Ireland in 2050

2050. It seems very far away - some thirty years in fact.  And yet, surprisingly perhaps, people have fairly clear views on what life will be like a generation or more from now.

The Pew Research Center recently published a fascinating (though gloomy!) report on how American's view the future of their own country in 2050. We were inspired to ask some of the same questions of an Irish audience - and to compare how different or similar our views are about the future.


Cautious Optimists

A good place to start is with the overall level of personal optimism about the future for the country. A majority in both Ireland and the United States are optimistic about the state of their nation in 2050, though somewhat more Americans than Irish are pessimistic.  Within Ireland, women are more pessimistic than men: while Irish people under the age of 35 (who are considerably more likely to see 2050 than some older cohorts!) are actually more pessimistic than the rest of the population:


Income Pressures

One possible source of pessimism for some is the rather negative outlook for the average family's standard of living. Both the Irish and Americans are significantly more likely to predict a worsening in average family incomes rather than an improvement in the decades ahead.

Among Irish people, there is once again a significant gender and age divide - with females and under 35s more pessimistic than others:

A key driver of future incomes is employment. But with the growing debate about the impact of automation and AI (artificial intelligence) on the world of work, it should perhaps not be surprising to see that both the Irish and Americans are somewhat gloomy on the prospects for future job security:

Indeed, Irish people are actually less optimistic about job security in 2050, though Irish people under 35 are for once more 'positive' on this measure than the total population.

To add to the gloom, it turns out that most people expect the outlook for living standards and job security to translate into greater polarisation between the haves and have nots:

On this measure, the Irish are actually more pessimistic than Americans about the gap between rich and poor, with significantly fewer expecting the gap to get smaller in the coming decades.


Divided Nations

Given these gloomy economic projections, we should not be surprised to learn that the political agenda is expected to get more polarised as a result. America's turbulent political scene has created a predominant expectation that political divisions will widen rather than narrow in the next 30 years. But the disturbing thing for us is that a majority of Irish people expect to follow a similar path over the same period, rising to two thirds of under 35s:

One likely source of political tension will be health care. We asked our Irish respondents how they view the long term outlook for health services in Ireland - again the divisions are clear:


2050 Extrapolations

Obviously we should treat the 'forecasts' implied in our survey and that by Pew with some caution. In reality, nobody knows what the next thirty years will bring. Just as nobody in 1990 had an accurate view of life in 2020 (i.e.: next year!)

But they do tell us something about the prevailing 'zeitgeist', and that does have an influence on the choices we make - and don't make - with implications for the future.  We can obviously hope that some of the gloomier scenarios envisioned in the responses to our survey don't come to pass: though it will take more than hope.


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