Unsurprisingly, last year was very fruitful for the wealthy. In 2021, the top 10 richest people added $402 billion to their wealth, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
The biggest gainer was Elon Musk who added $121 billion, followed by Bernard Arnault of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH who gained $63 billion. Google’s co-founder Larry Page added $47 billion to his fortune followed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, adding nearly $25 billion to his fortune last year.
Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates ended 2021 with a “moderate” gain of $5 and $7 billion, respectively.
Beyond the richest 10, 2021 wasn’t bad for other wealthy individuals, either. Some 2,600 billionaires worldwide added $1.6 trillion to their wealth and are now worth a total of $13.6 trillion.
Even in 2020, in the peak of the pandemic when the world's economies were hanging by a thread, it was extremely lucrative for the world’s wealthy, who managed to nearly double their total wealth since 2019 adding nearly $2 trillion to their collective fortune.
Last year, United States-based wealthy individuals made the biggest contribution by adding a total of $945 billion to their fortunes, mostly thanks to soaring stock market indexes.
Due to the domestic stock market jump, Indian billionaires have had the second best year in 2021, adding $210 billion to their collective net worth. Russian billionaires are third, aggregating $145 billion.
Chinese billionaires led the world in wealth growth in 2020, but due to the government's crackdown on domestic industries, they fell to fourth place last year. The Chinese wealthy are “only” 4% richer than a year ago, compared to a 60% gain in 2020, while some even have lost billions.
Despite the vaccine rollouts and re-opening economies, the global market faced several problems last year, such as issues with global supplies and new virus variants. Still, the global economy managed to grow 5.1% in 2021. As for this year, it is estimated that it will grow 4%.
According to the 2022 World Inequality Report, billionaires worldwide owned 1% of global wealth in 1995, and now own over 3% of global wealth.
The world’s wealthiest 1% took nearly 40% of all additional wealth accumulated since the mid-1990s. In comparison, the fortunes of the bottom 50%, approximately 4 billion people, accumulated just 2%--a figure that remains unchanged since the late 1990s.
The report found that the richest 10% of the global population owns 75% of all wealth in the world, while Europe is still the “most equal” region in the world where the top 10% own approximately 36% of the region’s total income share.
On the other side, the Middle East and North Africa are the “most unequal” regions, with the wealthiest 10% of the region’s population owning 58% of the income share.
In the United States alone, households in the lower third of the wealth distribution, a total of some 110 million people — have no wealth to speak of at all.