The richest 1 per cent of people in the world now own half of the planet’s wealth, according to a new report that highlights breathtaking levels of global inequality.
The study reveals how the super-rich have profited from the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, seeing their proportion of the world’s wealth increase from 42.5 per cent in the midst of the crisis to 50.1 per cent now.
According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, the top 1 per cent are now worth a total of £106 trillion – around eight times more than the size of the US economy.
The wealthiest 10 per cent of people, meanwhile, own 87.8 per cent of global wealth.
“The downward trend reversed after 2008 and the share of the top 1 per cent has been on an upward path ever since, passing the 2000 level in 2013 and achieving new peaks every year thereafter,” the report says.
The gaping inequality has resulted in a huge rise in the number of millionaires and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (those worth more than $30m). Since 2000, the number of millionaires in the world has risen by 170 per cent, to 36 million, while the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals has increased five times over.
The report said the poor are mostly found in developing countries, with more than 90% of adults in India and Africa having less than $10,000. “In some low-income countries in Africa, the percentage of the population in this wealth group is close to 100%,” the report said. “For many residents of low-income countries, life membership of the base tier is the norm rather than the exception.”
Meanwhile at the top of what Credit Suisse calls the “global wealth pyramid”, the 36 million people with at least $1m of wealth are collectively worth $128.7tn. More than two-fifths of the world’s millionaires live in the US, followed by Japan with 7% and the UK with 6%.
While the global population of millionaires has grown considerably, the number of ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) – those with a net worth of $50m or more – has increased even faster. “The number of millionaires has increased by 170% (since 2000), while the number of UHNWIs has risen five-fold, making them by far the fastest-growing group of wealth-holders,” the report said.
Most of the new UHNWIs have been created in the US, but 22% come from emerging economies, notably China.
The biggest losers, the report says, are young people who should not expect to become as rich as their parents. “Those with low wealth tend to be disproportionately found among the younger age groups, who have had little chance to accumulate assets,” Urs Rohner, Credit Suisse’s chairman, said. “But we find that millennials face particularly challenging circumstances.”