Beijing has pushed New York out of the first place in the list of cities that host billionaires. The Chinese capital has 100 billionaires, five more than New York, which now ranks number two with a total of 95.
According to the February 2016 report by Hurun, four other Chinese cities are also in the top ten. They include Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hanghzou and Shenzen respectively. Beijing and New York, the two cities that currently host half of the world’s billionaires, have given the other towns in the list a wide berth. Moscow ranks third with 66 billionaires.
Overall, China has the highest number of billionaires (560) followed by USA (535). The current Chinese figures are 80 percent above what was collected in 2013; on the other hand, USA has lost two billionaires since last year.
The number of Russian billionaires has gone down by 13. Russia’s wealthiest people prefer investing mainly in real estate and energy, two sectors that did not do well last year.
Continent wise, only Asia and Europe witnessed an increase in the number of billionaires; other regions have either remained stagnant or dropped.
World wealth has grown
There were only 793 billionaires in the world in 2009. During the last seven years, the number has grown by over 2.7 percent, indicating that more people at the top are getting richer. The total wealth of the globe also went up by 9 percent since 2015.
While the widening gap between classes raises concerns, it may be appropriate to point out that extreme poverty levels in the world have steadily dropped since the 80’s; more people today can afford three meals a day than they did in the post war years.
The richest people in 2016
US citizens dominate the list of top ten richest individuals. Only three out of the ten places were occupied by citizens of other countries (there was a tie between Michael Bloomberg and Bernard Arnault at number 10).
Bill Gates is the richest man in 2016 with a net worth of $80 billion, despite his wealth having reduced by 6%. He is followed by Warren Buffet, who also lost 11 percent. The other people in the list have wealth levels ranging between $37 billion and $68 billion.
Among the top gainers were America’s Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg, who acquired 83% and 76% more wealth respectively. Both Charles Koch and David Koch became 22% richer from their energy venture. Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth also rose by 7%.
Amancio Ortega from Spain took the third position with net worth of $64 billion, having experienced a wealth rise of 16 percent.
Close to half of the people in the top ten experienced drops in wealth levels. Carlos Slim Helu & Family (from Mexico) must have received the worst hit, plunging 40% downwards in net worth. They however still managed to hold the fifth position.
Bill Gates became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire in 1987. At 32, he had a net worth of $1.25 billion.
In 2016 however, more than seven billionaires are aged 31 and below, and a total of 69 billionaires are under the age of 40.
The gender gap, while still wide, shows that women are slowly catching up. There are 315 women billionaires currently, representing 15 percent of the overall billionaire population.
Narrowing down to the under 40s list, the percentage of women billionaires rises to 21. 31 year old Elizabeth Holmes is the youngest in the women’s category.
Where are billionaires investing their money?
Manufacturing, hi-tech, real estate, and energy were the areas where most rich people channeled their money into. Hi-tech, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals showed the highest growths.
Hi-tech has held its position as the key wealth generator for three consecutive years. Alphabet and Apple, the two companies with highest market caps in 2016, are both hi-tech based.
Trillions of Dollars Hidden Offshore
Despite these impressive figures, there might actually be more billionaires in the world than what has been disclosed. A similar sentiment was expressed by the chairman of Hurun report, Rupert Hoogerwerf.
Listing firms rely mostly on official records. It is hard to track undisclosed wealth, as most of it goes to offshore bank accounts.
By 2012, according to a report in The Guardian, as much as $21 trillion was hidden in offshore banks. With the increase in global wealth levels and development of stronger encryption technologies, it is much easier to keep financial secrets.
A lot of the secret wealth is thought to be channeled by private banks to the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, where the banking sector has high privacy and independence.
Nobody knows exactly how much money is hiding, but the figures may be much larger than we currently estimate. Whatever the case, at least it sounds comforting that the world as a whole is not growing poorer.