Fact sheet: How the wealthy are doing in the post financial crisis era

by Sep 13, 2012Magazine

Far from wallowing in squalor, the super-rich have been raking it in since the rest of the world had to radically downscale its life expectations in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

In 2011 total global wealth exceeded figures recorded before 2007, although wealth in America and Europe remains somewhat below the pre-crisis peak, according to Credit Suisse. There’s been a slight global decline more recently due to the Eurozone crisis.

In the US, where the crisis first struck, the top 1% haemorrhaged nearly 50% of all losses of wealth in the aftermath of the Great Recession. But since 2009, they have amassed 93% of all growth in wealth. Largely due to the bailouts that kept them afloat, since 2007 the wealthiest 1% in the US has accumulated about US$ 10 trillion at the expense of the remaining 99% of the population in that country and the number of poor people in the US has nearly doubled.

The net effect is a greater concentration of wealth than ever before in history and with it, increased inequality.

The 99% is unlikely to ever recover fully.


Notwithstanding the recession, total global wealth has doubled since 2000 while in South Africa it has quadrupled. Just last year, the combined wealth of South Africa’s 100 richest people had grown by 62.19% and is now almost equal to the country’s budget deficit.

Yet South Africa’s poor are increasingly buckling under the knock-on effects of both the recession and systemic poverty, with 60% earning under R2 500 per month. Among them are 33.4% of the population who earns under R1 000 while the monthly income of 16% is under R500.

Since 2009, despite the recession (or some would say as a result of it, and the bailouts it necessitated), the total wealth of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) globally grew by almost 10% per year.

The ranks of ultra-high net worth individuals globally (those who own at least US$ 30m each) have swelled by 10% since 2007, but they continue to account for less than 1% of the world’s population. In 2009 alone, their numbers grew by over 17% and their wealth by nearly 19%, even though the world economy shrank by 2% that year.

The wealth of those in the Asia-Pacific region has increased at the highest rate –14.1% between 2007 and 2011. The number of very wealthy individuals grew fastest in India, where they increased by 20.8% in the same period.

South Africa has 543 ultra-rich individuals, with an average wealth of $132m (R1 087 086 000) per person and a combined wealth of just under $72bn (R592 092 000 000). South Africa’s 100 richest people, who include only one woman, saw their wealth rise by 62.19% in 2011.


To qualify as one of the less than 10 000 people who together own 44% of global wealth, an individual must have a net wealth of US$ 712 000 (approximately R5 945 00). Net wealth is defined as the value of financial assets plus real assets less debts per individual. There are 116 South Africans in this group.

The wealthiest 0,5% owns 38,5%.

South Africans included in the 10% of the wealthiest individuals globally number 2 500. This 10% now owns 84% of total global wealth.

In contrast, 50% of the world’s population – about 3.5 billion people – share only 1% of the wealth. More than 90% of people in India and Africa are included in this very poor sector of the global population.


Asia-Pacific overtook North America as the region with the highest number of wealthy individuals in 2011. This year Germany, Japan and the US together accounted for 53.3% of the world’s HNWIs.

Three quarters of HNWIs globally are men.

Dollar millionaires are concentrated in the US, which has 3.1 million (34% of the world’s total). Japan is next, with 11%, while France has 9% and Germany and the UK each have 6%.

Although South Africa has only 71 000 dollar millionaires, they make up the bulk of Africa’s 100 000.


Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, 2011. https://infocus.credit-suisse.com/data/_product_documents/_shop/323525/2011_global_wealth_report.pdf

Cosatu statement, 2011. www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?ID=5407

Forbes Lists. http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml

Lander, E 2012. A new historical period? Civilization crisis, limits of the planet, inequality, assaults to democracy, permanent war state and people in resistance. http://rio20.net/en/documentos/a-new-historical-period

Merrill Lynch Capgemini World Wealth Report, 2012. http://www.capgemini.com/services-and-solutions/by-industry/financial-services/solutions/wealth/worldwealthreport/

South African Civil Society Information Service, 2012. http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/1385

Tax Justice Network, 2011. The cost of tax abuse. www.taxjustice.net

The Times, 2011. http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2011/09/04/no-problems-for-the-rich-as-they-get-richer

Wealth Insight. http://www.wealthinsight.com/

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