Global wealth inequality: top 1% own 41%; top 10% own 86%; bottom half own just 1%

Global wealth highest in history despite downturn

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Despite the financial crisis of 2008 and the difficulties in the Eurozone, global wealth has more than doubled since 2000, reaching over £150 trillion, according to the latest global wealth report from Credit Suisse.

Economic growth in developing countries and rising populations have played a significant part in the figures. Aggregate total wealth rocketed past the pre-crisis peak in 2010 and has been climbing higher ever since. Average wealth per adult has reached £32,167 after a rise of 4.9 per cent during the year to mid-2013.

Change in household wealth by region 2012-2013:

Region Total Wealth 2013 (USD billion) Percentage Change 2012-13
Africa 2,711 1.2
Asia-Pacific (including China and India) 73,879 -3.7
Europe 76,254 7.7
Latin America 9,139 3.6
North America 78,898 11.9
World 240,881 4.9

The countries experiencing the largest wealth gains of over £620bn included the US, Japan, China, Germany and France. The UK came sixth in total wealth gains with over £125bn.

A large part of the gains made in the US were due to rising house prices and a strengthening equity market driving up the Dow Jones. The US increased the global wealth stock by £5.05 trillion, a 54 per cent increase since the downturn of 2008.

Switzerland remains the richest nation in the world, on average, with wealth rising to £319,805 per adult. Australia, Norway and Luxembourg all saw an increase in wealth per adult and retained their respective second, third and fourth places from 2012.

In terms of global distribution, once debts have been subtracted, £2493 in assets will place an adult in the top half of the worlds wealthiest citizens. Wealth of £46,000 is required for an adult to reach the top 10 per cent of global wealth holders, while personal wealth of £469,422  places an adult in the top one per cent.

The report forecasts that wealth will rise by close to 40 per cent in the next five years with emerging markets to increase their share of global wealth to 23 per cent by 2018. China is expected to see household wealth dramatically, growing by 10.1 per cent over the next five years.

– See more at:

Just 8.4% of all the 5bn adults in the world own 83.4% of all household wealth (that’s property and financial assets, like stocks, shares and cash in the bank).  About 393 million people have net worth (that’s wealth after all debt is accounted for) of over $100,000, that’s 10% own 86% of all household wealth!  But $100,000 may not seem that much, if you own a house in any G7 country without any mortgage.  So many millions in the UK or the US are in the top 10% of global wealth holders.  This shows just how little two-thirds of adults in the world have – under $10,000 of net wealth each and billions have nothing at all.

This is not annual income but just wealth – in other words, 3.2bn adults own virtually nothing at all.  At the other end of the spectrum, just 32m people own $98trn in wealth or 41% of all household wealth or more than $1m each.  And just 98,700 people with ‘ultra-high net worth’ have more than $50 million each and of these 33,900 are worth over $100 million each.  Half of these super-rich live in the US.

All this is in a new global wealth report published Credit Suisse Bank and authored by Professors Anthony Shorrocks and Jim Davies – see the report here (global wealth report and the database wealth database).  The professors find that global wealth has reached a new all-time high of $241 trillion, up 4.9% since last year, with the US accounting for most of the rise.  Average wealth hit a new peak of $51,600 per adult but the distribution of that wealth is wildly unequal.

There is nothing new in this report in one sense because Tony Shorrocks previously authored a UN report back in 2010 (see my post, that found virtually the same wealth inequality and Branko Milanovic also found similar figures in various World Bank studies.  But what is also interesting is that Professor Shorrocks finds that there is little or no social mobility between rich and poor over generations – 87% of people stay rich or poor, hardly moving up or down the wealth pyramid.

This inequality is mirrored within each country (see UK wealth distribution).  In the UK, aggregate total wealth (including private pension wealth but excluding state pension wealth) of all private households in Great Britain was £10.3 trillion. And the wealthiest 10 per cent of households were 4.4 times wealthier than the bottom 50 per cent of households combined. The wealthiest 20 per cent of households owned 62 per cent of total aggregate household wealth.

