Transformed Economy

Mar 30, 2017

Transformed Economy

Read a summary of the Alternative Futures engagement phase (April-August 2017), during which CMAP connected with more than 2,500 residents in 127 workshops and five topical forums, with another 61,000 providing input via interactive kiosks. Capping off these activities was a speech to the City Club of Chicago by CMAP executive director Joe Szabo.

What if the economy has been transformed by 2050?

By 2050, technological advancements have transformed regional employment, consumption, and global competitiveness—creating both an economic triumph for the region and a personal tribulation for many workers. New technologies have also exacerbated growing skills and employment gaps as computerization has extended into more cognitive domains and non-routine, middle-skill occupations. At the same time, it has become increasingly challenging to acquire sufficient education and new skills to adapt to technological advances. These trends affect all workers, limiting individuals' ability to work and leading to greater displacement and economic polarization among the employed. Climbing the economic ladder has grown increasingly difficult for most residents, and many are at risk of falling out of the middle class. Historically marginalized communities suffer from deepened negative outcomes in educational attainment, employment levels, and income. 

Check out an interactive graphic that predicts what jobs will make up the regional economy in 2050.

What is the primary driver behind this future?

In 2050, the application of new technological advancements in most occupations and across all skill levels has increased productivity and output, as well as transformed workers' daily tasks. The scope of what technology can do continues to expand, building on advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced materials, and the automation and digitalization of services. Also, by 2050, businesses and individual consumers come to expect just-in-time, customized goods from around the world. Increasingly complex supply chains extend globally and employers access a worldwide workforce. Meanwhile, the region's population and workforce have become older and more diverse.

What would life be like in 2050 with a transformed economy?

In 2050, technology continues to drive long-term structural changes in the economy by transforming employment, increasing productivity, and constricting job growth in some industries. New, unforeseeable economic opportunities have emerged for both businesses and individuals. The resulting requirement to rapidly and continually acquire new skills exacerbates barriers to entrance and mobility for some workers.

  • Technological advancements promise to transform the future of work in sectors ranging from retail and warehousing to finance and healthcare.

  • Training would become a lifelong requirement for workers to remain competitive, especially as many residents continue to work later in life.

  • Low-income and entry-level workers in particular would face challenges in meeting the cost of workforce readiness.

  • High-poverty areas that have historically struggled to connect to the regional economy fall even further out of the mainstream.

  • Advancements in production, information technology, and logistics will likely transform the types of products and services available to customers in order to satisfy evolving industry and consumer demand.

  • Technology would also influence where residents work. Demand for suburban large-format office parks could continue to decrease as shared workspaces, telecommuting, and more flexible work schedules become more common.

  • On-demand delivery, flexible work schedules, and innovations in technology (e.g., automated vehicles, intelligent transportation systems) could also alter traffic patterns and transportation needs.

Strategies to face this future

CMAP has collected more details about this future and strategies that can be taken now to prepare for our changing economy in this Transformed Economy memo.  To better understand the current conditions in the region, read CMAP's recent snapshot report on Regional Economy and Clusters

Media coverage

"In race to boost regional economy, not all jobs are created equal," editorial by CMAP Executive Director Joe Szabo, Crain's Chicago Business


CMAP wants to hear from you about this future. Make your voice heard by:
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