1% own half the world’s wealth

The world is growing increasingly unequal, with the 2008 recession leading to a shrinking of wealth in global middle and lower classes while the wealth of the richest 1% has grown rapidly.

This is according to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report 2015. Likening global wealth distribution to a pyramid, it shows how wealth is increasingly concentrated at the top.

At the bottom, the poorest 71% of the world’s population now have to share 3% of its wealth. This equates to $7-trillion, while the top 1% own $113-trillion.

The expansion of the top 1% has seen a rise in the number of ultra-high net worth individuals – people worth more than R670-million ($50-million).

Credit Suisse did have good news for South Africa, in that average real wealth for the population had grown at 4.1% in the past 15 years. This put it in the top 10 countries in that time period. China had the greatest average wealth growth in that time, with 5.3% growth since 2000.


South Africa’s ranking has been mostly owing to a rapid growth in the middle class, which now comprises 13.7% of the population. The report said to be considered middle class in South Africa, an individual needs to be worth R300 000. Most of this comes in the form of fixed assets, such as cars and homes.

Only 1.1% of the population are considered to be wealthier than middle class, the report said. This meant that 71 000 South Africans are members of the top 1% of global wealth holders. Of these, 50 000 are dollar millionaires.

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

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