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Richest one per cent owns one quarter of the Netherlands’ wealth16 April 2014, by Alexandra Gowling
The richest one per cent of the Dutch population currently owns nearly a quarter of the country’s wealth, reflecting a sharp rise in wealth inequality over the last six years.
According to figures collated for the first time by CBS, since the start of the crisis in 2008 the proportion of the Netherlands’ wealth owned by the richest households has grown from just over one fifth to nearly one quarter in 2012.
CBS counts 74.000 households in the top one per cent, which have together 273 billion euros in assets. That is 23,4 per cent of the national total, accounting for an average of 3,7 million euros per household.
Total assets in the Netherlands, which include equity, property, banking and savings, but exclude pensions, amounted to 1.166 billion euros in 2012.
Rising inequality in the Netherlands
In 2008, the richest one per cent of the Dutch population had 21,5 per cent of the then 1.300 billion euro total. The reason inequality has risen since lies in the nature of the assets.
Wealth in the most affluent households is mainly in (international) equity and other capital, which continues to increase in value.
By contrast, the greatest share of the average household's assets lie in the houses, prices of which have steadily dropped in value over the past several years. Previous CBS figures earlier in 2014 showed that falling house prices had reduced average household wealth from 47 to 27 thousand euros.
Further, since investments had a much better year last year while house prices continued to fall, the gap between rich and poor may be greater now than these 2012 figures suggest.
There is also a large gap within the richest one per cent. In 2012, the richest 7.000 households had between them 102 billion euros, an average of 13,9 million each.
The richest 0,1 per cent were calculated to have held 8,7 per cent of the total wealth in the Netherlands.
Rising inequality in the world
Recent research in other nations has shown a similar pattern. In Spain, the effect of the crisis and very high unemployment has resulted in the top 20 per cent of Spanish society being seven and a half times richer than the bottom 25 per cent, according to a report by the charity Caritas.
In the UK, the situation is even more extreme: recent figures from the charity Oxfam showed that Britain’s five richest families now own more wealth than the poorest 20 per cent of the population.
An earlier Oxfam report showed that across the globe, the richest 85 individuals share a combined wealth of 80 trillion euros, as much as the poorest 3,5 billion people, half the world’s population.
In total, inequality of wealth in Europe and US is broadly twice the inequality of income, meaning the top 10 per cent have between 60 and 70 per cent of all wealth, but only 25 to 35 per cent of all income. This concentration of wealth has not been seen since before the First World War.