During a keynote speech at ACMA’s 2017 Composites Executive Forum, Herb Meyer, a special assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence during the Reagan administration, touched on trends regarding changes in the global population that affect the composites industry at a macro level. He believes that there are three key elements that define the modern world.

He says the first element of modernity is the most underreported news story in the world: the emergence of and exponential growth of a global middle class.

“Within your children’s lifetimes, the world will cross a line that’s never been crossed before and most people never imagined could be crossed,” said Meyer. “For the first time in history, the overwhelming majority of human beings will not be poor.”

Meyer went on to note the connection between declining poverty and declining hunger, and that the second most underreported news story is the “unprecedented” improvement in global health. According to Meyer, on an average day today, 17,000 children around the world will not die who would have died on an average day in 1990.

The third feature of modernity, Meyer says, is that the “core” of the business world’s consumer base is aging. The world is getting older, he says, because countries don’t have enough young people replacing old people. According to Meyer, thirty years from now, there will be between 70 and 80 million fewer Europeans alive than are alive today, which would be the fastest population drop in recorded history. He adds that this trend is partially why so many countries are open to Middle Eastern refugees.

“If you can’t produce the next generation, you have to import it,” explained Meyer.

The alternative to importing the next generation, according to Meyer, is to “shut down” population growth. Meyer cited Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, as a prime example of this. According to Meyer, Japan is aging so fast, that by 2020, one out of every five Japanese citizens will be over the age of 70. He adds that according to United Nations, by 2045, for the first time in history, the number of people in the world over the age of 55 will be larger than the number of people under the age of 15.

“Why is that so crucial if you’re in business? Old people don’t spend money that way young people do,” Meyer said.

It would make sense then that over the past few years, many experts have claimed that the United States is in the midst of an economic recession in manufacturing. The forum’s other keynote speaker, Dr. Robert Fry, a former senior economist at DuPont, told leaders within in the composites industry that he does not see it that way.