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December 13, 2022updated 14 Dec 2022 8:05am

World’s billionaire population has fallen, new figures show

By Katharine Swindells

Geopolitical and economic events have placed the number of global billionaires on a downward trend 

The ultra-wealth boom seen in the first year of the pandemic appears to be over, as new figures show the number of global billionaires has fallen in 2022.

Market instability and the war in Ukraine pushed the world’s billionaire population down by 3 per cent to 2,668 billionaires in March this year, according to the latest report published by UBS.

These billionaires may have a collective wealth pot of $12.7 trillion – but that’s also down 3 per cent on last year.

And, the report adds, the total wealth and number of billionaires is likely to have fallen further since March due to declines in asset prices.

This marks a significant shift from the period of huge growth for the ultra-wealthy seen in the first year of the pandemic, where collective billionaire wealth swelled by almost two thirds.

In fact the number masks an even more noticeable turnover; 11.6 per cent of the 2021 cohort dropped out of the billionaire category, while 8.8 per cent entered it.

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Turnover was also high the previous year, but in the opposite direction, with far more people entering the billionaire ranks than leaving them, as loose monetary policy raised asset prices.

The most volatile industries were the finance and investment sector, along with technology - both of which have the highest billionaire populations.

In finance and investment, 30 people dropped out of the billionaire category, while 50 new billionaires were created, including fintech disruptors and partners in private equity and hedge funds.

Technology saw the entrance of 41 new billionaires while 57 dropped out of the category, leaving 348 worth $2.2 trillion.

'This instability reflects the dynamism of a sector where barriers to entry are low and innovation is perpetual,' the report writes.

There was also high turnover among manufacturing billionaires, with 44 new joiners, and 37 disappearing. This came amid high demand for durable goods and the emergence of new electric vehicle and battery entrepreneurs.

Read More: The ex-lawyer helping billionaires shed their wealth

The biggest decline in the billionaire population was in Eastern Europe - where their ranks fell by 17.5 per cent, from 154 in March 2021, to 127 a year later. This is largely due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and resulting geopolitical sanctions.

In North Asia, the billionaire population fell by 12 per cent, and China’s zero-Covid policy dramatically slowed its economic growth.

Meanwhile, South Asia actually saw an 18.5 per cent increase in their billionaire population, and a 25 per cent increase in billionaire wealth.

Read More: Experts comment on the rise of billionaires over the past decade

This was driven by considerable growth of the ultra-wealthy in India, where billionaire ranks swelled by 19 per cent. India is the fastest growing of the world’s major economies and, powered by its youthful labour force, overtook the UK to become the world’s largest economy in 2022.

The US and Canada saw small growth, while Western Europe was a mixed bag, with Switzerland’s billionaire population staying steady while their collective wealth grew by 25 per cent. This is down to the country's advantageous position as a hub of financial services, pharmaceuticals and commodities trading. 

In the UK, the billionaire population fell by 12.5 per cent to 49, and their collective wealth fell by 7 per cent, though their numbers remain higher than pre-pandemic.

Many of the global political and economic factors that drove these shifts have only grown in the past six months.

The continuing war in Ukraine, record-high inflation and rising interest rates mean this instability in the world of the ultra-wealthy is unlikely to end soon.

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