In recent decades, extreme world poverty has declined significantly and many millions of people have joined the swelling ranks of the middle class – particularly in China.
While these economic shifts are positive, it’s the other end of the global wealth spectrum that attracts the most attention. A high degree of wealth creation is amassed by those at the top of the economic pyramid.
The Top-Heavy Wealth Spectrum
Today, slightly less than 1% of the world’s adult population occupies the $1M+ wealth range. Despite their small numbers, this elite group collectively controls 46% of the world’s wealth, valued at approximately $129 trillion.
On the flip side of the equation, 70% of world’s population fall into the sub-$10K wealth band. This majority of people around the world collectively control a mere 2.7% of the world’s wealth.
Even as “the rich get richer”, there is good news for the majority. The percentage of people in that lowest wealth band has been shrinking over the years.
Not only is money concentrated among a small portion of the population, those people tend to gravitate towards global cities such as London, Hong Kong, and New York.
In fact, 70% of ultra high net worth individuals (UHNWIs) – persons with investable assets of $30 million or more – reside in just ten cities around the world.
According to Credit Suisse, emerging markets now account for 22% of growth in the UHNWIs category – up from just 6% growth in 2000 – with China alone adding over 16,000 UHNWIs to the mix. Many members of this elite class may generate their wealth in emerging economies around the world, but as we can see from the map above, the world’s richest people end up very concentrated, geographically speaking.
Global Wealth, by Continent
As the visualization below demonstrates, wealth accumulates in Europe and North America. This trend is so pronounced that it only becomes evident once the scale is adjusted to see the detail in the upper percentiles.
One thing is for certain – the world is changing quickly, and just as this graph would have looked very different 20 years ago, global wealth will almost certainly look different in 20 years time.
Mapped: The World’s Biggest Private Tax Havens
What countries or territories do the ultra-wealthy use as tax havens?
The World’s Biggest Private Tax Havens
When the world’s ultra-wealthy look for tax havens to shield income and wealth from their domestic governments, where do they turn?
If you’re putting money in offshore bank accounts in order to save on taxes, there are two main criteria you’re looking for: secrecy and accessibility. Based on pop culture and media reports, you might imagine a secretive bank in Switzerland or a tiny island nation in the Caribbean.
And though there is some truth to that logic, the reality is that the world’s biggest tax havens are spread all over the world. Some of them are small nations as expected, but others are major economic powers that might be surprising.
Here are the world’s top 20 tax havens, as ranked by the 2020 Financial Secrecy Index (FSI) by the English NGO Tax Justice Network.
Which Countries are the Biggest Tax Havens?
The FSI ranks countries and territories from all over the world on two criteria: secrecy and scale.
- Secrecy Score: How well the jurisdiction’s banking system can hide money. This includes analysis of ownership registration, legal entity transparency, tax and financial regulations, and cooperation with international standards.
- Global Scale Weight: What is the jurisdiction’s share of the world’s total cross-border financial services? This metric is based primarily on the IMF’s Balance of Payments statistics.
By weighing a country’s ability to hide money by its relative share of offshore financial services, we see the tax havens with the biggest impact on the global economy.
|1||🇰🇾 Cayman Islands||Caribbean|
|2||🇺🇸 United States||North America|
|4||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||East Asia|
|5||🇸🇬 Singapore||Southeast Asia|
|7||🇯🇵 Japan||East Asia|
|9||🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands||Caribbean|
|10||🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||Middle East|
|12||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||Europe|
|13||🇹🇼 Taiwan||East Asia|
|17||🇹🇭 Thailand||Southeast Asia|
|19||🇨🇦 Canada||North America|
|20||🇶🇦 Qatar||Middle East|
At a glance, the top 20 tax havens are spread out across regions. Just under half of the list is located in Europe, but the rest are spread out across the Americas and Asia.
And the jurisdictions are opposites in many ways. They include financial powerhouses like the U.S., Japan, and the UK as well as smaller nations and territories like the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, and Luxembourg.
But one surprising thing many of them have in common is a link to England. In addition to the UK, four of the top 20 tax havens—Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Guernsey, and Jersey—are British Overseas Territories or Crown Dependencies.
