Despite the fact that most Irish households are still struggling with the after-effects of seven austerity budgets - not to mind the imminent imposition of water charges - soaring property prices mean that Ireland experienced one of the fastest growth rates in household wealth in the past year.
According to the fifth annual global wealth report from Credit Suisse, the total wealth of Irish households increased by 10 per cent ($68 billion) to $737 billion (€577 billion) in 2014. The UK reported the fastest growth rate of 19.1 per cent, followed by Korea (18.3 per cent) and Denmark (16.6 per cent).
Ireland’s household wealth rebounded to $737 billion in 2014, giving Ireland a 0.3 per cent share of global wealth. Wealth per adult stood at $209,976 (€164,425), up by 8.8 per cent from 2013, of which $150,084 is non-financial. Irish adults have debt of $71,283 per adult and median wealth per adult is $79,346
In comparison, in the UK, wealth per adult is $292,261, with debt of just $55,727 and median wealth of $130,590. The US has wealth per adult of $347,845, debt of $57,826, and median wealth of $53,352. One of the richest European countries is Switzerland, with median wealth of $106,887, debt of $148,345 and wealth per adult of $580,686.
Ireland’s household wealth peaked in 2007 at $222,823, before falling to $176,881 in 2011.The survey also points to a significant sellling down in equities by Irish investors, with 22 per cent of the country’s financial wealth held in equities in 2008, compared with 14.1 per cent in 2014.
According to the Credit Suisse survey, some 41 per cent of the Irish population have wealth of between $100,000-$1 million, with 2.6 per cent (or 91,208 people) falling into the +$1 million category, up from 77,000 in 2013.
The compares with 5.9 per cent in the US; 4.2 per cent in the UK and 2.9 per cent in Germany. In Switzerland on the other hand, the proportion rises to 10.8 per cent.
Just 0.3 per cent of Ireland’s population falls into the top 1 per cent of global wealth, but 0.38 per cent are in the top 10 per cent. This compares with 6.17 per cent and 38 per cent for the US and UK respectively.
There are five Irish billionaires according to the survey, but more than 100 with wealth of between €100-$500m. The US can claim 504 billionaires, and the UK 44, with five each in Norway and Greece.
The survey also shows that the richest 1 per cent of the world’s population own nearly half of global wealth, and it warned that growing inequality could be a trigger for recession.
“Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1 per cent of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87 per cent of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2 per cent of global assets,” said the annual report.