Allianz Global Wealth Report 2020: How Does South Africa Shape Up?

South Africa: Strong recovery.

Today, Allianz unveiled the eleventh edition of its Global Wealth Report, which puts the asset and debt situation of households in almost 60 countries under the microscope.

A bumper year

Never in the last ten years, were we able to report such a big increase in wealth. Worldwide, gross financial assets[1] grew by 9.7% in 2019, clocking the strongest growth since 2005. This performance is astonishing given the fact that 2019 was marred by social unrest, escalating trade conflicts and an industrial recession.

The regions that saw the fastest growth were by far the richest: North America and Oceania where the gross financial assets of households increased by a record 11.9% each. As a consequence, for the third year in a row, Emerging Markets were not able to outgrow their much richer peers. The catch-up process has stalled.

South Africa: Strong recovery

The gross financial assets of South African households rose by 6.7% in 2019, after declining by almost 4% in the previous year. The increase was, however, still below the average growth of 8.5% since the GFC. Last year’s recovery was mainly driven by the rebound in insurance and pensions as well as in securities, both swinging from -3.4% to 5.0% and from -9.4% to 8.1%, respectively. Thus, the savings behavior of South African households diverge considerably from that seen in other Emerging Markets where on average bank deposits account for almost half of all financial assets.

Net financial assets increased by 7.4% in 2019, after falling by 7.3% in the previous year. With net financial assets per capita of 7,112 euros, South Africa remained 38th place in the ranking of the richest countries (financial assets per capita, see table for the top 20).

Crisis? What Crisis?

The same story is about to repeat itself in 2020 – but only in extreme. As Covid-19 plunged the world economy to its deepest recession in 100 years, central banks and fiscal authorities around the world fired up unprecedented monetary and fiscal bazookas, shielding households and their financial assets from the consequences of a world in disarray.

“For the moment, monetary policy saved the day,” said Ludovic Subran, chief economist of Allianz. “But we should not fool ourselves. Zero and negative interest rates are a sweet poison. They undermine wealth accumulation and aggravate social inequality, as asset owners can pocket nice windfall profits. It’s not sustainable. Saving the day is not the same as winning the future. For that, we need more than ever structural reforms post Covid-19 to lay the foundations for more inclusive growth.”

Trend reversal

The wealth gap between rich and poor countries has widened again. In 2000, net financial assets per capita were 87 times higher on average in the Advanced Economies than in the Emerging Markets; by 2016 this ratio had fallen to 19. Since then, it has risen again to 22 in 2019. This reversal of the catching-up process is widespread. For the first time, the number of members of the global wealth middle class has fallen significantly from just over 1 billion people in 2018 to just under 800 million people in 2019.

The rise of Emerging Markets remain impressive

Looking at the development since the turn of the century, however, the rise of Emerging Markets remain impressive. Adjusted for population growth, the global middle wealth class grew by almost 50% and the high wealth class by 30% – while the lower wealth class declined by almost 10%. Despite this progress, the world remains a very unequal place. The richest 10% worldwide – 52 million people in the countries in scope with average net financial assets of EUR 240,000 – together own roughly 84% of total net financial assets in 2019; among them, the richest 1% – with average net financial assets of above EUR 1.2 million – own almost 44%. The development since the turn of the millennium is striking. While the share of the richest decile has fallen by seven percentage points, that of the richest percentile has increased by three percentage points. So the super-rich do indeed seem to be moving further and further away from the rest of society.

“It is quite worrying that the gap between rich and poor countries started to widen again even before Covid-19 hit the world,” commented Michaela Grimm, co-author of the report. “Because the pandemic will very likely increase inequality further, be setback not only to globalization but also disrupting education and health services, particularly in low-income countries. If more and more economies are turning inwards, the world as a whole will be a poorer place.”

Top 20 in 2019 by…

Net financial assets per capita Gross financial assets per capita
in EUR y/y in % rank 2000 in EUR y/y in % rank 2000
#1 USA 209,524 13.4 2 #1 Switzerland 294,535 5.6 1
#2 Switzerland 195,388 7.4 1 #2 USA 254,328 11.3 2
#3 Singapore 116,657 12.2 16 #3 Denmark 171,248 11.2 7
#4 Netherlands 114,287 18.3 6 #4 Netherlands 164,896 12.5 4
#5 Taiwan 110,706 11.7 12 #5 Sweden 154,277 14.2 17
#6 Sweden 110,618 18.8 14 #6 Singapore 153,642 8.4 10
#7 Japan 103,829 3.9 3 #7 Australia 145,150 11.6 16
#8 Denmark 101,671 17.5 13 #8 Canada 140,542 8.9 8
#9 Canada 96,630 11.7 8 #9 Taiwan 131,832 10.4 14
#10 New Zealand 96,091 4.4 9 #10 Japan 127,041 3.5 3
#11 Belgium 94,804 6.8 4 #11 New Zealand 125,779 4.7 11
#12 Great Britain 88,136 6.0 5 #12 Great Britain 123,136 5.2 6
#13 Australia 83,240 20.4 18 #13 Belgium 121,345 6.4 5
#14 Israel 79,794 10.0 11 #14 Norway 98,804 5.8 20
#15 France 63,381 10.2 10 #15 Israel 98,798 8.7 18
#16 Austria 59,256 6.5 17 #16 France 90,691 8.9 12
#17 Italy 57,429 6.2 7 #17 Ireland 83,825 9.6 13
#18 Germany 57,097 7.7 19 #18 Austria 81,619 5.4 19
#19 Ireland 53,636 17.6 15 #19 Germany 79,779 6.7 15
#20 Spain 34,855 8.8 22 #20 Italy 73,418 5.4 9
#38 South Africa 7,112 6.0 36 #40 South Africa 9,588 5.3 36

Johannesburg, Munich, September 23, 2020