View from the top
At the turn of the century, average wealth in Switzerland was among the highest in the world. It has since risen by a factor of more than two and a half to USD 581,000 per adult, putting Switzerland at the top of the global rankings, ahead of second placed Australia by a large margin. However, most of the rise between 2000 and 2014 was due to the appreciation of the Swiss franc against the US dollar. Measured instead in Swiss francs, household wealth fell in 2001 and 2002, and then rose gently but steadily, interrupted only by the financial crisis in 2007.
Given the strength of the Swiss financial sector, it is not surprising that most household wealth is held in financial assets, which account for 56% of total assets – similar to Japan and the USA (when adjustments are made for different definitions). Debts average USD 148,300 per adult, one of the highest levels in the world, again reflecting the strength of the domestic currency.
Among the group of ten countries with long time series on wealth distribution, Switzerland is alone in displaying no significant reduction in wealth inequality over the past century. This is one reason why Switzerland now has the highest level of wealth inequality amongst developed countries, and why a large proportion of the Swiss population is located in the upper echelons of the global distribution.
Switzerland accounts for 1.7% of the top 1% of global wealth holders, remarkable for a country with just 0.1% of the world’s population. More than half of Swiss adults have assets above USD 100,000 and 11% are USD millionaires. An estimated 1,700 individuals are in the UHNW bracket, with wealth over USD 50 million, and 700 have a net worth exceeding USD 100 million.