Canada's ultra-wealthy getting richer faster than the rest of us, report shows

Canada ranks fifth in the world when it comes to its population of people that have a net worth of at least $30 million US — beating out the likes of Switzerland and Hong Kong — according to a new wealth study.

Only the U.S., Japan, China and Germany had more people considered ultra-wealthy

The total wealth of people with $30 million US or more in Canada grew almost 15 per cent to a collective amount of more than $1.1 trillion in 2017, according to Wealth-X. (Sotheby's International Realty Canada )

Canada ranks fifth in the world when it comes to the number of people living in a country with a net worth of at least $30 million US — beating out the likes of Switzerland and Hong Kong — according to a new wealth study.

According to research firm Wealth X, Canada had around 10,840 residents worth $30 million or more including their investable assets in 2017. The New York-based firm compiles the study based on its database of wealthy individuals every year.

The $30 million figure isn't random — that's what Wealth-X says it takes to be considered an ultra-high net worth individual.

Only the United States, Japan, China and Germany had more people with at least that amount of money than Canada. France, Hong Kong, the U.K., Switzerland and Italy all ranked below Canada.

The top 10 countries with the highest population of people worth $30M US or more, according to research firm Wealth-X. (John Fraser/CBC)

Ricardo Tranjan, senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), ​said research conducted by CCPA suggests that "the rich are really sprinting ahead" of average Canadians.

Leaving the middle class behind

"[Our] research found that while the average net worth of Canada's wealthiest families rose by 37 per cent between 2012 and 2016, the net worth of middle-class families increased by 16 per cent," said Tranjan.

He said it didn't surprise him that Canada had more high net worth residents than several European countries on the list.

"One of our recent studies and research conducted by French economist Thomas Piketty and colleagues have demonstrated that inheritance tax is a key mechanism for wealth distribution," Tranjan said. "Canada doesn't have such a tax, whereas most European countries do."

Germany, the only European country to top Canada on the list, does have an inheritance tax — but its economy is also far larger than Canada's.

The idea of a formal inheritance tax in Canada, the only G7 country without such a tax, is controversial. But it has been floated by some (including the NDP and a CCPA economist in a recent report) as a potential tool to put a dent in wealth inequality.

Meanwhile, the number of people in Canada with a net worth of $30 million or more increased by nearly 14 per cent last year from 2016, while their total wealth grew almost 15 per cent to a collective amount of more than $1.1 trillion, Wealth-X said.

High investment yields drive growth

That's slightly higher than the worldwide growth of people with the same amount, which rose almost 13 per cent to 255,810 individuals.

The biggest drivers of wealth for this group in Canada were better economic growth in the region, higher investment yields and a stronger currency, according to the study.

Wealth-X said the boost was driven by several economic factors, including "modest acceleration" in growth in both Canada and the U.S. and a "late-year boost" from the Trump administration's tax reform bill which was "aimed squarely at providing generous exemptions to corporations and the ultra wealthy."

The Canadian economy grew a strong three per cent last year, while stock markets rallied on U.S. President Donald Trump's tax reform policies. The Canadian dollar also rose more than seven per cent against the greenback in 2017. 

​But that pace may not continue, Wealth-X said.

Decline in global share coming

The research company said the North American region is on track to record the slowest growth in the number of people with $30 million or more over the next five years.

"It will remain the dominant ultra-wealthy region in absolute terms, but compound annual growth rates of just below six per cent in its ultra-wealthy population and total net worth imply a gradual decline in global share on both counts," the study said.

On the other end, the Asia-Pacific region is expected to close the wealth gap on individuals with $30 million or more with regions like North America in the next five years. The fastest growing regions of the world for wealth are emerging markets like Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.