World's rich get $135.5tr richer

Confirmation that the rich are indeed getting better off: global private wealth increased by 7.8% last year. In the UK, it rose by £4.5tr. Phew.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 05 Jun 2013

The majority of us might be struggling to pay electricity bills but for the world’s super-rich, life is getting sweeter, according to a new report by management consultants the Boston Consulting Group.

Apparently, global wealth held by private individuals grew by 7.8% to $135.5tr during 2012, according to BCG’s global wealth report. The biggest rise was, not surprisingly, in Asia Pacific (excluding Japan), where wealth grew by 13.8%, followed by eastern Europe, where it rose by 13.2%. Over here in western Europe, wealth grew by 5.2%, while Japan held up the rear with growth of 2.4%.

In the UK, wealth grew by a respectable 5% to £4.5tr, with 32% of that held in cash and deposits, while 23% is held in bonds and 45% is held in equities. If George Osborne is having problems getting that deficit down, perhaps he could ask the nation’s zillionaires: apparently, private wealth is expected to grow at 1.8% a year until 2017.

The UK also holds a pretty impressive place in global rankings by the number of millionaire households: while the USA has the most millionaires, at 5.8m, the UK comes fourth, with 509,000, behind Japan (1.5m) and China (1.3m). Alas, we’re nowhere to be seen when it comes to per-head of the population. Qatar wins that one, with 14.3% of the population, followed by Switzerland (11.6%) and Kuwait (11.5). Even the Netherlands, at 2.6%, is doing better than us. The UK doesn't even make it into the top 20.

This is, of course, confirmation that the UK has reached a weird paradox where although the rich are getting richer, the poor seem to be getting even poorer. On Thursday, a report by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty showed that half a million people are now ‘accustomed’ to using food banks.

Although it’s a strange effect of the downturn, it’s arguable that the ever-growing wealth of the nation’s richest should, in theory, end up having a trickle-down effect on its worst-off as the money they pay in taxes goes into the nation’s coffers - assuming Leona Helmsley types (the now-departed Hilton heiress), who said that ‘only the little people pay taxes’, are kept at bay.  

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