Global cash

World’s richest 2% own half of global cash even as bottom half barely manages to make ends meet with only 1%.

The richest 2% of adults still own more than half of the world’s household wealth, perpetuating a yawning global gap between rich and poor, according to a UN development institute study published. The report from the Helsinki-based World institute for Development Economies Research shows that in 2000 the richest 1% of adults — most of who live in Europe or the US — owned 40% of global assets.

The richest 10% accounted for 85% of assets, the report said. By contrast, the bottom 50% of the world’s adult population owned barely one percent of the world’s wealth.

Wealth is heavily concentrated in North America, Europe and high income Asia – Pacific countries. People in these countries collectively hold almost 90% of total world wealth.

Although North America has only 6% of the world’s adult population, it accounts for 34% of household wealth. China occupies much of the middle third of global wealth distribution, while India, Africa and the low-income Asian companies dominate the bottom third. At the bottom of the list came nations such as Congo and Ethiopia, with capital of less than $US200 ($253) a head.

Income inequality has been rising for the past 20-25 years and we think that is true for inequality in the distribution of wealth.

The gulf between rich and poor nations has long concerned politicians and economists, who say it is one of the biggest obstacles to development. China and India, which are developing rapidly, are gaining wealth and in countries like Bangladesh, the spread of micro-credit institutions which make small loans to low-income earners is helping people to increase their personal wealth. In other countries, land registration programs allow the poor to own land for the first time.

According to the report, individual assets of $2,200 placed an adult in the top of the world’s wealth distribution in 2000. Those in the richest 10% of adults had assets of $61,000 or more while those in the top one percent who now number 37 million had at least $500,000.

Researchers defined wealth as the value of physical and financial assets minus debts.

Household wealth in 2000 was valued at $125 trillion, equivalent to roughly three times the value of total global production or to $20,500 per person, the report said.

Average wealth in the US amounted to $144,000 per person in the year 2000, and $181,000 in Japan.

In India, the figure was just $1,100 and in Indonesia, per-capita wealth was $1,400. Even among high-income nations, the amounts vary, from $37,000 per person for New Zealand and $70,000 for Denmark to $127,000 for Britain.