Catching up with the 1%: The Time it Takes to Earn a Billionaire’s Fortune

We are all aware of the divide between the filthy rich and the rest of the world but just how out of reach are the vast fortunes of the fortunate?

Expert Market has calculated the amount of years an average worker needs to toil in order to reach the same level of wealth as the country’s richest person. Taking the Forbes Billionaires List and comparing it to the average salary in each country and a standard working week of 40 hours, we found a huge gulf between the average worker and those in the 1%.

Countries ranked by the quickest time taken to earn a fortune

Rank Country Name Net Worth Hourly wage of
average worker
Number of years to earn
billionaire’s fortune
1 Canada David Thomson £16.3 B £17.21 572,989
2 Germany Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr. £17.7 B £17.53 612,147
3 Italy Maria Franca Fissolo £15.1 B £11.62 787,821
4 France Liliane Bettencourt £24.7 B £14.59 884,585
5 Hong Kong Li Ka-shing £18.5 B £8.36 1,226,976
6 United States Bill Gates £51.4 B £17.27 1,552,082
7 Spain Amancio Ortega £45.9 B £32.63 2,202,141
8 China Wang Jianlin £19.6 B £3.10 3,309,047
9 Mexico Carlos Slim Helu £34.2 B £4.59 3,894,630
10 Brazil Jorge Paulo Lemann £19 B £1.95 5,101,808

Quick Countdown in Canada

Canada has the shortest time to fortune ratio. The average hourly wage of £17.21 means that canadian workers only need to work a mere 572,989 years in order to earn media mogul David Thomson’s £16.3 billion fortune.

Brazil’s Long Wait

While America is required to work 1,552,082 years to achieve Bill Gates’s mega £51.4 billion fortune, this is not the longest wait on our list. Brazil’s average hourly wage of £1.95 means that workers would have to toil for 5,101,808 years in order to earn Jorge Paulo Lemann’s considerably smaller fortune of £19 billion.

It’s how much, not how long

The most startling element of this list is that the largest fortunes are not the furthest from reach. The idea that the £51.4 billion fortune of Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, is closer to the average American than Spanish, Chinese, Mexican and Brazilian workers are to their country’s wealthiest person, is mind blowing and offers a strong indication of where the gulf between the rich and poor is widest.