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Animation: The Rapidly Aging Western World

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From issues such as declining fertility rates to the ongoing complications resulting from China’s famous “One Child Policy”, there are many demographic challenges that the world must grapple with in the coming years.

However, one problem of particular importance – at least in places like Europe and the Americas – is a rapidly aging population. As the population shifts grayer, potential consequences include higher dependency ratios, rising healthcare costs, and shifting economies and cities.

Europe: A Prime Example

We’ve discussed Germany’s demographic cliff before, but it’s not only Germany that will be impacted by a rapidly aging population.

Europe median age

The above animation from data visualization expert Aron Strandberg shows the median age of European countries between 1960 and 2060.

Starting about a decade from now, you can see that the U.N. projects some European countries to start hitting a median age of 50 or higher. This includes countries like Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece, and then later Germany, Poland, Bosnia, and Croatia.

The UK, France, Ireland, Scandinavia, and former Soviet countries will be younger – but only slightly so. Median ages in these places by 2060 will be in the early to mid-forties.

The Americas

Populations in North and South America are also graying fast, though not quite at Europe’s pace.

Here’s a similar map of the Americas that highlights median age between 1960 and 2060, based on U.N. projections.

Americas median age

Chile and Brazil, in particular, are trending older. Meanwhile, Canada is not far behind with an expected median age of 45 in 2060. Interestingly, the United States is anticipated to only hit a median age of 42 by 2060, which is lower than almost all Western countries.

While this makes the U.S. look younger in comparison, the country will still experience the same type of economic burden from an aging population. In fact, it’s expected that the population of Americans older than 65 years will nearly double from 48 million to 88 million over the coming three decades.

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RCEP Explained: The World’s Biggest Trading Bloc Will Soon be in Asia-Pacific

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) covers 30% of global GDP and population. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

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RCEP Explained: The World’s Biggest Trading Bloc

Trade and commerce are the lifeblood of the global economy. Naturally, agreements among nations in a certain geographical area help facilitate relationships in ways that are ideally beneficial for everyone involved.

In late 2020, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed, officially creating the biggest trade bloc in history. Here, we break down everything you need to know about it, from who’s involved to its implications.

Who’s in the RCEP, and Why Was it Created?

The RCEP is a free trade agreement between 15 nations in the Asia-Pacific region, and has been formalized after 28 rounds of discussion over eight years.

Member nations who are a part of the RCEP will benefit from lowered or completely eliminated tariffs on imported goods and services within the region in the next 20 years. Here are the countries which have signed on to be member nations:

CountryPopulation (M)Nominal GDP ($B)
🇦🇺 Australia25.7$1,359
🇧🇳 Brunei0.5$12
🇰🇭 Cambodia15.7$26
🇨🇳 China1404$14,723
🇮🇩 Indonesia270.2$1,060
🇯🇵 Japan125.8$5,049
🇰🇷 South Korea51.8$1,631
🇱🇦 Laos7.3$19
🇲🇾 Malaysia32.9$338
🇲🇲 Myanmar53.2$81
🇳🇿 New Zealand5.1$209
🇵🇭 Philippines108.8$362
🇸🇬 Singapore5.8$340
🇹🇭 Thailand69.8$502
🇻🇳 Vietnam97.4$341
RCEP Total2,274.2M$26,052B

Source: IMF

But there is still some work to do to bring the trade agreement into full effect.

Signing the agreement, the step taken in late 2020, is simply an initial show of support for the trade agreement, but now it needs to be ratified. That means these nations still have to give their consent to be legally bound to the terms within the RCEP. Once the RCEP is ratified by three-fifths of its signatories—a minimum of six ASEAN nations and three non-ASEAN nations—it will go ahead within 60 days.

So far, it’s been ratified by China, Japan, Thailand, and Singapore as of April 30, 2021. At its current pace, the RCEP is set to come into effect in early 2022 as all member nations have agreed to complete the ratification process within the year.

Interestingly, in the midst of negotiations in 2019, India pulled out of the agreement. This came after potential concerns about the trade bloc’s impacts on its industrial and agricultural sectors that affect the “lives and livelihoods of all Indians”. India retains the option to rejoin the RCEP in the future, if things change.

