The world’s richest 500 people increased their collective wealth by 25% in 2019 – a stark reminder of worsening income inequality.
The 500 wealthiest people held a collective net worth of $5.9t (£4.5t) – an increase of $1.2t (£917b) over 2019 alone, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Topping the list of richest people were familiar names: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, followed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, French luxury group head Bernard Arnault, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The richest Briton to appear on the list was Jim Ratcliffe, the UK’s richest man and CEO of chemicals company Ineos – ranking at number 52 on the index with a total net worth of $20.8b (£15.9b). He was one of 16 people from the UK to appear on the 500-strong list.
A total of 171 people on the list were from the United States.
A study earlier this year found that the 400 richest people in the US owned more than the 150 million people in the bottom 60% of the country ― and that since the early 1980s, those 400 richest Americans had tripled their wealth.
Income inequality has become one of the defining issues of the US Democratic presidential race, ahead of the 2020 elections.
There are two billionaires among the Democratic 2020 contenders: California hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and former New York City mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg (whose news site publishes this daily ranking of the world’s wealthy).
Bloomberg News said it would steer clear of investigations into the 2020 race after its founder and owner became a contender earlier this year ― but broke its own rule earlier this week in a report on progressive rivals Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Sanders and Warren are among the candidates who most often criticise the economic and political systems that allow the nation’s wealth to disproportionately land in the hands of its richest citizens.
One of Warren’s flagship policy proposals would target the ultra-wealthy with a 2% tax on fortunes larger than $50 million. Sanders, in a conversation with the Los Angeles Times editorial board published this week, called out how despite there being a low unemployment rate in the U.S., wages have largely stagnated for decades, leaving many Americans struggling to get by.