IMF Growth Forecasts: Missing the Mark So Far [Chart]
Will next week’s report be on target after 5 years of downward revisions?
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Projections on the global economic recovery have been overestimated by most policymakers and institutions for some time now. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been no exception to this fallacy.
Whether it is simple error, wishful thinking, or a complex system that is to blame, the economists at the IMF have now missed the mark for five years in a row on their global real GDP growth forecasts. After multiple revisions downward, their most recent January 2016 report finally estimated growth for this year to be a mediocre 3.4%.
Of course, no one expects economists to be anywhere near perfect. However, what is troubling in this instance is that all estimates have erred on the side of being overly optimistic. This makes it difficult for investors, businesses, and governments to ground their expectations and to manage their assets.
This upcoming week, the IMF will release their latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) report, summarizing key economic figures as well as their forecasted growth for 2016 and the years ahead.
Will they miss the mark again, or will their projections finally line up with economic realities?
In recent weeks, IMF head Christine Lagarde has hit the press circuit to possibly set expectations ahead of the new report’s release. In Frankfurt, she had this to say on April 5, potentially revealing some clues for us:
Overall, the global outlook has weakened further over the last six months — exacerbated by China’s relative slowdown, lower commodity prices, and the prospect of financial tightening for many countries. Emerging markets had largely driven the recovery and the expectation was that the advanced economies would pick up the ‘growth baton’ – That has not happened.
She went on to suggest that a strong U.S. dollar, high unemployment and shoddy balance sheets in Europe, and economic data from Japan have all reduced growth in key developed countries. Further, emerging markets such as China, Brazil, and Russia had all faced more challenges than expected, and that the Middle East’s growth got hammered by weak energy prices.
Meanwhile, Lagarde saw India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam as bright spots.
Later in the speech, she pulled no punches on potential global risks, mentioning “high debt” as the first risk to making recovery progress:
For advanced economies, [risks] relate to longstanding crisis legacies — high debt, low inflation, low investment, low productivity, and, for some, high unemployment.
While Lagarde made it clear that there has been a “loss of momentum” and that the IMF is “on alert, not alarm”, this could be a clue that the reality is setting in for the IMF: a sustained, real recovery is not in the cards unless giant obstacles are overcome. We believe this could take a prolonged time to truly correct, or that it could eventually happen after a major reset to our financial and political systems.
Either way, for once it seems possible (though improbable), that the IMF may finally see things the same way.
The Future of 5G: Comparing 3 Generations of Wireless Technology
See how 5G compares to older iterations of wireless technology, and why it’s poised to change the way the modern world uses data.
The Future of 5G: Comparing 3 Generations of Wireless Technology
Wireless technology has evolved rapidly since the turn of the century. From voice-only 2G capabilities and internet-enabled 3G, today’s ecosystem of wireless activity is founded on the reliable connection of 4G.
Fifth-generation wireless network technology, better known as 5G, is now being rolled out in major cities worldwide. By 2024, an estimated 1.5 billion mobile users─which account for 40% of current global activity─will be using 5G wireless networks.
Today’s chart highlights three generations of wireless technology in the 21st century, and the differences between 3G, 4G, and 5G networks.
5G: The Next Great Thing?
With over 5 billion mobile users worldwide, our world is growing more connected than ever.
Data from GSMA Intelligence shows how rapidly global traffic could grow across different networks:
- 2018: 43% of mobile users on 4G
- 2025: 59% of mobile users on 4G, 15% of mobile users on 5G
But as with any new innovation, consumers should expect both positives and negatives as the technology matures.
- IoT Connectivity
5G networks will significantly optimize communication between the Internet of Things (IoT) devices to make our lives more convenient.
- Low latency
Also known as lag, latency is the time it takes for data to be transferred over networks. Users may see latency rates drop as low as one millisecond.
- High speeds
Real-time streaming may soon be a reality through 5G networks. Downloading a two-hour movie takes a whopping 26 hours over 3G networks and roughly six minutes on 4G networks─however, it’ll only take 3.6 seconds over 5G.
- Distance from nodes
Walls, trees, and even rain can significantly block 5G wireless signals.
- Requires many nodes
Many 5G nodes will need to be installed to offer the same level of coverage found on 4G.
- Restricted to 5G-enabled devices
Users can’t simply upgrade their software. Instead, they will need a 5G-enabled device to access the network.
Global 5G Networks
5G still has a way to go before it reaches mainstream adoption. Meanwhile, countries and cities are racing to install the infrastructure needed for the next wave of innovation to hit.
Since late 2018, over 25 countries have deployed 5G wireless networks. Notable achievements include South Korea, which became the first country globally to launch 5G wireless technology in April 2019. Switzerland boasts the highest number of 5G network deployments, currently at 225 and counting.
To date, China has built roughly 350,000 5G sites─compared to the less than 20,000 in the U.S.─and plans to invest an additional US$400 billion in infrastructure by 2023. Chinese mobile providers plan to launch 5G services starting in 2020.