The Biggest Trading Blocs, Compared

When we say the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is the biggest trade bloc in history, this statement is not hyperbole.

The RCEP will not only surpass existing Asia-Pacific trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in size and scope, but also other key regional partnerships in advanced economies.

This includes the European Union and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, formerly known as NAFTA). How does the trio stack up?

 Nominal GDP, 2020Population, 2020
EU$15.2 trillion445 million
USMCA$23.7 trillion496 million
RCEP$26.1 trillion2.27 billion
World$84.5 trillion7.64 billion

With the combined might of its 15 signatories, the RCEP accounts for approximately 30% of global GDP and population. Interestingly, the total population covered within the RCEP is near or over five times that of the other trade blocs.

Another regional agreement not covered here is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is now the largest in terms of participating countries (55 in total), but in the other metrics, the RCEP still emerges superior.

Implications of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

The potential effects of the RCEP are widespread. Among others, the agreement will establish rules for the region around:

  • Investment
  • Competition
  • E-commerce
  • Intellectual property
  • Telecommunications

However, there are some key exclusions that have raised critics’ eyebrows. These are:

  • Labor union provisions
  • Environmental protection
  • Government subsidies

The RCEP could also help China gain even more ground in its economic race against the U.S. towards becoming a global superpower.

Last, but most importantly, Brookings estimates that the potential gains from the RCEP are in the high billions: $209 billion could be added annually to world incomes, and $500 billion may be added to world trade by 2030.

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The Biggest Companies in the World in 2021

The 100 biggest companies in the world were worth a record-breaking $31.7 trillion as of the end of Q1, up 48% year-over-year.

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Biggest Companies in the World

The Biggest Companies in the World

View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.

Since the COVID-19 crash, global equity markets have seen a strong recovery. The 100 biggest companies in the world were worth a record-breaking $31.7 trillion as of March 31 2021, up 48% year-over-year. As a point of comparison, the combined GDP of the U.S. and China was $35.7 trillion in 2020.

In today’s graphic, we use PwC data to show the world’s biggest businesses by market capitalization, as well as the countries and sectors they are from.

The Top 100, Ranked

PwC ranked the largest publicly-traded companies by their market capitalization in U.S. dollars. It’s also worth noting that sector classification is based on the FTSE Russell Industry Classification Benchmark, and a company’s location is based on where its headquarters are located.

Here is the top 100 ranking of the biggest companies in the world, organized from the biggest to the smallest.

