding ways to channel built-up energies into any readily available outlets.   Look, for instance, at the newly-popular YouTube video entitled “Target Ain’t People” by the group MoveOn.  Angry at Target’s donation of over $150K to a conservative candidate for Governor of Minnesota, a flash mob descended on the big box retailer and … sang!

In the end, the real story is that organizations and individuals have no place left to hide. They are made visible in the new wave of documentaries, like Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me” and “Sicko,” to Robert Kenner’s “Food, Inc.,” or in demonstrations like the rise of the Tea Party, or in the countless websites that comment, expose and attack. Venting is being totally reinvented, and that will change everything from human resource management, politics, law, international relations, board governance, marketing and business practices to individual and organizational reputation.

From Eco-Friendly to Eco-Intelligent

The September/October issue of The Futurist magazine includes Erica Orange’s article “From Eco-Friendly to Eco-Intelligent.”  As posted on the World Future Society website, here is a brief summary of the piece:

Around the world, growing numbers of consumers are purchasing supposedly eco-friendly products such as organic clothing, energy-saving light bulbs, and reusable shopping bags. But how much is actually known about these products, and are they as environmentally beneficial as they claim? Consumers are repeatedly told it’s okay to consume everything that’s eco-friendly, but the cumulative effect of that consumption on the environment is immense.

The article also talks about the importance of reexamining our current waste streams, and thinking not in terms of cradle-to-grave, but cradle-to-cradle.  This shift in thinking will be revolutionary.  In the future, being green will mean taking into consideration the entire life cycle of a product when designing it. By successfully integrating eco-design principles into products and services, companies will be able to gain a key competitive advantage.  As the pace of change increases, organizations will more frequently feel the pressure of societal tides like “social responsibility” and “environmentally friendly.” Transparency and authenticity is crucial.

If anyone would like a copy of the PDF, please email us (info@weineredrichbrown.com).

Growth of the Nonlinear Life Trajectory

Storytelling is as old as human history.  Traditionally, we have thought of all stories as having a beginning, a middle and an end.  But it appears that the non-linear approach is becoming more common in the world today.  The popular filmmaker, Christopher Nolan, exemplifies this approach in his movies.  Back in 2000, his film Memento told the story of a man whose memory does not exist.  The film’s events unfold in two separate, alternating narratives – one in color, and the other in black and white. The black and white sections are told in chronological order, and the color sequences are told in reverse chronological order.  In Nolan’s most recent film, Inception, non-linear storytelling forces the audience on a journey through a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through many levels of dream invasion.

But this trend is not only true in storytelling and movies.  The idea that there are definitive beginning, middle and end stages to an individual’s life is also shifting.  People are now more likely to quit work and go back to school or retire and then take up a new career than ever before.  As we have seen over and over again, life is less and less likely to follow a linear path.  This will only become more common as the average life span grows longer. The move away from a linear life path for younger people is partially reflective of their expectations that you can invent your own story, choose your own endings, and not wait until the end for rewards.

It is possible that in the networked world in which we now live, and in which connections are now made in a web-like pattern as opposed to a straight line, we will continue to move away from linear narratives in many aspects of our lives.  As children and youth, with their more malleable brains, develop in an increasingly networked world, it does not seem unreasonable to assume that they will be comfortable creating and functioning in a culture where non-linear narratives are the norm.  If young brains start out processing information in a non-linear fashion, then it may be possible that growing up in a networked world will encourage the brain to stay with that sort of processing.

An increasingly non-linear path in the life cycle will add to the difficulty of raising a family, which is already increasing as a result of the incredibly dynamic culture in which we live.  Individuals, lacking a norm or standard to compare themselves to at various times in their lives, will question if they are doing the right thing at the right time.  In the workplace, boredom is likely to increase for those who can’t stick with a linear narrative.  The gamer generation will require the re-framing of tasks so as to inspire them and allay their boredom and disinterest.  This will present a challenge to managers unable to adapt to the non-linear approach.  Schools, too, must make changes – the old methods of teaching do not reach, or prepare, students living in an increasingly web-structured world.

And just as all of us may be increasingly confused in the world in which we now live, confusion reigns in the lives of the young.  But what is also confusing is the way in which we define “youth” in the coming economy. Up through the last half of the 20th century, adolescence was viewed as an important life stage that marked the transition years between childhood and adulthood.  The modern life cycle came to contain multiple phases of youth:  infancy, toddler, childhood, adolescence, late teens and early adulthood.  What is emerging in the early years of the 21st century is a blending of these phases, and an extension of youth into what we might have considered full adulthood.

As the lines become increasingly blurred, absolute demarcations between populations and generations will no longer exist.  Demographic variables will be increasingly hard to quantify – lines become more nebulous.  Tangible definitions of household, income level, age, gender, race and ethnicity, employment status, religious affiliation, location, educational attainment, mobility, marital status, will all be inadequate for the nonlinear world into which we are moving.