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How much is everything in the U.K. worth

Posted on 29 August, 2015 at 18:10

Have you ever wondered how much everything in the UK is worth?

Well, the figure is out this morning from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - it's called the national balance sheet - and it's £7.6tn.

That figure is what you get if you add up the wealth of all the households and all the companies, and the government and not-for-profit organisations in the country at the end of last year.

And it's gone up - at the end of 2012 it was £7.3tn.

This isn't like gross domestic product (GDP), which is a measure of how much gets produced each year in the country. The national balance sheet is what you would get if you sold everything at its current market value.

It turns out that almost all of the wealth in the country is owned by households and not-for-profits. The figure for them is £8.5tn, but the overall figure is dragged down by things like non-financial corporations, which are worth -£1.2tn and government, which is worth -£0.2tn.

How do they end up with negative values? In the case of government it's because the debts they owe, mainly in the form of bonds, outweigh the assets they own such as buildings.

The non-financial corporations have large liabilities, mostly in the form of shares and other securities owned by households and other organisations, which outweighs assets such as machinery.

Homes account for 61% of the country's net wealth - their value rose by 4.7% over the year to £4.7tn.

But the biggest boost to the net wealth came from financial companies, the value of which went up almost five times over the year.

If you're struggling with the size of these figures (£1tn is a one with 12 zeros after it) you're not the only one - I think these are the biggest values I've reported.

They're not even close to the record for the BBC News website though, which currently goes to the remarkable story from 2012 about the woman in France who received a phone bill for 12 quadrillion euros (£10 quadrillion), which is a 12 with 15 zeros after it.

I dispute the wisdom in that story of using the abbreviation "qn" for quadrillion though, because at the rate I have seen figures growing, we will soon report our first quintillion (that's 18 zeros) and what abbreviation will we use then?

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