RankCompany nameLocationSectorMarket Capitalization
1APPLE INC🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$2.1T
2SAUDI ARAMCO🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaEnergy$1.9T
3MICROSOFT CORP🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$1.8T
4AMAZON.COM INC🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$1.6T
5ALPHABET INC🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$1.4T
6FACEBOOK INC🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$839B
7TENCENT🇨🇳 ChinaTechnology$753B
8TESLA INC🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$641B
9ALIBABA GRP🇨🇳 ChinaConsumer Discretionary$615B
10BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY🇺🇸 United StatesFinancials$588B
11TSMC🇹🇼 TaiwanTechnology$534B
12VISA INC🇺🇸 United StatesIndustrials$468B
13JPMORGAN CHASE🇺🇸 United StatesFinancials$465B
14JOHNSON & JOHNSON🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$433B
15SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS🇰🇷 South KoreaTechnology$431B
16KWEICHOW MOUTA🇨🇳 ChinaConsumer Staples$385B
17WALMART INC🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$383B
18MASTERCARD INC🇺🇸 United StatesIndustrials$354B
19UNITEDHEALTH GRP🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$352B
20LVMH MOET HENNESSY🇫🇷 FranceConsumer Discretionary$337B
21WALT DISNEY CO🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$335B
22BANK OF AMERICA🇺🇸 United StatesFinancials$334B
23PROCTER & GAMBLE🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Staples$333B
24NVIDIA CORP🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$331B
25HOME DEPOT INC🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$329B
26NESTLE SA🇨🇭 SwitzerlandConsumer Staples$322B
27IND & COMM BK🇨🇳 ChinaFinancials$290B
28PAYPAL HOLDINGS🇺🇸 United StatesIndustrials$284B
29ROCHE HOLDING🇨🇭 SwitzerlandHealth Care$283B
30INTEL CORP🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$261B
31ASML HOLDING NV🇳🇱 NetherlandsTechnology$255B
32TOYOTA MOTOR🇯🇵 JapanConsumer Discretionary$254B
33COMCAST CORP🇺🇸 United StatesTelecommunications$248B
34VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS🇺🇸 United StatesTelecommunications$241B
35EXXON MOBIL CORP🇺🇸 United StatesEnergy$236B
36NETFLIX INC🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$231B
37ADOBE INC🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$228B
38COCA-COLA CO🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Staples$227B
39MEITUAN🇨🇳 ChinaTechnology$226B
40PING AN🇨🇳 ChinaFinancials$219B
41CISCO SYSTEMS🇺🇸 United StatesTelecommunications$218B
42AT&T INC🇺🇸 United StatesFinancials$216B
43L'OREAL🇫🇷 FranceConsumer Discretionary$215B
44CHINA CONSTRUCTION
BANK
🇨🇳 ChinaFinancials$213B
45ABBOTT LABS🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$212B
46NOVARTIS AG🇨🇭 SwitzerlandHealth Care$212B
47NIKE INC🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$209B
48ORACLE CORP🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$202B
49PFIZER INC🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$202B
50CHEVRON CORP🇺🇸 United StatesOil & Gas$202B
51CHINA MERCH🇨🇳 ChinaFinancials$196B
52PEPSICO INC🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Staples$195B
53SALESFORCE.COM🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$195B
54MERCK & CO🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$195B
55ABBVIE INC🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$191B
56BROADCOM INC🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$189B
57PROSUS NV🇳🇱 NetherlandsTechnology$181B
58RELIANCE INDS🇮🇳 IndiaEnergy$180B
59THERMO FISHER🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$180B
60ELI LILLY & CO🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$179B
61AGRICULTURAL BANK OF
CHINA
🇨🇳 ChinaFinancials$178B
62SOFTBANK GROUP🇯🇵 JapanTelecommunications$176B
63ACCENTURE PLC🇮🇪 IrelandIndustrials$176B
64TEXAS INSTRUMENT🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$174B
65MCDONALDS CORP🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$167B
66VOLKSWAGEN AG🇩🇪 GermanyConsumer Discretionary$165B
67BHP GROUP LTD🇦🇺 AustraliaBasic Materials$163B
68WELLS FARGO & CO🇺🇸 United StatesFinancials$162B
69TATA CONSULTANCY🇮🇳 IndiaTechnology$161B
70DANAHER CORP🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$160B
71NOVO NORDISK🇩🇰 DenmarkHealth Care$160B
72MEDTRONIC PLC🇮🇪 IrelandHealth Care$159B
73WULIANGYE YIBI🇨🇳 ChinaConsumer Staples$159B
74COSTCO WHOLESALE🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$156B
75T-MOBILE US INC🇺🇸 United StatesTelecommunications$156B
76CITIGROUP INC🇺🇸 United StatesFinancials$152B
77HONEYWELL INTL🇺🇸 United StatesIndustrials$151B
78QUALCOMM INC🇺🇸 United StatesTechnology$151B
79SAP SE🇩🇪 GermanyTechnology$151B
80BOEING CO🇺🇸 United StatesIndustrials$149B
81ROYAL DUTCH SHELL🇳🇱 NetherlandsOil & Gas$148B
82NEXTERA ENERGY🇺🇸 United StatesUtilities$148B
83UNITED PARCEL🇺🇸 United StatesIndustrials$148B
84UNION PAC CORP🇺🇸 United StatesIndustrials$148B
85UNILEVER PLC🇬🇧 United KingdomConsumer Staples$147B
86AIA🇭🇰 Hong Kong SARFinancials$147B
87LINDE PLC🇬🇧 United KingdomBasic Materials$146B
88AMGEN INC🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$144B
89BRISTOL-MYER SQB🇺🇸 United StatesHealth Care$141B
90SIEMENS AG🇩🇪 GermanyIndustrials$140B
91BANK OF CHINA🇨🇳 ChinaFinancials$139B
92PHILIP MORRIS INC🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Staples$138B
93LOWE'S COS INC🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$136B
94CHARTER
COMMUNICATIONS
🇺🇸 United StatesTelecommunications$135B
95CHINA MOBILE🇭🇰 Hong Kong SARTelecommunications$134B
96SONY GROUP CORP🇯🇵 JapanConsumer Discretionary$132B
97ASTRAZENECA PLC🇬🇧 United KingdomHealth Care$131B
98ROYAL BANK OF CANADA🇨🇦 CanadaFinancials$131B
99STARBUCKS CORP🇺🇸 United StatesConsumer Discretionary$129B
100ANHEUSER-BUSCH🇧🇪 BelgiumConsumer Staples$128B

