The 2018 "World Wealth Report" was recently issued by Paris-based Capgemini Consulting. Writing in Shukan Jitsuwa (Aug 2), economic journalist Takuro Morinaga examines its details regarding the holdings and investments of the economically affluent, who are referred to as HNWI (high net worth individuals). Such people are defined as having a minimum of U.S. $1 million with which to invest. (That figure would be exclusive of their personal residence or items of consumption.)
In the coin of the realm, $1 million is roughly 110,000,000 Japanese yen. In the previous year's report from Capgemini, it was estimated that 18.10 million people in the world qualified as HNWI. The 2017 figure marked an increase of 9.5% over 2016.
The total assets of these individuals came to $70 trillion, or 7,700 trillion Japanese yen -- a figure equivalent to 14 times Japan's annual GDP.
Broken down by country, the United States boasted the greatest number of HNWI, without around 5,285,000 people. Second was Japan, with 3,162,000 people. Their numbers were up from the previous year's report by 9.4%.
As for the estimated total worth of these moneyed Japanese, the figure comes to 847 trillion yen, or an average of 268,000,000 yen per person.
Thus it's easy to see from the trends that Japan's rich are rapidly getting richer, having surged past the three-million mark.
It's notable that while Japan's gross domestic product accounts for about 6% of world GDP, the number of HNWI individuals in Japan, as a percentage of the world's total, comes to around 17% -- making Japan one of the top homes for multimillionaires.
Contrast this, if you will, with the average lifetime earnings of the ordinary Japanese wage-earner, which is estimated at around 200 million yen. How does one explain such a large divergence from the moneyed 9.5% who belong to the ranks of the HNWI?
Okay, writes Morinaga: I'll give you a hint. It's all about income distribution. In the five years since the beginning of the government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the actual GDP grew by 7%. But during the same period, actual wages declined by 4%. In other words, the results of Japan's economic growth have flowed only into the hands of the most wealthy citizens -- or to put it another way, the wealthy have achieved their gains at the expense of their less fortunate compatriots.
Now normally when such a phenomenon occurs the rank-and-file citizens would be infuriated. In the U.S., for example, it can explain the popularity of left-wing politicians, such as failed 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who was openly critical of the wealthy.
A similar situation can be seen in the UK, with the Labour Party headed Jeremy Corbyn and socialist republican Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France. In Japan, however, leftist parties have continued to decline in influence, to the point that they are currently facing extinction.
How does one explain such a development? For one thing, Japan's wealthy tend to avoid flaunting their wealth. Of the nation's 53.4 million households, about one in 17 is HNWI. That means there is almost certainly someone like that living in proximity to you, the reader. But are you able to distinguish them from those belonging to the upper middle class?
Japan's affluent are holding in their collective breaths, and by being almost completely unobserved, are continuing to rack up gains at the expense of the hoi polloi. Morinaga -- a man of populist bent who obviously doesn't approve of this situation -- doesn't pull any punches. He describes them unkindly as "blood-sucking leeches hiding in the grass."© Japan Today