At the rate Chinese millionaires are being minted, the Asia-Pacific region is bound to seize the crown as the wealthiest in the world from North America by 2017, a Credit Suisse report said.
After suffering from the global financial crisis in 2008, North America has started to recover and household wealth went up by 12 per cent, reaching $79 trillion. That brought back the richest region crown to the continent which it last held in 2005. The economic expansion in North America was fueled by recovery in house prices and the strong performance of its stock market.
Within the same 12-month period, the once communist country, China, accounted for 6 per cent of the ultra-high-net-worth individuals or those with wealth exceeding $50 million. With that growing number, China is second to the U.S. in the number of such kinds of individuals. The U.S. has about half of them.
Fan Cheuk-wan of Credit Suisse explained the phenomenal growth of wealth in China to its capital market development and more companies publicly listing from mid-2012 to mid-2013. She added that from 2005 to 2010, the number of Chinese billionaires also increased to 64 from 2.
But the growth in wealth appears to only benefit those already rich, further widening the gap between the rich and poor Chinese, Ms Fan added. A survey by the Southwestern University of Finance in China discovered that an average of $1.6 million worth of assets are held by the top 1 per cent of Chinese families, while the average across the huge Asian country is only $368,000.
In the last 12 months, total wealth in 216 countries tracked by Credit Suisse reached $241 trillion, up by over two-thirds since 2003. The global average of wealth growth was 5 per cent, but in China it was 7 per cent.
In other parts of Asia, wealth in Japan dipped 21 per cent due to the depreciation of the yen vis-à-vis the greenback, while the number of Hong Kong millionaires reached 103,000, a 9 per cent boost from 2012 due to the strong appreciation of property prices and stock market.
In Russia, the gap between the poor and the rich further widened with 35 per cent of the country's wealth in the hands of only 110 people. Except for tiny Caribbean countries with resident billionaires, Russia has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world, the Credit Suisse report said.
Russia has 110 billionaires out of 143 million population, up from only 8 billionaires in 2000. As a result, there is one Russian billionaire for every $11 billion household wealth as opposed to the global average of one billionaire for every $170 billion.