On the 31st of October 2011, the 7th Billion World citizen was born. Chances are high that this baby will open its eyes in Asia, as Asia contains 60% of the world’s population, and 95% of all children are currently born in developing countries.
It took the world 12 years to add a billion to its population and another billion is expected in the next 12 years: the current pace of growth adds 78 million more people every year. The rate of increase is slowing, but the large number of people now in their reproductive years, 3.7 billion, implies that the world population will keep growing for several more decades.
Meanwhile, many rich and middle-income countries are concerned about low fertility, declining populations and ageing. Japan, China and Hong Kong have fertility rates of around 1.5 children or less per woman and several other developing countries, such as Iran, Vietnam and Indonesia are already below replacement level.
Very timely, as on 31st October, AdAsia opens its Advertising congress in New Delhi, with Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s India born CEO as star speaker. Ms. Nooyi is already years one of the world’s most powerful business women and was recently joined by Meg Whitman and Virginia Rometty, the new CEO’s of Hewlett Packard and IBM respectively. This can only happen in America, where immigrants and women have as hard a life as elsewhere, but get opportunities too. And it is no coincidence that the USA has the highest percentage of affluent women as well.
East Asia has achieved the same economic level as western countries, as smaller families have given their countries a “demographic dividend,” which is a spurt in productivity, wealth and economic growth that occurs when populations have a large number of working-age people with relatively fewer dependents. About one third of East Asia’s major economic growth between 1965 and 1990 was due to a demographic dividend, the productivity spurt that followed government investment in health and education, especially for women. While Asia does not yet have the same female CEO power as the USA, China and Hong Kong have seen women getting a lot more opportunities in the past decades – and it has paid off. The list of top 500 billionaires in the world counts only 14 women, but half of them are from Hong Kong/China, with Wu Yajun, owner of Hong Kong listed real estate developer Longfor, on top. America counts only three, with Oprah Winfrey occupying the highest female spot at number five.
This picture of growing female wealth in East Asia is confirmed by TNS’ Affluent study, published last month, which found that almost half of all affluent decision makers are female in Hong Kong and China, far ahead of most European countries.
Seven billion people mean several billion possibilities and in East Asia more than anywhere else, this offers many growth opportunities for businesses investing in women. Female investment decision makers are an important part of the overall market, so addressing female investors with specific communications is key.
This is not a politically correct column – simply sound business advice: invest in women as they offer great growth opportunities.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Wander Meijer is the Global Head International Research for TNS, a WPP company.