Moreover, according to the Credit Suisse report, the ‘American dream’ or the British idea of ‘rags to riches’ is a myth.  Two-thirds of American adults are in the same wealth decile as their parents were. Even globally, “while some individuals do alternate wildly between rags and riches, many stay for their whole lifetime in the same wealth neighborhood for people of their age. Dividing the population into wealth quintiles, about half the population remains in the same quintile after ten years and we estimate that at least a third would be in the same quintile after thirty years.”

Global wealth is projected to rise by nearly 40% over the next five years, reaching $334 trillion by 2018. Emerging markets will be responsible for 29% of the growth, although they account for just 21% of current wealth, while China will account for nearly 50% of the increase in emerging economies’ wealth. Wealth will primarily be driven by growth in the middle segment, but the number of millionaires will also grow markedly over the next five years.

All class societies have generated extremes of inequality in wealth and income.  That is the point of a rich elite (whether feudal landlords, Asiatic warlords, Incan and Egyptian religious castes, Roman slave owners etc) usurping control of the surplus produced by labour.  But past class societies considered that normal and ‘god-given’. Capitalism on the other hand talks about free markets, equal exchange and equality of opportunity.  But the reality is no different from previous class societies.

32 thoughts on “Global wealth inequality: top 1% own 41%; top 10% own 86%; bottom half own just 1%

  1. headline has global wealth adding up to 128 percent, while population adds up only to 61 percent. ???


    1. Fred, No. The headline covers only 10% of the population that has 86% of the wealth (of which the top 1% has 41% and thus next 9% has 45%) and the lower 50% that has only 1%. There is another 40% of the world adult population that has the rest of the wealth (13%) not headlined.

  2. “The reality” should be qualified a bit. There is a real difference in capitalism in that the wage-slavery relationship is entered into as a free contract between free parties. There was none of this formal freedom in previous class societies. Might was blatantly right.
    However, today the formally free consensus of capital relations is eroding so badly that no matter how many priests or journalists or economists tell you things are as they should be in a free and just society, that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, fewer and fewer people believe them and more and more people are unwilling to continue as wage-slaves and accept the system that grinds them down and keeps them in poverty.
    This difference is why the move from capitalist class society to socialist classless society is qualitatively different, requires scientific consciousness of what’s going on, and is taking such a bloody long time. Despite successful (decades-long) non/post-capitalist revolutionary societies, and despite people everywhere (contrary to the mythology of scepticism) being ready, willing and able to sacrifice their lives for a just cause.
    Which is also why blogs like yours, Mike, are so very important!
    Time for a heartfelt thank you – too often neglected in the heat of debate.

      1. Ah – I see. Thank you for the clarification. I would have thought that once you included property then it would have become worse, but clearly not.

  3. Of course this is a sober indication of the inherent inequality that capitalism creates. The headline story is surely that workers in the West are part of the global elite, even if they are the poorer part of it. And then this doesn’t take into account all the consumption, such as holidays abroad, cars, clothes, mobile phones, flat screen T.V’s, wining and dining etc etc etc.

    How do the left manage this epic inequality? How does socialism deal with a transition when this kind of inequality exists? Are the Western workers to be seen as part of the elite or part of the proletariat?

    No wonder the workers in the West do not want to rock the boat!!

    1. right, tell that to the workers in Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, UK, and the US… about how they are part of a global elite– and don’t rock the boat, although there have been massive strikes.

      Whereas in Brazil, workers aren’t part of a “global elite”?

      1. No one needs to tell workers in the UK to not rock the boat, they do that by pure instinct.

        I am not the one saying workers in the West are part of the global elite, this post is!

        One reason the left make no headway among the working classes in West must have something to do with the facts reproduced in this post. You might not like it but you have to face up to it.

    2. You said this: “The headline story is surely that workers in the West are part of the global elite, even if they are the poorer part of it.” I think you are the one saying what you said. Maybe you don’t mean it, but presenting that as the “headline story” indicates otherwise.

      As for the facts of the post, they hardly support that assertion– less than 10% of the adult population have net assets (that is net– after debt) greater than $100,000. 32 million people own 41% of the wealth– or app $3 million each.

