What Are the Biggest Economies in the World?
Wealthiest Countries in the World
Total national wealth isn’t as popular a metric as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita or other, more oft-referenced measures, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. National wealth is the total value of wealth possessed by the citizens of a country at any set time. Why is this important? Because it’s a strong indicator of whether a nation can take on more debt and sustain spending. Many factors can influence a state’s global wealth, from real estate value to technological advancements to the movements of the stock market.
Credit Suisse Research Institute‘s Global Wealth Report shows that recent shifts in the world economy have shaken up the rankings going into 2017. Looking at the past 12 months, global wealth has risen by $3.5 trillion to a total of $256.0 trillion, which represents an increase of 1.4%. But this has only kept pace with population growth, meaning little new wealth was created; the last time that happened was in 2008. (Source: “Global Wealth Report 2016,” Credit Suisse, November 2016.)
But the lack of new wealth creation does not stop these nations from being the richest countries in the world. So which are the richest countries in the world according to national wealth? See below for the list of the 2017 richest countries.
10. South Korea
National Wealth: $6,278 billion
South Korea is currently mired in some heavy political drama, as the Prime Minister was impeached for colluding with a childhood friend to pressure businesses for donations that back up her policy initiatives. There’s also some drama involving a possible cult connection as well, so they’re certainly living in interesting times. (Source: “After impeachment, South Korea prime minister urges calm, vigilance,” Reuters, December 10, 2016.)
But beyond the political scandal, the country’s economic outlook is solid. With low inflation, high GDP, and some of the biggest tech companies in the world working out of South Korea, you have a recipe for success that has allowed the nation to enter the top 10 wealthiest nations.
National Wealth: $6,428 billion
Australia may not be the first nation that comes to mind when considering economic powerhouses, but the country definitely has some game.
Strong access to natural resources, an enviably stable political system, and relatively secure geopolitical positioning have all helped to contribute to the rise of Australia’s wealth. This is all the more impressive considering its low population of around 23.6 million people.
National Wealth: $7,564 billion
In a situation very much similar to that of Australia, Canada finds itself in the enviable position of having access to desirable natural resources while also remaining relatively untroubled by worldwide instability.
Their new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has begun to push for a more diversified economy, versus his predecessor’s focus on oil sands and other energy models of revenue. Having said that, Trudeau has approved two major pipelines–projects that will see a million more barrels of oil a day be pumped into global markets if all goes according to plan. So his departure from the oil and gas industry has to this point been muted. (Source: “Trudeau cabinet approves Trans Mountain, Line 3 pipelines, rejects Northern Gateway,” CBC, November 29, 2016.)
National Wealth: $9,973 billion
While Italy is rarely considered a darling economic market, especially since the euro crisis and the lingering affects it has wrought on Europe’s southern nations, it is still by all accounts a very wealthy nation.
With a strong presence in the multi-billion-dollar fashion industry, as well as ranking among the biggest tourist destinations in the world, the country is still enormously wealthy and will more than likely remain one of the richest countries in the world for years to come.
National Wealth: $11,891 billion
The first country on the list to have a total wealth entering the double-digit trillions, France finds itself in a period of transition, politically speaking. With presidential elections coming in April, people are watching with bated breath to see who will emerge victorious among the current front-runners. A victory for Front National’s Marine Le Pen, for instance, could spell doom for France’s presence in the European Union (EU) and the eurozone.
Such a victory could have a profound effect on the French economy moving forward, as we’re witnessing in the U.K. ever since its referendum vote to withdraw from the economic union passed in June.
In fact, the result of the U.K.’s full withdrawal from the EU will serve as an interesting test of what fallout (or benefits) a country can expect when leaving the intergovernmental partnership. What complicates things further for France is that its currency is tied the EU, being that it uses the euro.
If France does elect to leave the eurozone, the effects on the economy will be major, making 2017 a fascinating year for France’s economic outlook.
National Wealth: $12,419 billion
Germany has the second-highest trade surplus in the world, trailing only China. (Source: “The 20 countries with the highest trade surplus in 2015 (in billion U.S. dollars),” Statista, last accessed January 20, 2016.)
What many consider to be the powerhouse of Europe is now also quickly becoming its political heart. With current Chancellor Angela Merkel facing a tough race set to take place in 2017, it’s not too far off to say that the economic future of Europe is riding on the results of Germany’s and France’s federal elections.
This puts two of the most prosperous and wealthiest countries in precarious positions. The economic picture that would form in the aftermath of a Merkel defeat would be drastically different in a number of key areas from the one we’re currently considering. The marriage of the political, economic, and national wealth has perhaps never been more present than in its current form as the EU faces its toughest challenges yet in 2017.
4. United Kingdom
National Wealth: $14,150 billion
The United Kingdom is outrageously wealthy, but finds itself at a crossroads. Following the Brexit vote, there is a continuous clamor for the current government to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would formally withdraw the nation from inclusion in the EU. This will be a momentous occasion, as the U.K. will be the first state to ever do so, if it does indeed follow the plan and leave the collective.
As you can see, a running thread for all the European nations on this list is the future of the eurozone and the EU. While these countries shall remain wealthy, the economic fallout from a eurozone collapse would be unpredictable and could very well shake up some of the rankings on this list.
The U.K. will be the first shoe to drop, so to speak, as it is the only confirmed state to be undertaking the withdrawal process. But depending on how the aforementioned elections turn out, more states could soon follow its lead.
Not to mention that there’s talk of what the U.K. will look like post-EU, with politicians like Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond saying in the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the U.K. could become a tax haven if too many stringent penalties are imposed upon the nation by other member states after the U.K. leaves. (Source: “Hammond threatens EU with aggressive tax changes after Brexit,” The Guardian, January 15, 2017.)
National Wealth: $23,393 billion
Exiting the all the eurozone talk, we now shift our focus east for the wealthiest nations on Earth.
China is continuing its trend towards economic domination with strong growth, a population increasingly exiting poverty and becoming among the educated elites, and a favorable trade position with other nations.
The most pressing concerns for China’s wealth moving forward is the yuan, the Chinese currency that saw some stark fluctuations this year, and of course, the new relationship with the U.S. under President Trump.
National Wealth: $24,070 billion
Japan finds itself at an interesting crossroads demographically. Its declining population is now butting heads against one of the longest lived populations, creating an economic vacuum that could really begin to hurt the prosperous island nation in the near future.
Japan’s population has fallen by nearly one million in the past five years, which marks the first decline since the census began in 1920. As a result, the country is experiencing a shrinking economy that is unable to depend on expanding labor to drive growth. Of course, there are still a number of very strong industries within the state that will help maintain its position as one of the richest countries in the world, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some real concerns for the Japanese economy. (Source: “Japan’s population is shrinking: What does it mean for the economy?” World Economic Forum, February 26, 2016.)
This problem is hardly limited to Japan, as China and South Korea are coming up against similar demographic crunches.
National Wealth: $84,784 billion
The U.S. finds itself entering a new era politically in 2017, with the introduction of Donald Trump to the Presidency. While on its surface a political change, the swapping of Barack Obama for Trump will have far-reaching and deep-seeded effects on the economy for years to come.
For instance, Trump’s image as a pro-economic-growth president has seen early rises across all markets, but some of his more unorthodox positions could see a radical shift in the richest countries in the world. For instance, the proposed trade war with China will undoubtedly create new distributions of national wealth among the wealthiest countries.
Rising interest rates, a surging dollar, and a whole host of other factors will also play major roles in how much wealth the U.S. will have in the coming years.