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What will the world look like in 2025? FT and Nikkei reader predictions

The world is not about to reverse a trend towards authoritarian or nationalist government, or make significant progress on combating climate change, according to the first joint survey of Financial Times and Nikkei readers.

Asked to assess the likelihood of various events happening by 2025, readers of the FT and the Japanese and English publications of Nikkei thought Vladimir Putin would still be in power, Brexit would not be reversed, China would become the world’s biggest economy and India its most populous. They did not think the Syrian civil war would be over or that Africa as a whole would achieve the world’s fastest growth.

Readers were more optimistic about gender equality, predicting the US would have its first female president in 2025. Kamala Harris, the US vice president-elect, is considered a frontrunner for the 2024 Democratic nomination while former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is the most prominent Republican woman associated with the race.

The results come from a survey of over 5,000 readers of the FT; of Nikkei, Japan’s leading business daily newspaper; and of Nikkei Asia, the English-­language review of Asian business news.

Readers were asked how far they agreed or disagreed with 15 propositions spanning politics, the economy, business and technology.

The responses of the three audiences diverged on a third of the questions, including whether the number of air passengers would have recovered five years after the coronavirus pandemic. More FT readers felt this would not happen, while Nikkei Asia readers thought it would and Nikkei readers were split almost evenly.

International air travel was down 71 per cent in October compared with a year earlier © Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

The result suggests that, in the western world at least, fear of infection, restrictions on foreign travel and the substitution of video conferencing for in-person meetings will damp a recovery in international air travel, down 71 per cent in October from a year earlier.

Another area where opinions diverged significantly was negative interest rates, which reflect the economic stagnation that Japan has been familiar with for many years. Negative rates were introduced in the eurozone in 2014 and Japan in 2016; the UK’s central bank said during the summer they were “under active review”. FT readers thought negative rates would have disappeared from the world’s major economies by 2025 while the largely Japanese Nikkei readers disagreed (Nikkei Asia readers were evenly split).

The World Ahead: an FT-Nikkei special report

FT and Nikkei journalists look ahead to the next five years after a five-year alliance marked by tumultuous events, from Brexit and the Trump presidency to the coronavirus pandemic. Other articles include:

  • Martin Wolf, FT chief economics commentator, on the forces that will shape the next five years

  • Ryosuke Harada, Nikkei senior executive editor, on what the rise of China means for the rest of the world

  • Sector experts forecast what work, finance, tech, retail and energy will look like in 2025

  • A visual guide to the data shaping the 2020s and beyond

One way to overcome the economic stasis implied by negative interest rates would be to invest in “green” technologies, with the additional benefit of mitigating climate change.

But readers appeared sceptical about the likelihood of swift action on climate change given that a majority of those surveyed by all three publications did not think greenhouse gas emissions would be falling by 2025. Moreover, neither Nikkei nor FT readers expected electric vehicles to account for more than half of new car sales in five years’ time.

The surveys were divided on the proposition that Google would be broken up, a proxy for the push to curb tech giants’ power, with Nikkei readers thinking it would, but FT and Nikkei Asia readers disagreeing. Momentum has been building to regulate Big Tech on both sides of the Atlantic, with a US congressional committee declaring in October that “scrappy, underdog start-ups” had become the “kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons”.

Readers seemed to anticipate that digitalisation of our lives would continue: they expected some countries to have eliminated physical cash by 2025. But none believed a human would land on Mars, suggesting some science and tech frontiers will remain unconquered.


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