The World’s Growing Middle Class (2020–2030)
The middle class is already the largest spending group in the world, driving increased consumption of goods and materials.
50 years ago, this group of global consumers lived almost exclusively in Western countries. Today, they are increasingly spread around the world, representing 45% of the global population.
In this graphic based on data from Brookings Institution, we highlight the global middle class’ impact on the global economy and how this population is expected to grow in the next decade.
Who is Considered Middle Class?
Though there are many different definitions of middle class, many define the group as those earning between $10 and $100 per person per day.
For the Brookings’ projection, the global middle class is divided by the lower middle class (earning $11–$50 per day in 2011 PPP) and the upper middle class (earning $51–$110 per day in 2011 PPP).
In general, middle class families also tend to own their own home through a mortgage, own a car, and have enough savings to afford to dine out and take vacations.
|Consumer Group||# of People (2020)||# of People (2030P)|
|Upper Middle Class||0.6 billion||1.0 billion|
|Lower Middle Class||2.9 billion||3.8 billion|
|Rest of World||4.2 billion||3.6 billion|
|Total||7.7 billion||8.4 billion|
Since 2003, when the number of poor and vulnerable people in the world reached a historic peak of 4.4 billion people, the middle class has been growing fast, especially in Asia.
By 2030, another 700 million people are expected to join the global middle class, making it more than half of the world’s total population.
Middle Class Spending
Over the last few decades, the middle class has grown into one of the primary forces sustaining the global economy.
In 2020, the global middle class spent $44 trillion, or 68% of the world’s consumer spending. By 2030, middle class households are expected to spend even more, an estimated $62 trillion or 50% more than in 2020.
Per capita, the upper middle class and wealthy elite will lead in consumption, but the largest overall spenders will be the 3.8 billion people in the lower middle class:
|Consumer Group||Total Spending (2020)||Total Spending (2030P)|
|Upper Middle Class||$18T||$27T|
|Lower Middle Class||$26T||$35T|
|Upper Class + Poor/Vulnerable||$20T||$29T|
Though many will move up into the lower middle class, the amount of people in the poor and vulnerable segment will remain large. However, it will only account for $5 trillion, or about 6%, of total spending globally.
A Richer World
History has shown that as science and technology advance, the world becomes richer.
Although inequality between countries persists and takes a long time to overcome, middle-income countries increasingly catch up to high-income countries and create this swelling population of middle class households.
With more than half of the world’s population projected to be in the middle class by 2030, what will material consumption in the next decade look like?
Mapped: Countries With the Highest Flood Risk
Recent floods in Pakistan have affected more than 33 million people. Where is the risk of flooding highest around the world?
Risk of Flooding Mapped Around the World
Devastating floods across Pakistan this summer have resulted in more than 1,400 lives lost and one-third of the country being under water.
This raises the question: which nations and their populations are the most vulnerable to the risk of flooding around the world?
Using data from a recent study published in Nature, this graphic maps flood risk around the world, highlighting the 1.81 billion people directly exposed to 1-in-100 year floods. The methodology takes into account potential risks from both inland and coastal flooding.
Asian Countries Most at Risk from Rising Water Levels
Not surprisingly, countries with considerable coastlines, river systems, and flatlands find themselves with high percentages of their population at risk.
The Netherlands and Bangladesh are the only two nations in the world to have more than half of their population at risk due to flooding, at 59% and 58%, respectively. Vietnam (46%), Egypt (41%), and Myanmar (40%) round out the rest of the top five nations.
Besides the Netherlands, only two other European nations are in the top 20 nations by percentage of population at risk, Austria (18th at 29%) and Albania (20th at 28%).
|Rank||Country||Flood risk, by population exposed (%)||Total population exposed|
|#12||🇸🇸 South Sudan||32.5%||5,437,000|
|#15||🇨🇬 Republic of the Congo||29.3%||1,170,000|
The Southeast Asia region alone makes up more than two-thirds of the global population exposed to flooding risk at 1.24 billion people.
China and India account for 395 million and 390 million people, respectively, with both nations at the top in terms of the absolute number of people at risk of rising water levels. The rest of the top five countries by total population at risk are Bangladesh (94 million people at risk), Indonesia (76 million people at risk), and Pakistan (72 million people at risk).
How Flooding is Already Affecting Countries Like Pakistan
While forecasted climate and natural disasters can often take years to manifest, flooding affected more than 100 million people in 2021. Recent summer floods in Pakistan have continued the trend in 2022.
