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Global Wealth Report 2019: Global wealth rises by 2.6% driven by US & China, despite trade tensions
Global wealth grew during the past year by 2.6% to USD 360tn and wealth per adult reached a new record high of USD 70,850, 1.2% above the level of mid-2018. US, China and Europe contributed the most towards global wealth growth with USD 3.8tn, USD 1.9tn and USD 1.1tn respectively.
- Viewed in terms of wealth per adult, Switzerland tops the winners (up USD 17,790) followed by the United States (USD 11,980), Japan (USD 9,180) and the Netherlands (USD 9,160). The main loser was Australia (down USD 28,670) largely down to exchange rate effects, with other significant losses in Norway (down USD 7,520), Turkey (down USD 5,230) and Belgium (down USD 4,330).
- Estimates for mid-2019 show 46.8 million millionaires worldwide, up 1.1million on 2018. The United States added more than half of this number – 675,000 new millionaires – to its sizeable stock. The decline in average wealth in Australia resulted in 124,000 fewer millionaires, but losses were relatively modest elsewhere, e.g. 27,000 in the United Kingdom and 24,000 in Turkey.
- Among the UHNW group in mid-2019, the report estimates that 55,920 adults are worth at least USD 100 million, and 4,830 have net assets above USD 500 million. North America dominates the regional breakdown, with 84,050 members (50%), while Europe has 33,550 (20%), and 22,660 (14%) live in Asia-Pacific countries, excluding China and India.
- This year, for the first time, China recorded more members of the global top 10% (100 million) than the United States (99 million).
- Wealth inequality declined within most of the countries during the early years of the century. Today, the share of the bottom 90% accounts for 18% of global wealth, compared to 11% in the year 2000. While it is too early to say wealth inequality is now in a downward phase, the prevailing evidence suggests that 2016 may have been the peak for the near future.
10 Years of the Global Wealth Report
This year the report also assesses the performance of countries in real rather than nominal values taking into consideration the effect of inflation.
- Emerging markets1 including China have become increasingly important to the world economy accounting for two thirds of real wealth gain since 2008, or double the contribution of North America.
- China performs extremely well under real USD, current USD and Local Currency Unit (LCU) measures.
- Since 2008, average real USD wealth growth in Europe has been negative, in part due to retrenchment of the euro.
- High-income Asia-Pacific countries have only a small role in this changing scenario and the rest of the world (including most of Africa and Latin America) simply offset the negative impact of Europe.
The report examines the ratio of wealth in relation to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) finding in the longer term, that the most successful countries are those that succeed in raising wealth as a multiple of GDP by addressing institutional and financial-sector deficiencies. This can result in a virtuous cycle in which higher wealth stimulates GDP growth, which in turn further raises wealth. China, India and Vietnam provide examples of this virtuous cycle in action.
The global wealth pyramid 2019
To determine how global wealth is distributed across individual adults, the report combines estimates of the level of household wealth across countries with information on the pattern of wealth distribution within countries. The wealth pyramid in Figure 5 from the report (below) captures the wealth difference between adults. The large base of low-wealth holders underpins higher tiers occupied by progressively fewer adults. An estimated 2.9 billion individuals – 57% of all adults in the world – have wealth below USD 10,000 in 2019. The next segment, covering those with wealth in the range USD 10,000–100,000, has seen the biggest rise in numbers this century, trebling in size from 514 million in 2000 to 1.7 billion in mid-2019. This reflects the growing prosperity of emerging economies, especially China, and the expansion of the middle class in the developing world. The average wealth of this group is USD 33,530, a little less than half the level of average wealth worldwide, but considerably above the average wealth of the countries in which most of the members reside.
Wealth of women has risen due to their increasing labor force participation
Women’s wealth has grown relative to that of men in most countries due to rising female labor force participation, more equal division of wealth between spouses and other factors.
Traditionally, inheritance has been a more important source of wealth for women than for men - partly because lower incomes restricted accumulation on their own account, partly due to widowhood, and partly because females hold on to bequests longer than male heirs because they tend to live longer. The reduced flow of inherited wealth over the first half of the 20th century tended to lower the relative wealth of women due to their greater dependence on inheritance.
Parental financial help and inheritance may support millennials accumulate wealth
Millennials have not been a lucky cohort, according to the report. Not only were they hit at a young age by the global financial crisis, its associated recession and the poor job prospects that followed, but they have also been disadvantaged in many countries by high house prices, low interest rates and low incomes, making it difficult for them to buy property or accumulate wealth. While millennials may appear to suffer from many disadvantages, parental financial help and inheritance may come to their aid. The expected surge in inherited wealth has consequences for wealth distribution and wealth inequality for developed countries and emerging economies alike. Inheritances are expected to have more significant wealth distribution consequences in future, probably adding to the inequality pressures from other sources.
Number of millionaires will reach almost 63 million in the next five years
Global wealth is projected to rise by 27% over the next five years, reaching USD 459 trillion by 2024. Low-and middle-income countries are responsible for 38% of the growth, although they account for just 31% of current wealth. Growth by middle-income countries will be the primary driver of global trends. The number of millionaires will also grow markedly over the next five years to reach almost 63 million, while the number of UHNWIs will reach 234,000.
Anthony Shorrocks, economist and report author, said: “Global wealth grew during the past year but at a very modest rate of 2.6%. This low growth is partly attributable to US dollar appreciation: using 5-year average exchange rates, total wealth grew by 5.9% since end-2017, and wealth per adult by 3.8%. With almost two decades of data at our disposal, we can see two distinct phases of wealth growth. The century began with a ‘golden age’ of robust and inclusive wealth creation. But wealth growth collapsed during the financial crisis and growth never recovered to the level experienced earlier. There was a seismic change at the time of the financial crisis, when China and other emerging market economies took over as the engine of wealth creation. Meanwhile, the United States has maintained an astonishing 11 year spell of increasing wealth per adult.”
Nannette Hechler-Fayd’herbe, Chief Investment Officer International Wealth Management and Global Head of Economics & Research at Credit Suisse, said: “Despite the trade tension between US and China over the past 12 months, both countries have fared strongly in wealth creation contributing USD 3.8tn and USD 1.9tn respectively. The number of millionaires has also risen globally by 1.1million to 46.8 million in 2019, collectively owning USD 158.3 trillion or 44% of the global total. China and other emerging markets have contributed significantly to this growing contingent and show signs of progress and opportunity for investors.”
1Emerging Markets refer to China plus Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei), Thailand, Turkey and United Arab Emirates. To avoid double counting, countries in this list are excluded from the “Europe” and “High-Income Asia-Pacific” categories.
The Global Wealth Report 2019 is available at:
About the Credit Suisse Research Institute
The Credit Suisse Research Institute is Credit Suisse's in-house think tank. The Institute was established in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis with the objective of studying long-term economic developments, which have – or promise to have – a global impact within and beyond the financial services. Further information about the Credit Suisse Research Institute can be found at www.credit-suisse.com/researchinstitute.