How will society change in the next century? Debbie Kent looks at some future trends.
Forecasting the future is a risky business. But that doesn’t mean we can’t say anything about the next decade. In fact, one trend is almost completely predictable: population growth.


(This article was written in 1990’s)

The population of the UK, currently just over 57 million, is expected to keep rising to hit 59 million by 2001. Most significant is how the structure of that 59 million will change. The number of 16 to 19-year-olds has been falling since the baby boom generation reached adolescence in the early 1980’s, and it will stay low through the 90’s and into the next century. On the other hand, the proportion of older people will grow. By 2001 more than 45% of us will be over 50.

Some implications for the next century are clear. Fewer school leavers and a workforce that is growing only slowly will have an impact on the labour market. Employers may have to look elsewhere to fill vacancies – to women with children and older people. At the other end of the scale, the growth in the number of elderly people means a fresh look at the idea of retirement.

For the first time most of us can expect to have 30 years of retirement to look forward to. Although society will still be made up largely of conventional families, there is a growing trend for fewer stereotypical households: more homes will consist of single adults. Then there will be households split by divorce, mixed households of second marriages, and three generations living under one roof. The average household size is predicted to fall from 2.7 people to 2.4 people by 2001.

Finance is one of the areas that is likely to undergo a fundamental change between now and the year 2001. If full European monetary union takes place, we could routinely be using ‘ECU’ or some other denomination of Euro-wide currency even for our spending at home. Will we be using money at all? The answer is almost certainly yes, for low-value transactions and for that small but intractable section of the population that does not have a bank account.

But the cheque should be pretty much on the way out by 2001. According to Roger Taylor of Midland Payment Transmission Services, developers of payment card systems: “Transactions will be primarily plastic-based but people won’t carry as many credit cards. . So the walletful of plastic is likely to be replaced by a single multi-function card that will act as cheque book, credit card, cash dispenser and debit card. Haven’t we got that already? The difference is that the 2001 version will be an ‘intelligent card’ with a built-in memory. It will carry as much information about you as a personal organiser – details of bank accounts, credit ratings, insurance, salary – and will be able to pass that information on to anyone you choose to do business with.


Mark the best choice.

1. The main idea of the first paragraph is that .

a) it is risky to predict what will happen in the future

b) there will be an increase in the number of younger people

c) population growth is natural and should not be avoided

d) it is possible to predict that the age structure of the society will change significantly


2. In the next century, .

a) the number of people leaving school at a young age may rise

b) more jobs will be available both for men and women

c) employers may have to hire more women workers

d) labour market will get smaller in size


3. it is predicted that .

a) most of the people will be living on their own

b) the type of family which exists today will still be quite common

c) the houses will get larger so that three generations can live together

d) there wiii be a substantial decline in divorce rates


4. ‘ECU’ is probably .

a) the name of a European union b) a unit of money

c) a financial resource d) the name given to the change in finance


5. Which of the following is not correct?

a) People will still have bank accounts.

b) Cheques will be used less commonly in the year 2001.

c) People will stili be using money, especially for buying cheaper goods.

d) There will be more types of credit cards in use.


6. The “intelligent card’ .

a) will he!p people organise their time more efficiently

b) is like a small computer which can perform many functions

c) is likely to be replaced by a multi-function credit-card

d) will enable businessmen to get information about anyone they choose

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