Life The Stats Guy: 22 predictions of what 2022 holds for Australia
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The Stats Guy: 22 predictions of what 2022 holds for Australia

Our stats expert Simon Kuestenmacher brings his analytical expertise to bear and predicts what 2022 will bring. Photo: TND
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The pandemic reminded us of how hard it is to predict the future. Since I like a challenge, I looked at demographic, social, and economic data to come up with 22 predictions of what 2022 will hold in store for Australia.

off-the-plan1. Millennials continue on to family-sized houses. Australia’s largest generation reaches the family formation stage of the lifecycle and continues to leave their hipster neighbourhoods in the capital cities in search for family-sized homes. In the process Millennials will hipsterfy suburbia, the urban fringe, and regional Australia.

2. As decentralisation of the population continues local governments face predictable challenges. As growth in the regions continues, local councils must make enough land available to accommodate the increased demand for housing. If they fail to do so, regional house prices will continue to rise sharply. This will hurt low-income earners in regional Australia.

3. Hybrid work will dominate. Working from home is here to stay but exclusively virtual working arrangements will remain the exception. Workers still need to come to the office occasionally, and settling too far away from the office towers isn’t an option for many.

4. House prices will continue to rise. Lots has been written about this. Here is a short summary: Demand for family-sized housing is guaranteed to be high due to the Millennials. Soon migrants will be returning to the market. Government has no interest whatsoever in pushing house prices down. Expect no meaningful policies in that direction.

5. The average Australian house will get bigger in 2022. Lockdowns pulled functions from outside the home into the home. We entertain, eat, exercise, study, work at home more often. Some (not all) of these changes will stick. An additional bedroom (the Zoom room) will be a permanent feature in the houses of knowledge workers.

6. As we are are cocooning more, Bunnings, Barbecues Galore, Harvey Norman and co will be doing well! We spend less money on traveling overseas, save money by avoiding the daily commute, get away with owning fewer formal items of clothing, and have more money available to throw around. A fair bit of this disposable income will be used to make the family home more liveable.

7. One size doesn’t fit all. Customer segmentation will be trickier in 2022. Different levels of lockdown restrictions bred different habits across the country. For example, I suspect that the demand for working from home will be stronger in Melbourne than elsewhere.

8. The socio-economic divide widens. The pandemic didn’t impact all of us in the same way. Highly skilled workers kept their jobs and many industries saw big profits while lower-skilled workers lost their jobs at high rates. If we are lucky the blow will be softened by an infrastructure boom that creates employment opportunities for middle-income earners.

retirees9. Baby Boomers will act with a sense of urgency. They feel cheated out of two healthy years of their retirement. They are keen to travel, spend time with the grandkids, and feel “it’s their time now”. Plenty of Baby Boomers are rich in both time and money. Expect quite a bit of spending out of this cohort.

10. The trend towards sliding into retirement continues. In 2022 a higher share of workers in their 60s and early 70s will remain in the workforce in a part-time capacity. This means downsizing is pushed backwards too.

11. Gen X is taking over even more leadership positions. As Baby Boomers leave the workforce it’s Gen X’s time to dominate company boards and C-level roles. Xer leaders introduce generous parental leave policies and continue to fight for equal pay.

12. The healthcare sector continues to boom. Australia remains a rich and aging country. No industry will grow as fast as healthcare.

13. While Australia will recover economically in 2022, a near-universal skills shortage will hold back economic growth. Hiring qualified staff will be challenging. The short-term solution will be for existing staff to work longer hours.

14. More retail spending will take place online. That’s a problem for bricks-and-mortar stores. Expect more vacancies on your local main street. Struggling main streets are terrible for towns and neighbourhoods. Smart local governments and business councils will find creative ways of repurposuing empty shop fronts. Art exhibitions, ball pits for kids, free mini co-working spaces – avoid empty storefronts at all costs and make the main street into a local destination.

15. Data released this week saw the fertility rate fell to an all-time low of 1.58 kids per woman in 2020. The impact of COVID will only be seen in the data for the year 2021. This data will be published in 2022 and will show that Australians had even fewer kids during COVID – there will be no coronavirus baby boom.

16. Women will return to work within a year of childbirth in high numbers. This means demand for childcare will remain stable despite declining births.

17. The world will praise Australia for its handling of COVID. Only two measures will be looked at: deaths per million and the vaccination rate. The world doesn’t care about internal political squabbles in Australia or whether a lockdown was too strict. People across the world will view our nation as a desirable location.

SA fires18. Extreme weather events will be occurring more frequently, and we must prepare for this. We can’t say whether 2022 will see such events but we know that they are statistically more likely. Ideally, we will tighten building codes in Queensland to prepare for a major monsoon event that will occur sooner or later (or so my sources in the BoM tell me), purchase better firefighting equipment (again, I am being told we need more firefighting airplanes), and put systems in place to provide quick financial support for the victims of extreme weather events.

19. The older generations join the young in demanding better digital services. COVID taught many older people to use QR codes, to download apps (turns out the COVIDSAFE app was good for something after all), and to purchase things online. All industries and all levels of government must improve their digital offerings. COVID raised the bar!

20. The death of the wallet. Digital cash, digital ID. You can get through 2022 just fine without ever carrying a wallet.

21. Early 2022 will see the return of migration, albeit not yet at pre-pandemic levels. International students will be first, arriving in time for the semester starting in March. This will help stabilise the inner-city rental market, help fill casual jobs in retail and hospitality, and generally boost the economy.

22. Most importantly, we will remain an optimistic and forward-looking people.

These are my 22 predictions for 2022. Let me know in the comments or via social media on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook if you disagree with my predictions or want to add some of your own.

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