Visualizing the Wealth of Nations
Just as there exists a longstanding inequality in the distribution of household wealth, so exists a considerable differential in the amount of wealth held by countries on the international stage.
Simply put, some nations are “haves”, while many others are “have-nots”.
“Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.”
– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
We previously showed you how the ranking of the richest countries in the world has changed over the course of the last 10 years (2008-2018).
Today’s chart keys on a slightly different question.
What are the wealthiest nations today, both in absolute and per capita terms, and how is this list projected to change over the next decade? Let’s see how the wealth of nations stack up.
Private Wealth: Now and in the Future
Using data from the Global Wealth Migration Review, here are the 10 wealthiest nations both now and as forecasted in 2028.
|Rank||Country||Wealth (2018)||Wealth (2028F)||Approx. Growth|
|#1||🇺🇸 United States||$60.7 trillion||$72.8 trillion||20%|
|#2||🇨🇳 China||$23.6 trillion||$51.8 trillion||120%|
|#3||🇯🇵 Japan||$19.1 trillion||$24.9 trillion||30%|
|#4||🇮🇳 India||$8.1 trillion||$22.8 trillion||180%|
|#5||🇦🇺 Australia||$6.0 trillion||$10.8 trillion||80%|
|#6||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$9.1 trillion||$10.0 trillion||10%|
|#7||🇩🇪 Germany||$8.8 trillion||$9.7 trillion||10%|
|#8||🇨🇦 Canada||$6.0 trillion||$7.8 trillion||30%|
|#9||🇫🇷 France||$5.9 trillion||$6.4 trillion||10%|
|#10||🇮🇹 Italy||$3.8 trillion||$4.2 trillion||10%|
It’s worth noting that these figures are meant to represent wealth, which is defined as the total amount of private wealth held by individuals in each country. It includes assets like property, cash, equities, and business interests, minus any liabilities.
China has been the best performing wealth market in the last decade, and these projections show the country as continuing on that track. In fact, both China and India are expected to see triple-digit growth in private wealth between now and 2028.
As far as developed countries go, it’s not surprising that growth rates are much more modest. In Europe, countries like Great Britain, Germany, France, and Italy are only expected to add 10% to private wealth in 10 years, while Canada (30%) and the U.S. (20%) do marginally better.
One notable exception here is Australia, which is expected to add 80% to private wealth over the timeframe – and it will leapfrog both Germany and the U.K. in the rankings in the process.
Wealth per Capita
Here’s a look at the wealth of nations in a different way, this time with numbers adjusted on a per capita basis.
|Rank||Country||Est. Population||Wealth per capita (2018)|
|#7||🇺🇸 United States||327,200,000||$186,000|
|#9||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||7,392,000||$169,000|
When using per capita numbers, it’s absolutely no contest.
Monaco, the city-state on the French Riviera, is a money magnet with $2.1 million of private wealth per citizen. This means the average Monacan is at least 10 times richer than the average North American or European.
Liechtenstein, a microstate that sits in the Alps between Switzerland and Austria, also has a high average wealth of $786,000 per person. Like Monaco, its population is well under 50,000 people.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that three countries on the per capita list also made the overall list. Put another way, the countries of Australia, Canada, and the United States can all claim to be among the wealthiest of nations in both absolute and per capita terms.
Charted: Income Distributions in 16 Different Countries
This graphic shows income distributions in 16 different countries around the world, using data from the World Inequality Database.
Charting Income Distributions in 16 Different Countries
Throughout the 19th century, roughly 80% of the global population lived in what we’d now consider extreme poverty.
And as earnings and living conditions have improved dramatically since then, they haven’t done so evenly across the world. There are still vast income gaps, both between different countries and within them.
To highlight these global income discrepancies, this chart by Ruben Berge Mathisen shows income distributions around the world, using 2021 income data from the World Inequality Database (WID) on a per adult basis.
Global Income Distributions
This graphic shows the adult income distributions of 16 different countries in U.S. dollars, along with the world average.
On a global scale, adults making an annual income greater than $124,720 make it into the 99th percentile, meaning they make more than 99% of the worldwide population.
However, things change when you zoom in on specific countries. Here’s a look at all the countries on the list, and how much annual income is needed (at minimum) to be in the top 1%:
|Region||Country||Adult income (2021, 99th percentile)|
|North America||🇺🇸 United States||$336,953.19|
|North America||🇨🇦 Canada||$193,035.55|
|North America||🇲🇽 Mexico||$130,388.19|
|South America||🇧🇷 Brazil||$115,257.86|
|South America||🇨🇴 Colombia||$97,500.37|
|South America||🇦🇷 Argentina||$94,794.89|
|Europe||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$162,547.56|
People in America’s top 1% make at least $336,953 in annual pre-tax income. That’s more than $100,000 above the 1% of next closest countries, Germany ($212,107) and Canada ($193,036).
