As market turbulence continues to propel the wealthiest amongst us; the world’s billionaires have seen their wealth surge to a peak of $10.2 trillion in July, a 14.61% increase from the $8.9 trillion at the end of 2017.
This was uncovered in the 2020 Billionaires report tagged the “Riding Storm” which was published today, by the Swiss bank UBS and the accounting firm PwC.
The report found out that the COVID-19 pandemic turbocharged the global economy’s transition to digital, and this has benefited today’s billionaires, as the pipeline of fresh technologies grows by the day.
The COVID-19 crisis indeed has been the real border between the old and the new economy, as it has spurred increased opportunities for the innovators and the disruptors who dominate the Technology, Health, Industrials, and Entertainment & Media.
However, the net wealth of traditional billionaires in the intermediate industries and sectors, such as entertainment, financial services, materials, and real estate sectors lagged the rest of the universe. While the wealth of those in older industries suffers.
With the number of billionaires declining by 43 to 2,058, the total billionaire wealth globally has climbed by 27.5%, reaching $10.2 trillion, up from $8.0 trillion at the beginning of April, and higher than the previous peak of $8.9 trillion at the end of 2017. The number of billionaires has increased from 2,158 in 2017 to 2,189.
During 2018, 2019, and the first seven months of 2020, the Billionaire class as a whole saw their wealth increase by 19.1%. This clearly signals the polarization taking place, and the rising wealth divergence between billionaires across industries.
Technology billionaires’ total wealth rose by 42.5% to $1.8 trillion, supported by the surge in tech shares. The net worth among those in entertainment, materials, real estate, and finance, lagged the rest of the universe with increases of 10% or less.
However, healthcare billionaires’ total wealth increased by 50.3% to $658.6 billion, boosted by a new age of drug discovery and innovations in diagnostics and medical technology, as well as COVID-19 treatments and equipment.
Geographically, Mainland China benefited most, as billionaire wealth grew fastest in Asia. As of early April 2020, there were 389 Chinese billionaires, worth a total of $1.2 trillion. Their wealth had grown by almost nine times, compared with twice in the US.
The report also revealed that US billionaires collectively controlled $3.6 trillion of the $10.2 trillion global wealth. Billionaires in Mainland China accounted for $1.7 trillion, while Germany and Russia accounted for $594.9 billion and $467.6 billion of the total billionaire wealth respectively.
The report also spiked concerns on the issues of the growing wealth gap and rising inequality in the world, as the majority at the end of the scale has seen their wealth decline owing to the disruption by the global pandemic. The research arm of the United Nations has warned that global poverty could increase this year for the first time since 1990, reversing a decade of progress.
However, it was suggested in the report that higher productivity is needed to address the huge public financial deficits while taking care to reduce social inequality and to tackle the environmental resource scarcity by doing more with less.