According to the BBC News article “Where do the wealthiest 1 % live?” dated 25 January 2015, there are 47 m (‘m’ stands for ‘million’) people in the world who belong to the top 1% of the world’s wealthy and they are the wealthiest. Of these 47 m, 39.3 m live in 10 countries and the remaining 7.7 m in 28 countries. The figures for the country-wise distribution of the 1% per cent vary from the highest of 18 m in USA to the lowest of 0.8 m in Switzerland. The figures for the rest 8 countries are: Japan 4 m, France 3.5 m, UK 2.9 m, Germany 2.8 m, Italy 2.3 m, Australia 1.8 m, Canada and China 1.6 m each. Wealth, here, is the net worth and is defined as assets-debts or own-owe.
If we now translate the above data into per cent age of each individual country’s population, the per cent ages for the 10 countries are computed as (approximated to 1 decimal place):
9.8% for Switzerland (population=8.2 m),
7.5% for Australia (population=23.9 m);
5.6% for USA (population=325.1 m),
5.4% for France (population=64.98 m);
4.6% for UK (population=63.8 m) and for
Canada 4.5% (population=35.9 m);
Italy 3.8% (population=61.1 m),
Germany 3.4% (82.6 m) and
3.15% for Japan (population=126.8 m).
For China (population=1401.6 m), the per cent age is as low as 0.115%.
The population figures used by me in the above calculations have been taken from the United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs’ published data and updated on 8 April 2015. You can see that the results are startling. Though Switzerland has the lowest number of its people (0.8 m) belonging to the 1%, in terms of 1% per capita, it tops the list at a little below 10%. This means, one in every 10 of Swiss residents has assets more than US$798000.
Switzerland is followed by Australia, also an unexpected result, but understandable because of its low population density. USA slides to the 3rd place, another surprise. Neck to neck with US is France. Taking their average at 5.5%, the deviations of US and France from the mean are only ±1.8%. The two kindred countries UK and Canada are near about the same (around 4.5%). Next come the 3 World War II-famous Axis Powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) whose per cent ages lie in the range of 3.15% – 3.8%. Result for Germany is a bit exasperating, especially because it is lower than Italy’s. Finally, and in isolation stands our big Asian neighbor China which has an impressive 2015 GDP of 11.2 trillion. But, in terms of the top 1% of the wealthiest, it is first from the last among the 10 countries. This may imply that wealth is highly concentrated in China, confined, perhaps, to powerful politicians, influential government officials and a handful of business tycoons.
The above results are no doubt interesting, but they are not very accurate because the calculations do not take into account the income of individuals and the variations in the cost of goods from one country to another. Also the economic and the financial health of the three richest countries Qatar, Luxembourg and Singapore are not included.
It is important to know that just because one has assets worth more than US$798000, it does not follow that he/she is leading a high life since life-style would depend on the income level. To be among the wealthiest 10%, the requirement of net asset is only US$77,000 (about INR5.16 m at exchange rate of US$1=INR67), and to be in the top half of the world’s wealthiest, a net asset of US$3650 is enough. Even US$798000 works out to INR53.5 m, a not very big sum for many.
By Dr. Sachidanand Das