What Does This Mean For 4G?
4G isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As 5G gradually rolls out, 4G and 5G networks will need to work together to support the wave of IoT devices entering the market. This network piggybacking also has the potential to expand global access to the internet in the future.
The race to dominate the wireless waves is even pushing companies like China’s Huawei to explore 6G wireless innovation─before they’ve even launched their 5G networks.
Which Countries Have the Most Wealth Per Capita?
How do the rankings of the world’s most affluent countries change when using different metrics to measure wealth per capita?
Which Countries Have the Most Wealth Per Capita?
Our animated chart this week uses data from the ninth Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, which ranks countries by average wealth, calculated as gross assets per adult citizen.
While using such a metric certainly gives a quick snapshot of wealth per capita, it doesn’t necessarily show the complete picture.
Some argue, for example, that calculating the mean doesn’t factor in the gap between the richest and poorest in a population—also known as wealth inequality. For this reason, we’ve compared this number to median wealth for each country, providing a separate angle on which countries really have the most wealth per capita.
Mean or Median: Which Makes More Sense?
Below, we’ve visualized a hypothetical example of two groups of people, each earning various sums of money, to show how average (mean) and median calculations make a difference.
What can we observe in both datasets?
- Total wealth: $2,000
- Total people: 15 people
- Average wealth: $2,000 ÷ 15 = $133
However, that’s where the similarities end. In the first group, wealth is distributed more evenly, with the disparity between the lowest-paid and highest-paid being $300. The median wealth for this group reaches $100, which is close to the average value. In the second group, this gap climbs to $495, and the median wealth drops sharply to only $30.
Scaling up this example to the true wealth of nations, we can see how the median wealth provides a more accurate picture of the typical adult, especially in societies that are less equal.
Let’s see how this shakes out when ranking the world’s most affluent countries.
Ranking Top Contenders on Wealth per Capita
When it comes to wealth per capita, it’s clear that Australia and Switzerland lead the pack. In fact, the data shows that both nations top the lists for both mean and median wealth.
However, both nations also have the highest absolute household debt-to-GDP ratios in the world: in 2018, Switzerland’s levels reached nearly 129%, while Australia followed behind at 120%.
Here is a full ranking of the top 20 countries by mean and median wealth:
|Rank||Country||Mean wealth per adult||Country||Median wealth per adult|
|#1||🇨🇭 Switzerland||$530,244||🇦🇺 Australia||$191,453|
|#2||🇦🇺 Australia||$411,060||🇨🇭 Switzerland||$183,339|
|#3||🇺🇸 United States||$403,974||🇧🇪 Belgium||$163,429|
|#4||🇧🇪 Belgium||$313,045||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$114,935|
|#5||🇳🇴 Norway||$291,103||🇫🇷 France||$106,827|
|#6||🇳🇿 New Zealand||$289,798||🇨🇦 Canada||$106,342|
|#7||🇨🇦 Canada||$288,263||🇯🇵 Japan||$103,861|
|#8||🇩🇰 Denmark||$286,712||🇳🇿 New Zealand||$98,613|
|#9||🇸🇬 Singapore||$283,118||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$97,169|
|#10||🇫🇷 France||$280,580||🇸🇬 Singapore||$91,656|
|#11||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$279,048||🇪🇸 Spain||$87,188|
|#12||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$253,205||🇳🇴 Norway||$80,054|
|#13||🇸🇪 Sweden||$249,765||🇮🇹 Italy||$79,239|
|#14||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||$244,672||🇹🇼 Taiwan||$78,177|
|#15||🇮🇪 Ireland||$232,952||🇮🇪 Ireland||$72,473|
|#16||🇦🇹 Austria||$231,368||🇦🇹 Austria||$70,074|
|#17||🇯🇵 Japan||$227,235||🇰🇷 South Korea||$65,463|
|#18||🇮🇹 Italy||$217,727||🇺🇸 United States||$61,667|
|#19||🇩🇪 Germany||$214,893||🇩🇰 Denmark||$60,999|
|#20||🇹🇼 Taiwan||$212,375||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||$58,905|
The United States boasts 41% of the world’s millionaires, but it’s clear that the fruits of labor are enjoyed by only a select group—average wealth ($403,974) is almost seven times higher than median wealth ($61,667). This growing inequality gap knocks the country down to 18th place for median wealth.
The Nordic countries of Norway and Denmark can be found in the top ten for average wealth, but they drop to 12th place ($80,054) and 19th place ($60,999) respectively for median wealth. Despite this difference, these countries also provide a strong safety net—including access to healthcare and education—to more vulnerable citizens.
Finally, wealth in Japan is fairly evenly distributed among its large middle class, which lands it in seventh place on the median wealth list at $103,861. One possible reason is that the pay gap ratio between Japanese CEOs and the average worker is much lower than other developed nations.
With reducing income inequality as a priority for many countries around the world, how might this list change in coming years?
Footnote: All data estimates are using mid-2018 values, and reflected in US$.
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