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Surprise! Switzerland STILL world's richest country

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Surprise! Switzerland STILL world's richest country
File photo: The Local
10:29 CET+01:00
A drop in millionaires in Switzerland this year has failed to significantly dent the country's impressive wealth, as a report by Credit Suisse declares it the richest country in the world yet again.

The Global Wealth Report 2016, published on Tuesday by the Swiss bank's Research Institute, said Switzerland had an average wealth per person of $561,900 in 2016, making Swiss adults 11 times richer than the average world citizen.

However Switzerland's average wealth in 2016 was slightly down on last year's figure of $567,100.

The country experienced the second biggest drop in wealth per adult behind the UK, meaning there are 58,000 fewer millionaires in the country this year.

But there's still an embarrassment of riches in the country, as Switzerland's adults own 1.4 percent of global assets even though they only account for 0.1 percent of the global adult population.

Wealth per adult in the country has exceeded $500,000 every year since 2012, a threshold not achieved by any other country, said the report.

As wealth per adult stagnated globally in 2016, Switzerland has increased its distance from the second richest country, Australia, which lags 33 percent behind, said the report.

Switzerland is likely to retain the top spot by a large margin as Swiss wealth per adult could surpass $600,000 within the next five years, predicted the report's authors.




Wealth per Adult among Major Economies in Mid-2016 (in thousand USD). Source: James Davies, Rodrigo Lluberas and Anthony Shorrocks, Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2016

Recent Swiss government figures back this up, showing that the number of multi-millionaires in Switzerland is on the rise.

Earlier this month the federal tax office said 26 percent more people declared assets over 10 million francs in 2013 than three years earlier.

Those 13,246 people represented 0.26 percent of the total taxable population but together owned 29.1 percent of the country's wealth.

The canton of Schwyz has the highest concentration of millionaires in the country. Out of a population of around 150,000 people, its 8,976 richest (in 2013) own 89.9 percent of the canton's total wealth, reported news agencies earlier this month.

Despite this, the Credit Suisse report has annoyed some commentators.

Speaking to the NZZ am Sonntag prior to the report's publication, economist Samuel Bendahan implied it wasn't a good reflection of the average Swiss.

“It's not wrong, but it's like if you were in a room with Bill Gates and Donald Trump and I said that on average each of you owned 15 billion,” he said.

“As we are a small country, a few billionaires will have a big impact on the average.”

However the report also calculated the median wealth, a figure that provides a better understanding of the typical wealth within a society.

The Swiss median wealth of $244,000 is 22 times higher than the European median and 100 times higher than the world median.

The typical Swiss adult is five times wealthier than a typical Brit or German, said the report.

“Importantly, since 2000, growth in Swiss median wealth has been higher than that of average wealth. It has also exceeded growth of the minimum for the top decile, which suggests that wealth growth has been broadly balanced, as opposed to favoring the wealthiest segment, as has been the case in many other regions since 2008,” said Urs Rohner, chair of the Credit Suisse Research Institute in a Swiss-specific analysis.

But Bendahan argued that in Switzerland, the high cost of living should also be taken into account.

“With more wealth you can still have a lower standard of living than elsewhere,” he told NZZ am Sonntag.

In the past 12 months global wealth has risen by 3.5 trillion dollars to 256 trillion dollars, but that's in line with population growth, said the Credit Suisse report, meaning wealth per adult is unchanged – the first time since 2008.

The US and Japan saw considerable growth, while the UK saw a decline due to the depreciation of the pound following the Brexit referendum.

However, globally, wealth inequality continued to rise this year. While the bottom half of the world's population own less than one percent of total wealth, the top 10 percent own 89 percent of all global assets.

Wealth is defined by the report as the value of financial assets plus real estate, minus any debts.

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