      Let me know how many workers you find in either bunch.

      The left may or may not make progress. The facts in the post do not, however support the headline you would like to apply.

      1. Agree wholeheartedly with Sartesian here. Henry’s point is nonsensical, since the working class is a) trapped in the state looking after the interests of its own bourgeoisie, so it never gets a natural direct contact with the working class in other states. (This is why an international revolutionary workers party is so necessary.); and b) every working class is exploited as far as relations of power permit in every state, which means that if the working class is strong and bolshie in a state, and the bourgeoisie feels its very existence is threatened, then concessions will be wrung out of them, as the emergence of Welfare States, New Deals etc in certain countries with strong working classes during the postwar boom years testifies. Henry’s point is also pernicious, since it repeats the third worldist crap that sets workers in different states against one another. But workers in BanglaDesh for instance aren’t interested in stealing our jobs or watching us sink to their level of misery, they want jobs, period, and a decent life – in other words, they want our conditions (only better) and our standard of living (only better) and our freedom to organize and struggle for socialism (only better).

  4. Only financial assets count this huge inequality. Add non financial assets you will be dumbfounded. Imagine Mukesh Ambani with high HNI built a house in Mumbai for USD 17 billion. I wonder. whether the house is made of bricks and mortar or dollar currency bills!

  5. This is a very interesting post. A common argument over the last decade in favour of neo-liberal free market globalization has been that in developing countries such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa and other ’emerging markets’ particularily in SE Asia millions of people have been lifted out of poverty and that a new affluent middle class has emerged in these countries. It has also been argued that those developing countries which have most openly embraced the global market are those which have been most successful in raising the living standards of their populations. What light do you think this report sheds on these arguments ? Are you aware of any similar studies for earlier periods which can be used for comparison with the present situation ?
    For socilasts it is fairly easy to show that for most of the working class in the advanced capitalist countries the period of neo-liberal policies has been a complete failure as living standards for most people have stagnated and in some countries actually declined in real terms over recent years while inequality of wealth and income has increased and social provision such has housing, health care and welfare benefits have been steadily eroded and are now under serious threat. However, in the developing nations things appear to be far less clear cut. Has globalization been a success for the masses in these countries ? I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

    1. The “new affluent middle class” is the same ideological bullshit that is confusing Henry in the previous comment, with his ” workers in the West are part of the global elite” nonsense. A stratum of labour aristocrats and proletarianized petty-bourgeois specialists and bureaucrats (previously independent fee-earners, now salaried wage-earners) is thrown some crumbs from the capitalist feast, and their slave-driver/overseer/expert existence is trumpeted to be the road to the future. Just read all the crap written about the role of the “emerging middle class” in Russia as the guarantee of culture, democracy and social cleanliness 😉 !
      The foremen and specialists never put their lives on the line in any mobilizations (rarely, maybe, but not in any sustained way), and are far too concerned to protect their own nests to care about the birds in the rest of the forest.
      This is “floating voter” drivel. The kind of thing that the yellow press and corrupt labour unions and social democratic parties shout themselves hoarse about. Manipulated and mendacious electoral politics in a dying and corrupt system.
      Focus on these people, not a priority in the piece here, would reveal that most of their dreams have foundations of quicksand, as their indebtedness (to we all know who) far exceeds their actually owned property. But the dream is kept alive by the press, union leaderships and parties in order to conceal the brutal truth of social relations under capitalism. And every day the juggernaut harvests new victims of bankruptcy, debt slavery and despair, as their dream car smashes into the brick wall of wage-slave poverty and impotence (or falls off the unfinished bridge over to the land of milk and honey).

      1. The “new affluent middle class” is pretty much an illusion, as is the “lifting” out of poverty. That poverty takes new forms and has a different quality than in previous eras shouldn’t come as a surprise– it is but the complement to the different modes, and changes, in accumulation.

        If, because EU fishing fleets have “fished out” the waters along both coats of Africa, driving subsistence based fishing villages and producer into desperate circumstances, where a portion of the producers now migrate to Spain or Italy, to work in factories or agricultural enterprises, or in service industries for wages… does that count as “lifting people out of poverty” because they now have a wage– when in fact the entire livelihood of entire communities has been destroyed?

