It’s become a little outmoded to complain about the dominance of the wealthiest 1 per cent. According to Oxfam, the poorest half of the world’s population hold less wealth than its 80 richest individuals. Which means that, now, we’re looking at a global economy dominated by the 0.00000001 per cent.
And that’s not nearly so catchy.
Cast your net-worth net a little wider, however, and you get a more workable definition: the “super-rich” are generally defined as those with somewhere north of $30m in assets. The most recent Knight Frank Wealth Report estimates that there are now around 178,000 of these people worldwide, and a new study from the Martin Prosperity Institute has identified which cities these individuals are living in.
Since the last edition of the report in 2013, London has jumped from 2nd to 1st place, and is now home to 4,364 super-rich individuals; 2.5 per cent of the global total. In second place is Tokyo with 3,575 (2.1 per cent). New York, which topped the last set of rankings, is now lingering in fourth, behind Singapore, with just 3,008 of them (1.7 per cent).
Source: Martin Prosperity Institute.
The report also featured a map, which adjusted the figures for population size. Over at CityLab, Richard Florida worked out that, on this measure, Geneva and Zurich top the list.
Whichever way you look at it, however, London is currently home to the largest concentration of ultra-wealthy individuals in the world; it’s almost certainly the largest in its history, too.
If you listen to the mayor’s office, this is great news: more mega-rich people with more spending power, all living in London and paying UK tax.
But if you listen to economists like Danny Dorling or Thomas Piketty, the picture’s not quite so cheerful. Both were interviewed in Jacques Peretti’s The Super Rich and Us, a documentary shown on the BBC earlier this year, and both spoke about the failure of trickle-down economics – the idea that the presence of super-rich people will boost the economy, and so improve life for the rest of us.
As one millionaire told the programme makers, being 50 times as rich as the rest of us doesn’t mean you spend more on petrol, or in Tesco, or on your local high street. It may mean you spend more in high-end yacht shops, but it doesn’t take an economist to figure out that this doesn’t have much of a knock-on effect for society in general.
There’s also hard data to fall back on: as the number of ultra-wealthy in London rose, GDP growth rates fell. And let’s just say that we’re not convinced all of the super-rich pay all their UK taxes.
So while we’re keen on any metric which places London above New York, this is one accolade we’re struggling to get excited about.
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