According to the 2011 Credit Suisse Global Wealth report published in October 2011, Australia has a median wealth of US$222,000 (AU$217,559). That’s the highest in the world and nearly four times the amount of each US adult. You can read the full report here.
Apparently the wealth of your average Australian is 55 times greater than the average wealth around the world.
Yet I guess a lot of us wealthy people don’t feel that lucky. There’s still a huge gap between the super wealthy and the poor here in Australia as in North America. Plus, with our consumer society we’ve all been trained to want more and more, no matter how much we already have.
It got me thinking about how lucky we are compared to the poorest countries in the world who funnily enough the Swiss bank doesn’t mention. So I thought I’d write two posts for comparison: the 10 Richest Countries in the World versus the 10 Poorest Countries in the World.
This list is taken from the Credit Suisse chart of top 10 countries with the highest average wealth per adult in 2011.
They haven’t made public the whole top 10 for the other list where Australia comes out top on but it’s amazing to see the USA and Canada don’t feature on this list.
Anomalies aside, this list is a strong indication of how wealthy the people who live in a country are, as compared to a list based on Gross Domestic Product which is the value each person creates. The currency is US dollars.
1. Switzerland $540,010
Famed for its Swiss Alps, neutral polices and secure banking, Switzerland’s wealth grew after World War 2 when people from other European countries deposited their money in the banks of Switzerland which were considered to be the safest option. Apart from the financial and banking industry, Switzerland’s economy is also bolstered by Swiss companies like Nestle, Logitech, Rolex and Credit Suisse. And who wouldn’t like to find a Toblerone in their stocking this Christmas?
2. Australia $396,745
Australia is rich in natural resources which are being mined and sold for a healthy profit often at the expense of our natural environment. It all started with the gold rush in the 1820s and has been snowballing since then. The Australian dollar is high and tourism remains another mainstay of our economy. As an indicator of our resources, both underground and our pristine natural environment, Australian companies range from mining giants Rio Tinto to surf brands Billabong and Rip Curl.
3. Norway $355,925
The Kingdom of Norway is one a few highly developed countries in Europe that are not part of the European Union. Naturally rich in oil and natural gas, Norway is well known for its high cost of living. But the standard of living is high too with public health care free (above a certain level) and 46 weeks paid parental leave for new parents. Norway is also the second least densely populated country in Europe.
4. France $293,685
France has been a power house with strong cultural, economic, military and political influence in Europe, and around the world, for the last 500 years. Financial services, banking and the insurance sector are an important part of France’s economy; the French insurance company AXA is the world’s largest insurance company. France is also famed for it’s fine wine, food, fashion and design. Top French companies include Michelin, Louis Vuitton and L’Oreal. Mais oui.
5. Singapore $284,692
The tiny island nation of Singapore has the busiest port in the world and is the fourth largest foreign exchange trading center in the world. Singapore is a world leader in several economic areas including finance, casinos, oil refining and foreign trading. Singapore attracts business because its economy is known as one of the freest, most innovative, most competitive, most business friendly and least corrupt in the world.
6. Sweden $284,146
Sweden is an export-oriented mixed economy with a modern distribution system, excellent internal and external communications, and a skilled labor force. Resources include timber and hydropower while the economy is heavily oriented toward foreign trade. Famous Swedish exports include Björn Borg, Abba and Ikea where I bought a lot of my furniture after moving to Australia. I’d love to visit the Swedish capital of Stockholm and Swedish Lapland which is seen as Europe’s last wilderness and a place where you can glimpse the northern lights and the midnight sun.
7. Belgium $275,524
The Kingdom of Belgium has more going for it than just chocolate. Belgium has a strongly globalized economy and a transportation infrastructure integrated with the rest of Europe. Being smack in the middle of a highly industrialized region has helped make Belgium one of the world’s largest trading nations although it is often viewed as one of the least interesting. The economy is characterized by a highly productive work force and high exports. Belgium most famous import is raw diamonds and it’s most famous export (apart from chocolate) is finished diamonds. Well known Belgian companies include Guylian, Godiva and Stella Artois.
8. Italy $259,826
Italy didn’t get rich from exporting pizza. Italy’s wealth comes from its influential and innovative business economic sector, an industrious and competitive agricultural sector which is the world’s largest wine producer, and its creative and high-quality automobile, industrial, appliance and fashion design. Famous Italian companies include Fiat, Pirelli, Versace, Benneton and the coffee companies Illy and Lavazza.
9. United Kingdom $257,881
Like many countries in this list the UK’s wealth was kick started by colonizing other countries and plundering their natural and often human resources. I’m British so I’m allowed to say that kind of thing. With our colonial hey day long over, the economy in the UK remained strong because we kick-started the scientific and industrial revolutions. Today the economy in the UK is based around the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries. Even in the midst of a recession and with the British Pound plummeting in value, the UK still makes the 10 top richest counties list and you can’t beat UK companies like Rolls Royce, Virgin and Cadburys for global recognition.
10. Japan $248,770
Despite the terrible, tragic tsunami earlier this year Japan is still a rich country. Japan’s labor force consists of about 65.9 million workers and the country has a huge industrial capacity. Japan has some of the biggest producers of motor vehicles, electronics and processed foods. Agriculture and fishing are important industries too. People all over the world love Japanese brands like Nintendo, Toyota, Sony and, my personal favourite, Hello Kitty.
Interesting stuff but we all know wealth isn’t really about how much money you have in the bank or how much you earn. It’s about how rich your life is, how strong your family bonds and friendships and how much you enjoy your life on a daily basis.
But grinding poverty makes the quest for happiness hard and our responsibilities must lie in narrowing that great divide between rich and poor. Next time we’ll look at the 1o poorest countries in the world.