Allianz Global has released its latest Global Wealth Report which looks at the assets and liabilities of households in 53 countries, including South Africa.
The group lists South Africa as having the 37th highest average net household wealth among the countries assessed, with EUR 7,770 per capita (±R127,300), up from EUR 7,080 in 2017 (±R116,000).
In its 2018 report, Allianz focused in on the imbalances that exist between the average wealth held per capita compared to the median wealth per capita, noting that there are more countries (30 in total) in which distribution, based on development of median assets, has improved since the turn of the millennium.
This shows an overall improvement in the wealth of any given country – however, South Africa is not one of those.
South Africa, Allianz said, is a country with a reputation for distorted wealth distribution, and has shown a very high negative growth differential between average and median wealth – beaten only by the US and Indonesia.
If the rankings were listed by median wealth rather than average wealth, South Africa would drop 7 places (to be ranked 44th out of 53), the group said, “an indication of relatively unequal distribution of wealth”.
“To obtain a nuanced picture of national distribution in an international context, the group introduced a new indicator in its report, the Allianz Wealth Equity Indicator (AWEI).
“Some of the results are surprising. Along with the ‘usual suspects’ of the US, South Africa, Indonesia and the UK, countries where the distribution of wealth is relatively strongly distorted also include Denmark, Sweden and Germany.”
In Scandinavia this may be primarily due to high debt levels among large parts of the population; in Germany, the country‘s delayed reunification and the general shortage of capital-funded pension schemes play a crucial part, the group said.
“On the other hand, those countries where wealth distribution is relatively balanced include many eastern and western European countries, some of which are euro crisis countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece.”
Even if the last few years of crisis and austerity may have led to greater inequality in the last two countries in particular, they still have a relatively solid base to fall back on, as assets have traditionally been very widely distributed – not least when it comes to real estate assets.
“We should therefore be wary of drawing hasty or generalised conclusions about wealth distribution. Apart from the US, barely any country conforms to the cliché of a wealth distribution that is already extremely distorted but is still getting worse.”
This is the global ranking: