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By Michael Yardney
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The Importance of Asia’s Middle-Class for Australia’s economy and property markets

Australia's economy has historically been tied closely with Asia, and given the emergence of Asia's middle class, we have a unique opportunity to seize.

It's a relationship of mutual needs — we offer what Asia requires, be it natural resources, agricultural goods, or tourism and education services and Australia has benefited economically.

In a recent article in The New Daily, demographer Simon Kuestenmacher reminds us that:

Nothing that happens in Australia happens in isolation. We are very much embedded into a larger global and regional context.

He explains that the rise of the middle class in Asia—particularly in countries like China and India—offers a mutually beneficial paradigm for Australia.

Kuestenmacher reminds us:

What you are seeing here is the emergence of the largest middle-class in human history.

This middle-class couldn’t be more important for Australia.

Small Leather Purse Decorated With Map Of Australia

Obviously this emerging middle class is characterized by increased spending power, diversified needs, and often, more sophisticated tastes.

These are people who are willing to pay for quality—whether that's in food, education, or consumer goods.

For a nation like Australia, which has built its economic model on providing high-quality exports from natural resources to education, this is like hitting a gold mine.

We sell what Asia needs, in fact we’ve built our whole economy around Asia.

Australia operates a very simple business model.

We entertain people from around the world (tourism), we educate people (international education), but mostly we sell things that we dig out of the ground (mining) and that we grow in the ground (agriculture), says Kuestenmacher

Australia & China: The Balancing Act

The key takeaway is that China's reliance on Australia for fundamental resources like food and energy places us in a position of relative geopolitical strength.

However, this relationship isn't without its challenges.

  1. Economic Dependency: China is reliant on Australia's mineral and agricultural wealth, while Australia benefits from the influx of capital.It's a model that has worked well but has shown vulnerability as China's economic growth slows down and their middle class reaches a plateau.
  2. The Demographic Dilemma: China's One-Child Policy and its repercussions on population size and age are significant.An older population spends less and is less economically active.The impact of this demographic change on Australia could be multifaceted, affecting everything from property investment to export commodities.If the Chinese middle class contracts or stagnates, this could slow down investment in Australian real estate as well as reduce the demand for our exports.
  3. The Psychological Factor: One under-considered aspect is the shifting optimism within China.The nation's 'dream' has been a driving force behind consumer behavior.If optimism wanes, it could reduce Chinese investments in foreign assets, including Australian property.

The slowing down of China's economy and its potential demographic issues could have a knock-on effect on Australia's financial health.

Kuestenmacher mentions that China's middle class may still have room to grow, potentially offsetting other economic and demographic declines.

Still, it would be a precarious position for Australia to overly depend on this.

India: The Emerging Powerhouse

India now home to more people than China

Source: The New Daily

As China's population growth tapers off, India has now emerged as the world's most populous nation, and by extension, a tantalizing market for Australia.

With only 36% of its population residing in cities.

This figure will double eventually, leading to even more economic development activity than we’ve seen in China over the last 25 years.

rising middle class

Source: The New Daily

The age demographic in India is younger compared to China's aging population.

This is important because younger populations tend to be more economically active, providing a more sustainable market for Australian exports.

Young India

Source: The New Daily

Kuestenmacher explains that in the next thirty years India will see the size of the population cohort in the highest spending phase of the lifecycle rise.

Now that's a great market for Australia to be doing business with.

  1. Demographic Advantage: India's younger population means a longer-term customer base for Australian exports.Plus, the younger generation is more adaptable and willing to engage with global markets, including studying abroad, which Australia excels in providing.
  2. The Urbanization Wave: India's low rate of urbanization (only 36%) is not a weakness; it's an opportunity.The migration from rural to urban areas in India will drive demand for everything from energy to consumer goods, much of which could be supplied by Australia.
  3. Cultural Synergy: Given the English-speaking population and the Commonwealth connection, India and Australia have a cultural synergy that could make trade relations smoother.

Diversification is Key

Kuestenmacher advises against putting all our eggs in the Chinese basket, a lesson hard-learned during the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

He says diversification in trade partners is not just good economic sense; it's vital for national security and long-term stability.

What This Means for Property

As a property investor keeping track of macro-economic shifts like this is vital.

Asia, with its burgeoning middle class, is too big to ignore.

While China has been the go-to market for decades, the winds of change are suggesting that India may be the next big thing.

Diversifying our trade partners will not only secure Australia's economic future but also provide nuanced, varied opportunities for investors.

An emerging middle class in countries like India can translate into a surge in demand for Australian natural resources and agricultural products which will fuel our domestic economy.

The emerging middle class in Asia will al boost our tourism industry and our education sector.

All this is important for the health of Australia's economy which in turn is critical for the wealth of all Australians

And if you agree that Australia's population is going to keep growing strongly and that we will remain a wealthy nation, that will underpin the growth of our property markets.

About Michael Yardney Michael is a director of Metropole Property Strategists who help their clients grow, protect and pass on their wealth through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He's once again been voted Australia's leading property investment adviser and one of Australia's 50 most influential Thought Leaders. His opinions are regularly featured in the media.
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