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Millennials Are Headed For Disaster. What Needs To Change?

Australia is at a 'crossroads', a major and frightening new report warns, with drastic changes in many parts of society needed to avert potential crisis for our youth as they get older.

"Many Australians are concerned that future generations may not have the opportunities that we’ve had," reported the CSIRO's Australian National Outlook, in its damning 2019 release.

Australia's chief science agency has warned Australia faces "a slow decline" without massive, ambitious reform across society -- including huge impacts on the climate and environment, wages, bills, health, and general quality of life by 2060, when today's Gen Y will be at or approaching retirement age.

The two scenarios, slow decline vs outlook vision, would have wildly different outcomes. Photo: CSIRO

"Some concerning trends are emerging that mean we need to think differently," the CSIRO said bluntly, warning against a business-as-usual approach that could doom today's youth to a middle- and old-age of misery.

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READ MORE: Millennials Squeezed Out Of The Middle Class

The report, looking toward 2060, backs up fears that today's young people may not be able to look forward to a life as comfortable as their parents. The CSIRO details concerns about slowing wage growth, surging house prices, an ageing population placing stress on cities and infrastructure, and falling school performances, all under the shadow of a climate emergency.

The Slow Decline scenario. Photo: CSIRO
And the Outlook Vision opportunities. Photo: CSIRO

"Global warming is not in any doubt... We are beyond the ability to eliminate the effects of climate change," the CSIRO warned.

Two scenarios are set out in the ANO report -- the worst-case Slow Decline, or the positive Outlook Vision. The difference between the two could worth up to a 36 percent boost to Australia's gross domestic product, a 90 percent rise in wages, a 'net zero' in greenhouse gas emissions, and 45 percent cheaper energy bills.

The two scenarios, slow decline vs outlook vision, would have wildly different outcomes. Photo: CSIRO

But only if drastic, powerful, wholesale changes are enacted -- and quickly -- at multiple levels of society, from politics and energy to education and housing.

READ MORE: Australian Millennials Pessimistic For Future

READ MORE: The Real Problem Facing Millennials

Australia is also about to get old -- fast. The impacts of an ageing population, as the children of the 'baby boom' get old but are not replaced in the workforce by new people due to declining birthrates, have been well-known for some time. But the CSIRO report forecasts that the proportion of people aged 15-64 in Australia will nosedive from nearly 66 percent today to just 60 percent in 2060. As people stay healthier for longer, life expectancy stretches, and people live for many decades after retiring from work.

The number of Australians of working age is set to nosedive as today's youth reach middle- and old-age. Photo: CSIRO

People living longer is undoubtedly a good thing, but the enormous stress it will place on health resources, housing and welfare systems is something that needs to be figured into planning for Australia's future.

"Australia is at a crossroads," the CSIRO concludes -- but this presents huge opportunities for the country to set out on the right path, and give today's youth a more comfortable life.

According to the CSIRO, Australia needs to:

  • Boost productivity in established industries, prepare for jobs of the future, and invest in innovative industries
  • Increase the density of our major cities, create a wider mix of housing options, and improve transport infrastructure
  • Adopt low-emissions technology, triple energy productivity
  • Invest in food and fibre industries, find new and profitable ways to use our land, and build resilience to climate change
  • Restore trust in institutions, companies and politics.
Photo: Getty

The five pillars include Australia investing resources to become a world leader in hydrogen power; higher-density housing to bring people closer to the cities they work in and helping to mitigate our housing affordability issues; quickly train people to work in and lead new industries of the future; and a society-wide plan to make Aussies more willing to take risks, become entrepreneurs, and become more civic-minded.

CSIRO Futures Director, James Deverell, wanted the ANO report to be a "clarion call".

"We believe the positive outcomes in this report are all achievable, but they will require bold, concerted action and long-term thinking," he said.

"Emerging technologies will play a key role and Australian companies need to be aware of both the opportunities and challenges they will create."

Contact the author: jbutler@networkten.com.au