[WASHINGTON] Just one per cent of the world's population can call themselves millionaires or richer. But together they hold almost half the world's wealth, and their share is growing, according to a new study released Tuesday.
Some 18.5 million households around the world have at least US$1 million worth of assets, for a total of US$78.8 trillion - or about the same size as global annual economic output - Boston Consulting Group's annual report on global private wealth says.
That also amounts to 47 per cent of total global wealth - based on holdings of cash, financial accounts, and equities, but not real estate - leaving the rest to be divided by the other 99 per cent of the world's population.
The elite one per cent have steadily grown their share of global wealth from 45 per cent in 2013 to 47 per cent last year, the findings show, supporting worries among economists that inequality is growing around the globe.
The United States tops the world's count of millionaires by far, with eight million at least that wealthy, followed by China with two million millionaires and Japan with half that number.
Per capita, however, the largest concentrations of wealthy are in the tax havens of Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
But overall wealth has grown fastest in the Asia-Pacific region, thanks to East Asia's booming economies, at a rate of 12.3 per cent annually over the past five years and with forecasts it will grow more than 10 per cent a year to 2020.
Excluding Japan, the Asia-Pacific region will account for more than 40 per cent of global wealth growth over the coming half-decade, the report said. Most of that will be in China and India.
"The Asia-Pacific region is also expected to surpass Western Europe as the second wealthiest region in 2017," it added.
Despite efforts by the United States and European countries to crack down on tax evasion, the report said, offshore financial centers remain important to the world's wealthy.
Offshore tax havens hold some US$10 trillion, an amount that grew around 3 per cent last year. The largest sources of wealth held offshore are Latin America and the Middle East.
"In these regions economic and political tensions... have continued to contribute to the flow of wealth offshore," the report said.
And while Switzerland remains the world's main destination for parking offshore money, both Singapore and Hong Kong are growing much faster in the business, with around 18 per cent of the world's offshore wealth.