My keynote presentation was an introduction to the first day and to the theme of return to work and social participation. I used an “environmental scanning” approach to highlight “Six Trends, Three Predictions and One Sure Thing: International Perspectives on Return to Work and Social Participation.” This presentation provided evidence for six trends in North America, Europe and the Australasian region and some predictions for what is coming next.
I touched on the following trends:
1. Rise of social enterprise
2. Mainstreaming Social Responsibility
3. Enabling through Technology
4. Improving through Comparison
5. Dawning of BIG DATA
6. Resetting Expectations
My three predictions that will influence RTW in the future flowed from these trends and from other developments that are hard to ignore:
1. Demographic Change: Unexpected Consequences
2. Concepts of “Disability” will change….Dramatically
3. Technology, for good and ill, will change everything
The “One Sure Thing” is that the number of disabled persons is going to increase dramatically. Already, US Social Security Disability is nearing the point of insolvency; the number of recipients of Canada Pension Plan Disability is rising and is projected to continue to rise for at least the next two decades. This does not even address the rising prevalence of disability in the overall population. One New Zealand study projects the disabled population is estimated to grow over the next 50 years to 1.2 million people, or 21 per cent of the total population.