It has been 25 years since Australia last experienced a recession. We’ve had an extraordinary period of uninterrupted economic growth – the longest in modern history – and this has greatly increased our prosperity.
Thanks to the abundance of natural resources needed to build roads, railways and skyscrapers in fast-growing cities across Asia, Australia’s economy has had a good run over the past quarter century.
But an expanding list of environmental, health and social burdens risk undermining our growth model. Business as usual is not an option. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015, are 17 goals for ending poverty, transforming health and education, improving our cities and communities, addressing gender equity and tackling urgent challenges such as climate change. Collectively, they propose a new development pathway, based on partnership between governments, civil society and business that could transform our societies.
Take our cities, for example. Cities are the economic powerhouses of our country, especially since the end of the mining boom (our capital cities alone generate around two-thirds of our GDP). Cities matter more than ever to our future employment and prosperity, but our urban quality of life is deteriorating. We spend on average 85 minutes a day commuting, up from 50 minutes half a century ago. Congestion already costs our capital cities $16.5bn annually, and that could double by 2030. The affordability of housing nationwide has more than halved since 1980, locking many out of the Australian dream.
Our urban lifestyles have become a growing burden on our health, too. A rising set of noncommunicable diseases, such as obesity, are posing massive challenges for the health system. In 2015, almost two in three Australian adults were overweight or obese.
The labour force is changing dramatically. A report completed by AlphaBeta for the Foundation for Young Australians found that 70% of young people currently enter the workforce in jobs that will be radically affected by automation and imports over the next 10 to 15 years.
This article was originally published by The Guardian.