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At more than 7 billion people around the world today, the world’s population continues to grow at an exponential rate. We have grown from 1.86 billion people in 1920 to 2.53 billion people in 1950 and then to 5.3 billion people in 1990, crossing over the 7 billion mark in 2011 (BBC News, 2011). The advent of modern medicine and improvements in agricultural infrastructure that led to prevention of widespread diseases and increased agricultural output facilitated this population explosion initially. However, such unsustainable levels of population growth have left our planet reeling from environmental degradation and economic underdevelopment (The Guardian, 2011).
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Population trends affect businesses around the world by having an impact on international trade activity and economic patterns, which in turn have implications for international business practice and strategy. Together with technological advancements in almost every field of human experience, the nature and rate of global populaion growth is one of the most important socio-cultural drivers that will affect business practices in the 21st century (Ghadar, 2005).
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Population growth and the ensuing demographic changes have already begun to affect businesses worldwide. A growing population that reaps the rewards of concurrent economic growth and development has more disposable income. Therefore, it consumes more and invariably creates demand for more goods and services. Yet this boon for business comes at a price: increasing demand for natural resources leads to environmental depletion and degradation. This is why today businesses around the world need to be more mindful of their social and ethical responsibilities to the societies they serve than ever before (Gibbs and O’Neill, 2012, p. 77).
Another facet of global population growth that poses challenges for businesses around the world is the change in labour supply and the need to adapt to aging populations. This is already true for United Kingdom, where the population is growing in size and becoming increasing older (UK National Statistics, n.d.). What this means for businesses is that they will face stiff competition in attraccting and retaining good talent as it gets harder and harder to get good people (Farnham, 2010). Yet on the other hand, changing demographics and population trends around the world also mean that developing countries will become an important resource for needed human resource talent. Businesses around the world will now have to work with a global labour market supported by immigration opportunities.
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Overall, population growth around the world presents both challenges and opportunities for businesses. The challenges include (a) increasing investments to create more social and ethical value for their products and services due to the environmental impact of their operations, (b) adapting to aging labour pools and the resulting strain on retirement planning and pension systems, and (c) human resource talent shortages in developed countries that will require businesses to adopt flexible approaches to employment. On the other hand, population growth also affords businesses a unique opportunity to cater to the changing lifestyles, consumer preferences and marketing opportunities that it has brought about.
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