With 31% of its population (72 million people) at risk of flooding, Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to floods.
In 2010, floods in Pakistan were estimated to have affected more than 18 million people. The recent floods, which started in June, are estimated to have affected more than 33 million people as more than one-third of the country is submerged underwater.
The Cost of Floods Today and in the Future
Although the rising human toll is by far the biggest concern that floods present, they also bring with them massive economic costs. Last year, droughts, floods, and storms caused economic losses totaling $224.2 billion worldwide, nearly doubling the 2001-2020 annual average of $117.8 billion.
A recent report forecasted that water risk (caused by droughts, floods, and storms) could eat up $5.6 trillion of global GDP by 2050, with floods projected to account for 36% of these direct losses.
As both human and economic losses caused by floods continue to mount, nations around the world will need to focus on preventative infrastructure and restorative solutions for ecosystems and communities already affected and most at risk of flooding.
Mapped: Energy Consumption Per Capita Around the World
Which countries use the most energy per person?
Mapping Global Energy Consumption Per Capita
In the four decades since 1980, global energy consumption doubled from 77 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) to nearly 155 trillion kWh.
But despite soaring energy demand from emerging economies, energy consumption per person only grew by around 14%.
So, which countries consume the most energy per capita today?
The above infographic maps global per capita energy consumption in 2020 using data from Our World in Data. Energy consumption includes electricity, transport, and heating.
The Energy Consumption Leaderboard
The top 10 countries by energy consumption per capita are relatively wealthy and heavily industrialized.
|Country||Year of data||Energy consumption per capita (kWh)|
|Trinidad and Tobago||2020||123,800|
|United Arab Emirates||2020||117,686|
|United States Virgin Islands||2019||95,010|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||2019||64,130|
|European Union (27)||2020||34,772|
|Antigua and Barbuda||2019||31,385|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||2019||25,775|
|British Virgin Islands||2019||23,486|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||2019||21,074|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||2019||21,068|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||2019||8,154|
|Sao Tome and Principe||2019||3,412|
|Papua New Guinea||2019||3,316|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||2019||403|
|Central African Republic||2019||328|
Iceland tops the list and is also the leading generator of electricity per capita. Thanks to the country’s abundance of geothermal resources, geothermal and hydropower plants account for more than 99% of Iceland’s electricity generation.
Many of the top 10 countries are large energy producers or industry-heavy economies. For example, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Kuwait, Norway, and Qatar are among the world’s 15 largest oil-producing countries. Similarly, Trinidad and Tobago is the largest oil and gas producer in the Caribbean and is one of the largest exporters of ammonia globally.
The presence of energy-intensive industries like oil and gas extraction is likely a major factor influencing total and per-person energy use in these countries.
Why is Tiny Iceland So Big on Energy Use?
Why does Iceland use so much energy per person?
Let’s take a look at Iceland’s colossal industrial energy consumption, to see where energy goes:
|Sector / Industry||2019 energy consumption* (thousand kWh)||% of total|
|Aluminum foil industry||473,723||2.5%|
*Energy consumption excludes losses.
Source: Orkustofnunn – National Energy Authority of Iceland
Iceland’s three Aluminum smelters—Alcoa, Rio Tinto Alcan, and Century Aluminum—consume more energy than all other sectors combined, and account for 30% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. Iceland isn’t particularly rich in bauxite (the raw material used to make aluminum), but cheap and clean electricity are big incentives for aluminum smelters to set up operations on the island.
For similar reasons, Iceland is also a popular destination for data centers and bitcoin mining. The year-round cool climate lowers cooling costs for thousands of computers running around the clock, and clean grid electricity minimizes their carbon footprint.
Overall, it’s not surprising that the residential sector is among the smaller consumers of energy, despite the importance of home heating in a cool climate. Iceland’s industries, especially aluminum smelting, make up the bulk of its energy use, pushing the overall per-person use above all other countries.
The Bottom 10 Countries
Countries at the bottom end of the list are among the world’s least-developed economies, with relatively lower GDP per capita numbers.
|Country||2019 Energy consumption per capita (kWh)||GDP per capita (2020, current US$)|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||403||$544.0|
|Central African Republic||328||$492.8|
These countries consumed significantly less energy per capita compared to the global average of 19,836 kWh. In a stark contrast to the countries topping the list, their per capita GDPs are all lower than $1,000.
As economies develop, villages get electrified, megacities emerge, and industries grow, leading to higher overall energy consumption. On a global scale, if economic growth continues, energy consumption per capita is likely to continue its steady increase.
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