The ranks of the world’s ‘ultra high net worth’ (UHNW) people rose by 46,000 last year to a record 218,200 as the world’s wealthiest people enjoyed a ‘near explosion’ wealth” during the recovery from the pandemic.
The number of UHNW people – those with assets above $50m (£43.7m) – jumped in 2021 as the super-rich took advantage of soaring house prices and the boom in stock markets, according to a report by investment bank Credit Suisse. The number of people in the UHNW bracket has increased by more than 50% over the past two years.
The huge increase in the wealth of the top 0.00004% of the world’s adult population comes as billions of low- and middle-income people – many of whom have seen their savings wiped out during the pandemic – struggle to cope with the soaring food and energy prices.
“The sharp rise in financial assets has led to rising inequality in 2021,” says the report from Credit Suisse, which helps manage the fortunes of many of the world’s wealthiest people. “The rise in inequality is likely due to the surge in the value of financial assets during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report found that “the pick-up in macroeconomic activity in a low interest rate environment has produced exceptionally favorable conditions for household wealth growth in 2021.”
“We estimate that global wealth stood at $463.6 billion at the end of 2021, an increase of $41.4 billion (9.8%),” the report said. “Wealth per adult increased by $6,800 (8.4%) during the year to reach $87,489, almost three times the level recorded at the turn of the century.
Anthony Shorrocks, professor of economics and author of the report, said there had been “almost an explosion in wealth last year… Probably higher than any other year we’ve ever recorded”.
The increase in wealth has not been distributed equitably. The richest 1% of the world’s population increased their share of all global wealth for a second straight year to 46%, up from 44% in 2020.
The number of US dollar millionaires rose by 5.2 million in 2021 to a total of 62.5 million, just below the UK’s 67 million population. Shorrocks said the number of millionaires was becoming so large that it was becoming “an increasingly irrelevant measure of wealth”.
More than a third of millionaires live in the United States, which is home to 24.5 million millionaires, or 39% of the global total.
The number of American millionaires increased by 2.5 million, almost half of all new millionaires created worldwide. “This is the largest increase in millionaires recorded for any country in any year this century and reinforces the rapid increase in millionaires seen in the United States since 2016,” the report said.
China is in second place, with 10% of the world’s millionaires, ahead of Japan with 5.4%, the United Kingdom (4.6%) and France (4.5%).
Switzerland was again named the richest country in terms of average average wealth per adult at $700,000, ahead of the United States at $579,000.
However, the inequalities in these countries are highlighted when the average median wealth per adult is examined. Switzerland drops to sixth place with median wealth of $168,000 and the United States to 18th place with $93,000. Australia tops the median wealth chart with $274,000.
UK adults have an average wealth of $309,000 (14th place) and a median wealth of $142,000 (ninth place).
The country with the largest increase in average average wealth is New Zealand, which saw an average increase from $114,000 to $472,000.