Canada is home to one of the largest populations of ultra-wealthy, and the ultra-rich are only getting richer.
A new report from New York-based research firm Wealth-X takes stock of the world's "ultra high net worth" (UHNW) individuals — people with a net worth above US$30 million — and it found that there were 10,840 ultra-wealthy people in Canada last year. That's up by 13.9 per cent from the previous year.
These individuals boast combined assets of US$1.153 trillion dollars, a figure that signals a 14.8 per cent increase from 2016.
Canada ranks above Hong Kong, Switzerland
Coming in fifth place, Canada has more ultra-rich people than France (10,120), Hong Kong (10,010) and Switzerland (6,400). The United States, Germany, China and Japan are the only countries with more.
The authors of the report credit Canada's "robust" expansion of the ultra-wealthy population to "an improving domestic economy, higher market yields and a stronger currency."
The fact that Canada has more high net worth residents than many European countries on the list can be partly attributed to our lack of an inheritance tax, according to one expert.
"Canada doesn't have such a tax, whereas most European countries do," Ricardo Tranjan, senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), told the CBC.
In 2017, there were about 256,000 UHNW individuals with combined assets of $31.5 trillion, a sharp acceleration from the previous year. According to the report, 2017 represented a six-year high in the gains of the uber-rich.
Notably, a record-high share of of the UHNW population in 2017 were women, accounting for 13.7 per cent of the global total.
Rich get richer?
As the number of ultra-wealthy people in Canada increased from the previous year, the wealth possessed by them also rose by 14.8 per cent.
The picture isn't so rosy across the board.
More coverage on wealth inequality:
While the average Canadians' net worth increased in 2017, it rose much more slowly than for the super-rich — by 2.5 per cent from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018.
Canadian households' net worth also fell 0.2 per cent in the first quarter of the year — a first since 2015. StatsCan attributed the dip to large declines in equity and investment funds and continued weak growth in household residential real estate.
The CCPA recently went all the way back to 1999 for a wider look at the overall state of Canadian wealth distribution, concluding that the country's "failure to adequately address the growing gap in average incomes is producing outrageous fortunes among Canada's wealthiest family dynasties."
The CCPA found that from 2012 to 2016, the average net worth of Canada's wealthiest families rose by 37 per cent, while the net worth of middle class families increased by 16 per cent over the same period.
"Canada's wealthiest 87 families now have 4,448 times more wealth than the average Canadian family," the report reads. "And they collectively own the same amount as the lowest-earning 12 million Canadians."
Poised to continue
Despite significant geopolitical tensions in 2017, the wealthy got wealthier because of eased volatility in global financial markets and stable exchange rates against the U.S. dollar, according to Wealth-X.
The firm predicts that this trend will continue, with the global population of ultra-rich people rising to 360,390 people by 2022 — an increase of almost 105,000 compared with last year. Their combined wealth is projected to increase to $44.3 trillion.
The firm expects the Asia-Pacific region to see the strongest growth in the near future while North America is positioned for continued underperformance. The report summarizes the trend as "a more balanced distribution of global ultra wealth."
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the overall net worth of the average Canadian declined during 2017. The figure cited reflected a quarter-to-quarter decline. The article has been updated with figures for 2017 as a whole.