According to Forbes magazine’s annual list, the billionaires’ club has welcomed 210 new members within the last 12 months, despite the rising gap between the ultra-rich and the poor and as a global recession continues to linger. The number of the world’s billionaires has now reached an all-time high of 1,426 people, with the United States leading the list with 442 billionaires, and East Asia not far behind at 382.
The trend has alarmed economists and proponents for eradicating poverty, as the signs of wealth inequity worsening is confirmed with the growing fortunes of a small percentage of the world’s richest people.
The estimated wealth of the world’s billionaires is estimated at $5.4 trillion, having grown significantly from just one year ago when it was estimated at $4.6 trillion. This year, the collective wealth is “equal to more than a third of the annual output of the U.S., the world’s largest economy.”
Heading up the list is Mexican billionaire and telecom magnate Carlos Slim, whose estimated net worth is $73 billion, with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates taking the number two spot with a net worth of $67 billion.
American billionaire Warren Buffett, who has long neared the top of the list, fell out of the top three for the first time this year with an estimated net worth of $55.5 billion. Spanish businessman Amancio Ortega took Buffett’s place at third, as the founder of the company behind the Zara clothing line and retail stores. Ortega’s net worth jumped to $57 billion within the last year, the highest rise of any on the list with an additional $19.5 billion added in the last 12 months, as Spain continues to struggle through a recession with a 55% youth unemployment rate.
Frances O’Grady, of the Trade Union Congress of the UK, called the results of the Forbes study “disturbing” and added that a huge contributor to the global recession was increasing levels of wage inequality. He also stated that in order for the economy to recover, wealth needs to be distributed more equally so consumer spending can increase.
Although Buffett dropped out of the top three richest, the rest of the members remain familiar faces on the annual list, with eight of the top 10 being aged 70 or older. The number of women billionaires also increased this year, up to 138 from 104.
– Christina Kindlon