Economist Impact Report Highlights: The Anywhere Economy

The Economist Impact Report, sponsored by Docusign, summarises new findings that assess the impact of our ability to do business anywhere. The report, “Unlocking the potential of the Anywhere Economy*”, has been researched and prepared by the think tank Economist Impact. Its findings reveal that we can expect future growth in productivity and business.  Read the highlights. 

What is the anywhere economy?

The anywhere economy has been activated by electronic devices, internet connectivity and digital platforms that allow communication, collaboration and transactions to take place in real time. We no longer need to be in the workplace, shop at the store or go to the bank to meet our responsibilities. 

This new economic era is defined by the capacity to conduct business, leisure and personal activities in any location, and it gives people greater flexibility in how, when and where they work. Online e-commerce marketplaces are booming, remote work is commonplace, and digital products are widely available to consumers. The anywhere economy also creates new economic opportunities for people previously marginalised, including those in rural areas and developing economies. Digitalisation is one of the most profound societal and economic advances made since the turn of the millennium, and many organisations are revisiting their strategies around people, processes and places to keep pace with the changes.

The Anywhere Economy - Economist Impact Report

Forward-looking companies are accelerating their investments in digital infrastructure to gain a competitive advantage and reap the benefits. The Economist Impact Report examines key areas impacted by the anywhere economy, including economic competitiveness, prosperity, the distribution of economic development, and environmental sustainability. Here are some of the highlights from the Economist Impact Report:

The anywhere economy is set to accelerate 

59% of executives surveyed and 47% of consumers expect the ‘anywhere economy’ to accelerate. They believe it will have an overall positive impact by creating jobs, broadening the range of online services, and improving equity, health and well-being.

The anywhere economy will fuel increased productivity

More than three-quarters of surveyed executives agreed that the ability to work at any time and from any location has increased productivity. Businesses across all ten countries will ramp up R&D spending to 1.3 to 1.5 times its 2021 level by 2030. But the biggest spending increases will take place in the UK (51%), France (47%), Germany (44%), the US (44%) and Canada (42%). Similarly, on average, individual productivity is forecast to increase by 9.7% across the ten countries. The top 5 countries with the biggest increases are the UK (12%), Canada (11%), Germany (11%), France (10%) and the US (10%).

Increased research

Executives predict that business expenditure on R&D in all ten countries will increase significantly—reaching 1.3-1.5 times its 2021 level by 2030. Business expenditure on R&D is estimated to grow in the top 5 countries, with the most significant increases in the UK (51%), France (47%), Germany (44%), the US (44%) and Canada (42%).

A shift from urban to rural areas

The anywhere economy is projected to create 2.6 million jobs in rural areas in 2030.

Enhanced economic competitiveness and prosperity

Respondents believe that the UK, France and Germany will see a boost in GDP, and GDP per worker is expected to grow by over 10% in the UK, Germany and France.

The anywhere economy and diversification in the workforce

Remote work flexibility has opened up new hiring opportunities and an expanded talent pool. More than 60% of respondents said they had hired workers in new locations because of the increased possibilities of remote working. Most respondents believe that women, working parents, individuals with disabilities and older adults will have greater access to the labour market and more flexible work options. Working remotely is likely to generate more employment opportunities for employees needing more flexible hours because of their domestic situations or needing adapted equipment at home. More than half of consumers believe that increased flexibility in when and where we work, exercise and socialise has improved health and well-being, with the ease of connecting with friends and family remotely being a major contributor.

Two-thirds of executives stated that the adoption of remote work and increased digitalisation have contributed to diversifying the workforce, and more than three-quarters agreed that flexible work schedules had made their workforce more diverse and equitable. The report estimates the change in the female and older adults’ labour force participation rate (LFPR) stemming from the anywhere economy in the ten studied countries during 2022-30. 

  • It is estimated that an additional 25 million women will be brought into the labour force in 2030 alone. 
  • The anywhere economy is projected to create an additional 2.6 million jobs in rural areas.
  • For every 1000 people in the following groups, the anywhere economy is expected to draw to the labour force an additional 47 adults aged 65 and over and an additional 48 women aged 15 and over across all ten countries.
  • Already, 17% of companies have moved their offices from a large city to the suburbs. The average rural employment rate (age 15+) will rise from 57% in 2021 to 59% in 2030. For every 1,000 rural residents age 15+, the anywhere economy will bring about 20 additional jobs. 

Potential barriers to acceleration 

One of the questions surrounding the anywhere economy is its long-term impact on inequality between countries.  Action is needed to ensure emerging markets do not fall further behind. Our survey respondents identified digital literacy and infrastructure as the second and third most significant barriers to the acceleration of the anywhere economy after cybersecurity.

Executives are more optimistic about the impact of the economy on environmental sustainability than consumers. Forty-seven per cent believe reduced commuting is the biggest environmental benefit. Energy savings through smaller physical offices was another popular choice. Almost three-quarters of executives agreed that remote working had enabled their organisations to progress towards net-zero targets, and two-thirds reported using emissions data to make more sustainable decisions. 

What’s next for the anywhere economy?

The anywhere economy is here to stay, and businesses and consumers will continue to adapt their behaviour to the new technology and infrastructure, which will spark economic growth. Companies have new pathways to prosperity, and consumers are offered new forms of entertainment, connectivity, and ways to balance their work and lives.

Report Methodology

* The report leverages insights from primary research data, desk research, econometric modelling and expert interviews to understand the opportunities and challenges that the anywhere economy brings to people, businesses and countries. Surveys were conducted in 10 countries among 2800 consumers and 764 senior-level executives. The research also applies econometric models to forecast the potential future impact of the anywhere economy in the countries surveyed: U.S., Australia, Japan, France, Germany, Ireland, the UK, Brazil, Mexico and Canada.

Economist Impact identified four areas expected to be the most impacted by the anywhere economy. Across these areas, we selected eight indicators that we expect to be the most significant externalities, including: • Workplace transformation: productivity, business research and development (R&D) expenditure. • Labour force and talent pool: female labour force participation; labour force participation of older adults. • Development equality: rural employment; low-income households. • Trade and economic development: GDP growth; leisure and education expenditure.  


Elsa Kesler
Demand and Content Marketing Manager
Related Topics