On the flip side, adults in Ethiopia only need to make $24,297 to fall into the country’s 99th percentile. Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world—according to estimates by the World Bank, about 27% of Ethiopia’s population is thought to be currently living under the poverty line.
Income Gaps Within Countries
It is also noticeable how much income varies within each country.
One example is Colombia, which has one of the largest wealth gaps of any country on the list. The 99th percentile in Colombia is making an annual income that’s 192x higher than its 10th percentile. In contrast, an income in the 99th percentile in the United States is 83x higher than the 10th percentile.
Colombia’s high level of income inequality stems from early childhood disadvantages, such as lack of access to education, which can limit opportunities later on in life.
Ranked: The World’s 100 Biggest Pension Funds
The world’s 100 largest pension funds are worth over $17 trillion in total. Which ones are the biggest, and where are they located?
Ranked: The World’s 100 Biggest Pension Funds
View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.
Despite economic uncertainty, pension funds saw relatively strong growth in 2021. The world’s 100 biggest pension funds are worth over $17 trillion in total, an increase of 8.5% over the previous year.
This graphic uses data from the Thinking Ahead Institute to rank the world’s biggest pension funds, and where they are located.
What is a Pension Fund?
A pension fund is a fund that is designed to provide retirement income. This ranking covers four different types:
- Sovereign funds: Funds controlled directly by the state. This ranking only includes sovereign funds that are established by national authorities.
- Public sector funds: Funds that cover public sector workers, such as government employees and teachers, in provincial or state sponsored plans.
- Private independent funds: Funds controlled by private sector organizations that are authorized to manage pension plans from different employers.
- Corporate funds: Funds that cover workers in company sponsored pension plans.
Among the largest funds, public sector funds are the most common.
The Largest Pension Funds, Ranked
Here are the top 100 pension funds, organized from largest to smallest.
|1||Government Pension Investment Fund||🇯🇵 Japan||$1.7T|
|2||Government Pension Fund||🇳🇴 Norway||$1.4T|
|3||National Pension||🇰🇷 South Korea||$798.0B|
|4||Federal Retirement Thrift||🇺🇸 U.S.||$774.2B|
|6||California Public Employees||🇺🇸 U.S.||$496.8B|
|7||Canada Pension||🇨🇦 Canada||$426.7B|
|8||National Social Security||🇨🇳 China||$406.8B|
|9||Central Provident Fund||🇸🇬 Singapore||$375.0B|
|11||California State Teachers||🇺🇸 U.S.||$313.9B|
|12||New York State Common||🇺🇸 U.S.||$267.8B|
|13||New York City Retirement||🇺🇸 U.S.||$266.7B|
|14||Local Government Officials||🇯🇵 Japan||$248.6B|
|15||Employees Provident Fund||🇲🇾 Malaysia||$242.6B|
|16||Florida State Board||🇺🇸 U.S.||$213.8B|
|17||Texas Teachers||🇺🇸 U.S.||$196.7B|
|18||Ontario Teachers||🇨🇦 Canada||$191.1B|
|19||National Wealth Fund||🇷🇺 Russia||$180.7B|
|21||Labor Pension Fund||🇹🇼 Taiwan||$168.9B|
|22||Washington State Board||🇺🇸 U.S.||$161.5B|
|23||Public Institute for Social Security||🇰🇼 Kuwait||$160.0B|
|25||Wisconsin Investment Board||🇺🇸 U.S.||$147.9B|
|26||Future Fund||🇦🇺 Australia||$147.9B|
|28||Employees' Provident||🇮🇳 India||$145.0B|
|29||New York State Teachers||🇺🇸 U.S.||$144.4B|
|30||North Carolina||🇺🇸 U.S.||$137.1B|
|32||GEPF||🇿🇦 South Africa||$129.1B|
|33||California University||🇺🇸 U.S.||$125.3B|
|34||Bayerische Versorgungskammer||🇩🇪 Germany||$122.0B|
|35||Ohio Public Employees||🇺🇸 U.S.||$121.6B|
|37||Public Service Pension Plan||🇨🇦 Canada||$117.9B|
|38||National Federation of Mutual Aid||🇯🇵 Japan||$117.1B|
|39||Metaal/tech. Bedrijven||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$115.8B|
|41||Universities Superannuation||🇬🇧 UK||$111.2B|
|42||Virginia Retirement||🇺🇸 U.S.||$110.0B|
|43||Pension Fund Association||🇯🇵 Japan||$109.8B|
|44||Raytheon Technologies||🇺🇸 U.S.||$108.9B|
|45||Michigan Retirement||🇺🇸 U.S.||$108.0B|
|46||Aware Super||🇦🇺 Australia||$107.5B|
|47||New Jersey||🇺🇸 U.S.||$104.5B|
|48||Minnesota State Board||🇺🇸 U.S.||$102.9B|
|49||PFA Pension||🇩🇰 Denmark||$102.7B|
|51||Georgia Teachers||🇺🇸 U.S.||$100.9B|
|52||Oregon Public Employees||🇺🇸 U.S.||$100.4B|
|53||Massachusetts PRIM||🇺🇸 U.S.||$98.5B|
|55||General Motors||🇺🇸 U.S.||$96.1B|
