Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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2015: Higher Wages, Low Gas Prices, Expensive Coffee

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, December 29 / 14

Zack Gross

Prognosticators seem to believe that 2015 won’t be a bad year for the ordinary Earthling.  There will be challenges – what might be termed “more of the same” when it comes to conflict, extreme weather events and bankruptcies.  Of course, seeing as how we can’t yet correctly predict the weather, why would we think that we can predict the future?

If you embark on a search of the Internet, you will see that there are a lot of “quacks” making predictions based on dreams and feelings.  It is impressive how well these folks do in life, publishing columns (like me!), writing books, appearing on prime time TV.  I’ve chosen to look into what Fortune magazine has to say based on their analysis of global trends and events.

Of course, Fortune tends to consider what is happening to those of us who are already well off and in a position to spend dollars in the marketplace, as opposed to those whose prospects may be largely the same from one year to another in poorer countries.  The news is not a pretty thing these days and 2014 is ending much as other years have done – with the question being “is the glass half full or half empty”?  Half either way is not so good.

Number One trend for Fortune is a significant slowdown in the Chinese economy, to 7% growth.  The good news in this is for the environment as those who have visited China have seen how toxic the cities are.  Air pollution from factories in China and elsewhere have made respiratory health one of the world’s major health issues today.  The question for the world is how this drop in Chinese “productivity” will affect the other huge economy – that of the United States.

 While we are celebrating the recent drop in gasoline prices, consumers’ other favourite fuel – coffee – will jump in price!  Disease issues have in particular affected coffee yields around the world and this will cause a 30% price increase.  Dairy prices are also rising, so if you like to add cream or milk (or in my case, ice cream) to your coffee, look out!  The greatest fear is that coffee beans could disappear from the planet in the next half-century if more sustainable growing methods aren't found.

As to gas prices, increased production has led to oversupply, and that has led to huge price drops at the pump.  This is good news for consumers in one way, but may ultimately be bad news when the taxes on gasoline purchases fail to add up for governments to what is needed to fund health, education and social programs.  A crunch in that sense is coming!

Here’s some more good news!  Fortune says that wages are going to go up after years of workers treading water.  As the recession fades and new jobs are created, employers will no longer have their pick of job applicants.  Thus, they will have to pay more to get good workers and a 5.4% global pay hike is expected.  This figure is based on research into data related to 16 million workers in 24,000 organizations in 110 countries, so it is authoritative.  Fortune considers 5% unemployment to be, for all intents and purposes, full employment.  Thus, it sees the power shifting from employers to wage-earners as we near that figure.

More good news:  alternative energy sources will finally become competitive with standard options such as coal or oil.  Currently, only ten countries in the world seriously use solar energy, but that number will increase to 47, as the price of solar will drop by 20%. 

Great technological advances are also expected with our phones.  Cordless charging spots are being set up in coffee shops, airports and hotels and soon the fear of a dead-battery phone will be a thing of the past.  “Watch phones” are also going into mass production with 30 million Apple computers-on-a-wrist to be shipped in 2015.  More human-like robots are also on the way, with the introduction of the Echo and the Jibo.  They offer information and take on simple tasks, and they also hold conversations and tell jokes!

E-commerce will continue to grow with traditional store-based enterprises such as Sears aiming to become all e-catalogue with no bricks and mortar storefronts.  What began as a catalogue-only operation in 1888 will “return” to being an e-catalogue only operation in 2015.  And for instant gratification, such as on-demand car, laundry, grocery, beauty salon and pizza delivery services, 2015 will see the major growth of Uber, Washio, Instacart, Glam Squad, and Push!
So, on some positive notes, at least for those of us already pretty well off, I am wishing you a year of health and peace in 2015!

Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s 
Marquis Project and continues his work on global issues in 2015 and hopefully beyond!

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