While income equality is relatively stable in the Netherlands, the gap between rich and poor is growing fast, according to the Volkskrant.
Figures from national statistics agency CBS show that at the beginning of 2012 the richest 1% in the Netherlands owned 24% of private wealth. This was made up of shares, savings accounts, property and other possessions.
By early 2013, the assets accumulated by the 75,000 richest households had risen to 26.6% of private wealth.
The figures do not take pensions into account, the Volkskrant says. The CBS does not include these figures because people cannot yet access their pensions and it is not ‘free’ wealth.
If the hundreds of millions of euros in pension schemes are included, then the gap is smaller, although it is still much larger than the difference in income.
Leaving pensions out of the calculation, the CBS says the top 1% owned an average assets of €2.5m. For the average household the figure in 2013 was €19,000. The difference comes from rising debt and falling house prices.
Before the financial crisis in 2008, the top 1% owned one-fifth of the national wealth. In 2013, this had grown to one-quarter. According to Utrecht professor Bas van Bavel, the figures are ‘rather shocking’.
Van Bavel researched inequality last year for a government report and found that while the share of wealth amongst the richest has risen, there are 1.1 million households with more debt than assets, a third more than in 2008.
‘The latest CBS figures confirm my report,’ Van Bavel told the Volkskrant. ‘Debt problems for the poorest are increasing. The middle class has very little in assets left and cannot absorb any shocks. The sub-top – from €100,000 to €500,000 – are seeing their wealth shrink. Only the richest keeping their wealth intact.’
The CBS figures are in line with those of Oxfam, published on Monday ahead of the Davos economic summit in Switzerland. The charity’s research shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the richest 1% increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.
Oxfam adds that on current trends the richest 1% will own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.