|56||Ontario Municipal Employees||🇨🇦 Canada||$95.7B|
|57||Ohio State Teachers||🇺🇸 U.S.||$95.1B|
|58||AP Fonden 7||🇸🇪 Sweden||$94.4B|
|59||Healthcare of Ontario||🇨🇦 Canada||$90.5B|
|60||General Electric||🇺🇸 U.S.||$90.5B|
|61||Employees' Pension Fund||🇮🇳 India||$89.5B|
|64||United Nations Joint Staff||🇺🇸 U.S.||$86.2B|
|65||Lockheed Martin||🇺🇸 U.S.||$85.7B|
|66||Quebec Pension||🇨🇦 Canada||$81.4B|
|67||National Public Service||🇯🇵 Japan||$79.9B|
|68||Tennessee Consolidated||🇺🇸 U.S.||$79.0B|
|69||Royal Bank of Scotland Group||🇬🇧 UK||$78.3B|
|70||Bank of America||🇺🇸 U.S.||$76.3B|
|71||BT Group||🇬🇧 UK||$74.3B|
|75||Los Angeles County Employees||🇺🇸 U.S.||$72.7B|
|76||Quebec Government & Public||🇨🇦 Canada||$72.4B|
|78||Northrop Grumman||🇺🇸 U.S.||$72.0B|
|79||Pennsylvania School Employees||🇺🇸 U.S.||$70.4B|
|80||Lloyds Banking Group||🇬🇧 UK||$69.7B|
|82||Colorado Employees||🇺🇸 U.S.||$68.6B|
|83||Maryland State Retirement||🇺🇸 U.S.||$68.5B|
|84||AMF Pension||🇸🇪 Sweden||$67.3B|
|86||Wells Fargo||🇺🇸 U.S.||$66.0B|
|89||Illinois Teachers||🇺🇸 U.S.||$64.0B|
|90||J.P. Morgan Chase||🇺🇸 U.S.||$62.8B|
|91||Electricity Supply Pension||🇬🇧 UK||$62.5B|
|93||Nevada Public Employees||🇺🇸 U.S.||$58.8B|
|94||B.C. Municipal||🇨🇦 Canada||$58.7B|
|95||AP Fonden 4||🇸🇪 Sweden||$57.7B|
|96||Missouri Schools & Education||🇺🇸 U.S.||$57.0B|
|97||AP Fonden 3||🇸🇪 Sweden||$55.9B|
|98||Social Insurance Funds||🇻🇳 Vietnam||$55.7B|
|99||Organization for Workers||🇯🇵 Japan||$55.6B|
|100||Illinois Municipal||🇺🇸 U.S.||$54.9B|
U.S. fund data are as of Sep. 30, 2021, and non-U.S. fund data are as of Dec. 31, 2021. There are some exceptions as noted in the graphic footnotes.
Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) is the largest in the ranking for the 21st year in a row. For a time, the fund was the largest holder of domestic stocks in Japan, though the Bank of Japan has since taken that title. Given its enormous size, investors closely follow the GPIF’s actions. For instance, the fund made headlines for deciding to start investing in startups, because the move could entice other pensions to make similar investments.
America is home to 47 funds on the list, including the largest public sector fund: the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), overseen by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. Because of its large financial influence, both political parties have been accused of using it as a political tool. Democrats have pushed to divest assets in fossil fuel companies, while Republicans have proposed blocking investment in Chinese-owned companies.
Russia’s National Wealth Fund comes in at number 19 on the list. The fund is designed to support the public pension system and help balance the budget as needed. With Russia’s economy facing difficulties amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the government has also used it as a rainy day fund. For instance, Russia has set aside $23 billion from the fund to replace foreign aircraft with domestic models, because Western sanctions have made it difficult to source replacement parts for foreign planes.
The Future of Pension Funds
The biggest pension funds can have a large influence in the market because of their size. Of course, they are also responsible for providing retirement income to millions of people. Pension funds face a variety of challenges in order to reach their goals:
- Geopolitical conflict creates volatility and uncertainty
- High inflation and low interest rates (relative to long-term averages) limit return potential
- Aging populations mean more withdrawals and less fund contributions
Some pension funds are turning to alternative assets, such as private equity, in pursuit of more diversification and higher returns. Of course, these investments can also carry more risk.
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, number 18 on the list, invested $95 million in the now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX. The plan made the investment through its venture growth platform, to “gain small-scale exposure to an emerging area in the financial technology sector.”
In this case, the investment’s failure is expected to have a minimal impact given it only made up 0.05% of the plan’s net assets. However, it does highlight the challenges pension funds face to generate sufficient returns in a variety of macroeconomic environments.
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