People across the planet are grappling with the effects of multiple overlapping challenges. COVID-19, climate change, social inequality, supply chain disruptions, persistently high inflation and the probability of recession pose significant obstacles to advancing healthy societies and building climate resilience.


Cities concentrate these challenges but also may hold the key to overcome them.


Despite cultural shifts that have altered the way we live and work, cities continue to flourish. Today, more than half the world’s population (55%) lives in cities, up from just 30% in 1950. And by 2050, this figure is expected to soar to 70%, with an estimated 2.5 billion people migrating to urban areas over the next 20 years.


  • People First - Video transcript

    People worldwide face formidable challenges: the impacts of COVID-19, climate change, social inequality, supply chain disruption, inflation and recession risks.

    Despite profound shifts in how we live and work, cities continue to grow.

    Today, 55% of the world’s people live in cities. And by 2050, this figure will likely grow to 70%.

    In an increasingly urban connected world, cities continue to serve as centers of wealth, prosperity and innovation.

    Throughout history, pandemics have shaped how people experience cities, influencing every aspect of their social lives, economic choices and health.

    More than ever, we must create thriving cities where people flourish and businesses prosper.

    At Mercer, we call this “people first.”

    People First: The Future of Cities Post-COVID focuses on three pillars of well-being:  

    • Mental
    • Physical
    • Financial

    In a post-pandemic era, our People-First platform helps organizations navigate the transformation of cities as cities and businesses remake themselves to become People-First.

    Explore how city trends intersect with the future of work and discover how global talent trends and new work operating systems are shaping tomorrow’s world of work.

    Download our latest insights to see how to build for success in the cities of today and tomorrow and stay tuned for more!

    People First: The future of cities post-COVID

Although we see constant speculation about their future, cities will continue to be the centers of wealth, prosperity, creativity and innovation.


Developing nations will likely dominate megacity growth over the next decade; however, the COVID-19 pandemic also impacted developed nations. Although cities remain at the heart of the human experience, we saw movement out of economic hub cities into smaller cities, driven by remote and hybrid working and climate-change risks.


Throughout history, pandemics have shaped how people relate to cities. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception, highlighting systemic issues touching every aspect of urban life — from access to health, education, and public space, to commerce and economic activity, to social inequality and interconnectivity. Employees are calling on both the private sector and governments to create a healthier society that supports well-being alongside economic prosperity and improved information technology.

People First: The Future of Cities is a platform about well-being in the broadest sense and is built on three pillars: physical resilience and well-being, safety for oneself and loved ones, and financial health and prosperity.

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We must cultivate healthy, thriving companies to have flourishing and prosperous cities, societies and workforces. If designed well, such a change can enable agility and resilience across businesses and institutions through times of volatility and increasing uncertainty. At Mercer, we call the new paradigm or platform we need to aim for the People-First City.
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David Anderson, Chief Commercial Officer, Mercer


See how thriving organizations are reimagining work to enable people in cities to flourish. And explore how to attract talent and make your business more agile and adaptive in a changing world of work.


The first article in our three-part series includes: 

  • Insights from the 11,000 voices worldwide who took part in our 2022 Global Talent Trends survey
  • Unique perspectives on why a new work operating system is critical to promoting thriving, diverse and inclusive cities from Ravin Jesuthasan, Mercer’s Global Transformation Leader and author of best-selling books on the future work 
  • Strategies for engaging a new generation of workers from Gen Z expert and author Mark Beal

Stay tuned! 

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