Note: Data as of March 31, 2021.

Within the ranking, there was a wide disparity in value. Apple was worth over $2 trillion, more than 16 times that of Anheuser-Busch (AB InBev), which took the 100th spot at $128 billion.

In total, 59 companies were headquartered in the United States, making up 65% of the top 100’s total market capitalization. China and its regions was the second most common location for company headquarters, with 14 companies on the list.

Risers and Fallers

What are some of the notable changes to the biggest companies in the world compared to last year’s ranking?

Tesla’s market capitalization surged by an eye-watering 565%, temporarily making Elon Musk the richest person in the world. Food delivery platform Meituan and PayPal benefited from growing e-commerce popularity with their market capitalizations growing by 221% and 151% respectively.

Tech companies TSMC and ASML Holdings were also among the top 10 risers, thanks to a shortage of semiconductor chips and growing demand.

On the other end of the scale, Swiss companies Nestlé, Novartis, and Roche Holding were all among the bottom 10 companies by market capitalization growth. China Mobile was the only company to decline with a -12% change. The company was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange as a result of an executive order issued by former president Donald Trump, and recently announced its intention to list on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

A Sector View

Across the 100 biggest companies in the world, some sectors had higher weightings.

SectorTotal Market Cap in Top 100% of Top 100 Market CapNumber of Companies in Top 100
Technology$10.5T33.0%20
Consumer Discretionary$6.0T18.9%17
Financials$3.4T10.8%14
Health Care$3.3T10.5%16
Energy$2.7T8.5%5
Consumer Staples$2.0T6.4%9
Industrials$2.0T6.4%9
Telecommunications$1.3T4.1%7
Basic Materials$0.3T1.0%2
Utilities$0.1T0.5%1

Technology had the highest market capitalization and was also the most common sector, with Big Tech dominating the top 10. Companies in the consumer discretionary, financials, and health care sectors also had a strong representation in the ranking.

Despite having only five companies on the list, the energy sector amounted to almost 10% of the top 100’s market capitalization, mostly due to Saudi Aramco’s whopping valuation.

An Uncertain Recovery

From near market lows on March 31, 2020, all sectors saw increases in their market capitalization. However, top 100 companies in some sectors outperformed their respective industry index, while others did not.

Sector Performance of Biggest Companies in the World

Basic materials and industrials, both cyclical sectors, were high performers in the top 100 and outperformed their respective industry indexes. Technology companies also outperformed, and accounted for $255 billion or 31% of all shareholder distributions by the top 100, far more than any other sector. Apple alone spent $73 billion on share buybacks and $14 billion in dividends in the 2020 calendar year.

On the other hand, the worst-performing sectors in the top 100 were health care, utilities, and energy. While the index performance for health care and utilities was also relatively poor, the wider energy sector performed fairly well.

It’s perhaps not surprising that all sectors saw positive returns since their low levels in March 2020, buoyed by fiscal stimulus and central bank policies. As countries begin to reopen, will the value of the biggest companies in the world continue to climb?

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