Also worth noting is the importance of scale in the rankings. The highest ranking jurisdictions by secrecy score were actually the Maldives, Angola and Algeria, but they represent less than 0.1% of total offshore financial services.
Best Place To Hide Private Vs. Corporate Tax
Some of the listed tax havens might be confusing to nationals of those countries, but that’s where relativity is important. The U.S. and Canada might not be tax havens for American or Canadian nationals, but the ultra-wealthy from East Asia and the Middle East are reported to utilize them due to holes in foreign tax laws. Likewise, the UAE has reportedly become a tax haven for Africa’s ultra-wealthy.
In addition, many of the countries used as tax havens for individual wealth are also utilized by corporations.
The Tax Justice Network’s 2021 assessment of corporate tax havens listed the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, and Bermuda as the top three tax corporate tax havens.
While individuals might create shell companies in tax havens to hide their wealth, corporations are usually directly incorporated in the tax haven in order to defer taxes.
But the tax haven landscape might soon shift. The G7 struck a deal in June 2021 to start taxing multinational corporations based on the revenue generated in each country (instead of where the company is based), as well as setting a global minimum tax of 15%. In total, a group of 130 countries have agreed to the deal, including India, China, the UK, and the Cayman Islands.
As the campaign to bring back deferred taxes ramps up, the question becomes one of response. Will the ultra-wealthy individuals and corporations start to work in tandem with the new rules, or discover new workarounds and tax havens?
Chart: A Global Look at How People Spend Their Time
We all have the same 24 hours in the day. How do people spend them around the world, and how does this breakdown change by gender?
A Global Look at How People Spend Their Time
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but we don’t spend them the same way. Some prioritize family time or household chores, while others cherish a good night’s sleep or seeing friends.
This chart from Our World in Data compares the average time allocated across various day-to-day activities, from paid work to leisurely activities.
The data for the 33 countries profiled come from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Time Use database, for ages 15 through 64 years old.
Countries with the Highest Time Spent Per Activity
As the chart shows, basic patterns—work, rest, and play—emerge across the board.
When it comes to paid work, Japan emerges the highest on this list with approximately 5.5 hours per day. However, this country also has some of the highest overtime in a workweek. In contrast, European countries such as France and Spain report nearly half the same hours (less than 3 hours) of paid work per day on average.
Certain trends, however, transcend cultural boundaries. Those in Mexico find themselves spending significant portions of the day (3 hours or more) on housework, as do those in Portugal.
|Activity category||Country with highest time spent||Time spent in minutes|
|Paid work||🇯🇵 Japan||326 (Approx. 5.5 hrs)|
|Education||🇰🇷 South Korea||57|
|Care for household members||🇮🇪 Ireland||61|
|Housework||🇲🇽 Mexico||187 (Approx. 3 hrs)|
|Other unpaid work & volunteering||🇯🇵 Japan||98 (Approx. 1.5 hrs)|
|Sleep||🇿🇦 South Africa||553 (Approx. 9 hrs)|
|Eating||🇫🇷 France||133 (Approx. 2 hours)|
|Personal care||🇫🇷 France||107 (Approx. 1 hr 45 min)|
|Attending events||🇮🇪 Ireland||42|
|Seeing friends||🇿🇦 South Africa||82|
|TV and radio||🇺🇸 U.S.||148 (Approx. 2.5 hrs)|
(Religious/ civic duties, or unspecified)
|🇳🇴 Norway||154 (Approx. 2.5 hrs)|
As the saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In the realm of leisure activities, those in the U.S. spend approximately 2.5 hours consuming media in a day, a number that has risen even higher during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, another interesting cultural pattern is that people in France spend the most time eating, approximately 2 hours per day. These durations are similar to those in other Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain—perhaps because meals are viewed as a social activity in these cultures.
Gender Disparities in Time Spent
Digging deeper, another way to look at how people spend their time globally is through the lens of gender.
Women spend nearly three times more in unpaid care work compared to men—a whopping total of 1.1 trillion hours each year—which means a lot less leisure time. This inequality is clearly defined by country in the following scatterplot:
In Norway, both men and women have equally high levels of leisure time—though it’s a rare example of such a case.
Meanwhile, in countries like India or China, significant gender gaps prevent women from moving up the socioeconomic ladder, potentially costing trillions of dollars to the global economy.
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