The rich are always with us, and we’ll have more of them soon. A report last week from Boston Consulting Group shows that the global millionaire population is some 13.8 million. That is twice the size of Switzerland, which is, incidentally, where many of them have parked much of their wealth. More will accrue, and more individuals will pass the million-dollar mark. Global private wealth will, says Boston Consulting, grow by almost 5 percent per year over the next five years, reaching $171.2 trillion.
This is what we, who like precision in such matters, call “a lot.” The millionaire population in the UK – the fourth-largest in the world – stands at over half a million households. This is so many that when I reminded a wealthy friend of mine, who was complaining about a personal setback, that she was a millionaire, she snapped, “Isn’t everybody?” Tactless as the response seemed, the rich hobnob with the rich. After a while it becomes the prevailing wisdom.
Within rising global wealth, BCG sees a sign that Western economies are edging upward at last. Indeed, the United States seems to be set for appreciably faster growth. But Europe is stuck in recession; If there is growth, it’s anemic and is happening outside the euro zone.
Some 6 million young people are unable to find work in the European Union. This is fewer than the more alarmist figures of a quarter or more of youth unemployment, but it is a vast army nonetheless ‑ one governments hope will not do what armies do, which is stop marching and start fighting.
These doleful figures have plagued Europe for several years. But most of us assume – or are assured – that things will get better, since they have in postwar years, until now. Stephen D. King, the group chief economist of the banking giant HSBC, wrote the recently published When the Money Runs Out: The End of Western Affluence (Yale University Press), in which he says: