The global “Ultra High Net Worth” (UHNW) rankings swelled by 46,000 last year to a record 218,200 as the world’s richest people benefited from an “almost explosion of wealth” during the recovery from the pandemic.
The number of high net worth people – those with assets of more than $50m (£43.7m) – jumped in 2021 as the super-rich benefited from rising house prices and booming stock markets, according to a report by investment bank Credit Suisse. The number of people in the UHNW category has increased more than 50% over the past two years.
The massive increase in the wealth of the world’s richest 0.00004% of adults comes as billions of low- and middle-income people – many of whom have seen their savings during the pandemic – struggle to cope with rising food and energy prices.
“A strong rise in financial assets has led to increased inequality in 2021,” said the Credit Suisse report, which helps manage the fortunes of many of the world’s richest people. “It is likely that the rise in inequality resulted from the rise in the value of financial assets during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report found that “the revival of macroeconomic activity in a low-interest environment produced exceptionally favorable conditions for household wealth growth through 2021.”
“We estimate total global wealth to have reached $463.6 trillion at the end of 2021, an increase of $41.4 trillion (9.8%),” the report said. “Wealth per adult grew by $6,800 (8.4%) over the course of the year to $87,489, nearly three times the level recorded at the turn of the century.”
There was “almost an explosion of wealth last year…perhaps higher than any other year we have ever recorded,” said Anthony Shoroux, professor of economics and author of the report.
The increase in wealth was not distributed equitably. The richest 1% of the world’s population increased their share of all the world’s wealth for the second year in a row to 46%, up from 44% in 2020.
The number of US dollar millionaires rose by 5.2 million during 2021 to a total of 62.5 million – just below the UK population of 67 million. Shorrocks said the number of millionaires has become so large that it has become an “increasingly irrelevant measure of wealth”.
More than a third of millionaires live in the United States, which has 24.5 million millionaires, or 39% of the global total.
The number of American millionaires increased by 2.5 million – nearly half of all new millionaires minted worldwide. “This is the largest increase in millionaire numbers recorded by any country in any year during this century and reinforces the rapid rise in millionaire numbers in the United States since 2016,” the report said.
China ranks second with 10% of the world’s millionaires, ahead of Japan with 5.4%, the United Kingdom (4.6%) and France (4.5%).
Switzerland is once again ranked as the richest country in terms of average per capita wealth of $700,000, ahead of the United States at $579,000.
However, the disparities in those countries are highlighted when examining average wealth per adult. Switzerland is ranked sixth with an average fortune of $168,000, while the United States slipped to the eighteenth place with a fortune of $93,000. Australia tops the list of average wealth with $274,000.
The average adult wealth in the UK is $309,000 (14th place) and the average wealth is $142 thousand (ninth place).
The country with the biggest jump in average wealth was New Zealand, which saw an average increase of $114,000 to $472,000.
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