        Same thing with “internal migration” in…. well Thailand, Honduras, Mexico, China– the price paid to generate “maquiladora-ism” is never included in the numbers generated by those touting the great benefits of capitalism.

  6. These are conscious strategy under neo-liberalism. In the name individual freedom on pursuing economic options, it is a process of immiserising the majority of global population under perpetual economic as well as social inequality across the globe where certain sections will flourish wile major sections will languish.

  7. Hello,

    I am Jong Kim from socialist organization in South Korea named All Together. My organization is sister organization of Socialist Workers Party(SWP) in UK (for reference, check

    I want to translate this article into Korean for the socialist newspaper which we support. This article is very interesting and inspring that our readers will find it very helpful. I would like to ask you for the permission to do so. (We will note that the article is from your blog)

    Thank you.

  8. For many years I have circulated details of what I call “The Universal Economy”; a simple process formulated to end poverty and deprivation, to provide everyone in need of it, a basic break-even social wage, as income for life. Those in receipt of it would then be available, to work with the employer of “their” choice at and for an agreed negotiated wage, to be paid on top of the social wage; This allows the “earned” wage to be set much lower than usual, thus achieving the important step of making production costs significantly lower, and more competitive.
    There are many more benefits attaching to “The Universal Economy”, the fore-going just one aspect of it.
    The domestic economy would then have two levels, (1) the basic stabilised economy supported by the Social Wage, and, (2) the Free Enterprise economy operating on it’s own merits without further Government support.
    Individuals would not pay taxes whilst they live, instead, the Government would collect a share of all deceased estates, valued at an appropriate minimum, sufficient to control the amount of money in circulation.
    All of this, and much more will be possible, without the need to tax others or confiscate wealth from the rich, by simply reclaiming our Sovereign rights to print and issue our own “debt free Interest free” money, and, authorise our democratic Governments to “spend” it into circulation , thus to avoid falling into the trap leading to inflation.
    Everyone needs to realise, we accumulate large amounts of Government debts due to the fact our past politicians have signed away our “rights” and instead we borrow these huge sums from International players who simply Print OR more likely Keyboard it into existence, and then charge us interest for the privilege. We have been “conned” into signing away our very own Golden Goose for nothing in return except “debt slavery”.
    This is the shorthand version, there is much more to this proposal.
    Regards, THOMASWADAMS.

  9. ok, who is the one that distributing this wealth? As far as I know, no one is handing out billion dollar bills to anyone. People have wealth because they have earned it. A doctor makes more money than a burger king employee because he studied his ass off. No one has given him anything. He has earned his money. People who sit on their ass expecting money to fall from a tree dont deserve it. Bottom line you want wealth stop complaining about it and work your ass off to obtain it

    1. Rob

      I have edited your comment to remove most of the swearing – sorry but I am bit squeamish about that sort of language on my blog. One small point of argument:global wealth refers to what people OWN not what they earn from work. And what they own (property and stocks etc) is often inherited not ‘earned’, or even gained from speculation. Very little work involved, I’m afraid.

  10. Erm, Rob, a worker changing beds and bedpans and ‘nappies’ for the elderly & senile in care homes ‘earns’ minimum wage…now tell me about how Fred Goodwin & Andy Hornsby ‘earned’ their millions – oh, and cost the UK taxpayers billions. Not the sharpest tool in the box, are you?

  11. As someone who has worked in corporate finance in the UK for a quarter of a century, have personally known and worked with three UK FTSE Chief Executives, have managed teams in three European capitals and have wide experience of employers, employees, corporate law, financial accounting and any form of capital you can imagine, I may be missing something that you, rob, so clearly know about the wealthy and how they ‘earn’ their money. Please, enlighten me…

  12. hello Michael,
    I grew up a Marxist and studied economic history and have been studying development economics for 25 years. I would like to write to you about public investment capital and get your opinon on it. if you would like to know a bit more about me please see my website

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