Business, Economics and Jobs

Asia is set to dethrone North America as the world's richest region by 2014


Li Fu, 29, climbs into his Ferrari on a street in Beijing. Li is one side of China's yawning wealth gap between rich and poor, a by-product of the country's stunning economic transformation, and a ticking time bomb at the heart of the ruling Communist Party's plan to revamp the economy.


Peter Parks

Asia is wealthy and it's only getting wealthier, a new report has found, with the number of millionaires on the continent rising by 9.4 percent in 2012 to 3.68 million, a total topped only by North America's well-off. 

The report, issued by Cap Gemini SA and the Royal Bank of Canada, found that the combined wealth of Asia's richest rose by 12.2 percent to $12 trillion in 2012.

The region's 3.68 million wealthy residents — defined as those with over $1 million in investable assets — trailed slightly behind North America's 3.73 million in the same category, according to Agence France-Presse. 

The report said that Asia-Pacific based millionaires were expanding their assets at a swift 4.9 percent annually in the five years leading to 2012, reports Bloomberg. That's three times faster than expansion in North America. 

"The region's high net worth population and wealth has increased by 31 percent and 27 percent respectively since 2007, far outpacing growth in the rest of the world of 14 percent and 9 percent," George Lewis, group head of RBC Wealth Management, said in a statement, according to AFP. 

More from GlobalPost: Asia's millionaires outnumber America's 

While Hong Kong and India experienced the biggest wealth percentage gains, said CNBC, Japan remains the Asian country with the most high-net-worth individuals, with 1.9 million controlling a total of $4.4 trillion in 2012. 

The future looks equally rosy for Asia's wealthiest. Asia's total net worth is expected to rise to $15.9 trillion in 2015 to outpace North America, thanks to fast-paced economic and population growth in the region. 

However, rising incomes at the highest levels in Asia may not translate into prosperity for the average noodle-maker or office stiff, stressed Eric Lascelles, RBC asset management's chief economist, to the AP. 

"Equally we need to acknowledge that globalization over the past few decades has increased inequality to some extent," said Lascelles. "We have seen rates of poverty decline quite nicely over that period as well but that's not to say that wealth or incomes have risen as quickly in the lower end as it has in the higher end."