ASPEN, Colo. – Poverty across the planet will be virtually eliminated by 2030, with a rising middle class of some two billion people pushing for more rights and demanding more resources, the chief of the top U.S. intelligence analysis shop said Saturday.
If current trends continue, the 1 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day now will drop to half that number in roughly two decades, Christoper Kojm said.
"We see the rise of the global middle class going from one to two billion," Kojm said, in a preview of the National Intelligence Council's global forecast offered at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
"Even if some of the most dire predictions of economic upheaval" in the coming years prove accurate, the intelligence council still sees "several hundred million people...entering the middle class," Kojm said.
The National Intelligence Council analyzes critical national security issues drawing from all U.S. intelligence agencies. The unclassified global forecast, which is due out by the end of the year, tries to "describe drivers of future behavior" to help government agencies from the White House to the State Department plan future policy and programs, Kojm said.
The rising middle class will have little tolerance of authoritarian regimes, combined with the economic resources and education needed to challenge them.
"Governance will be increasingly difficult in countries with rising incomes," he said, adding "middle-class people have middle-class values and aspirations" for greater individual empowerment and are now armed with social media and other technological tools to bring that about, including the overthrow of repressive governments.
Education levels are also rising, with graduation rates for women set to exceed that of men if current trends continue.
On the negative side, Kojm predicted food demand will rise by 50% in the next 18 years, though global population will only rise from 7.1 to 8.3 billion. Middle-class people want middle-class diets, which are heavy in meat, requiring more water and grain to produce, he said.
Adding to that, "nearly 50 percent of humanity will live in water-stressed regions by 2030," he said.
But Kojm also predicted that new technological developments could help close the gap between food and water shortages and need.
More people will migrate to cities, he said. Some 50 percent of the world lives in urban areas now, rising to 60 percent by 2030.
The growth of the Asian economies, such as China, is expected to continue, but Kojm said the rising median age of China's workers means it may be overtaken by countries with cheaper labor like India, Vietnam and Indonesia.