The good news is we're still worth £7trn (at least for now)

Iceland...Hungary...Ukraine... At a time when almost every day brings news of another sovereign state going bust, it is comforting to know the UK is at least solvent – and to the tune of £7 trillion. Even though recession seems inevitable, and government borrowing is soaring while house prices seem destined to fall forever, the UK is still worth a surprising amount.

The net wealth of British households, companies and official bodies, even taking into account the mountains of debt, has touched £7trn – that's £7,000bn, or £7 million million.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2007 the UK's net assets rose to a record £506bn, or about 8 per cent above their 2006 level. British households were thus valued at a total of £7.5trn, even taking account of their mortgages and other debts, which run to about £1.7trn. On this reckoning every UK household is worth £300,000, and each man, woman and child £125,000, on average.

Or they were. The falls in the stock markets and the slump in house prices will have wiped roughly £1trn off that total – the first fall in national wealth since 1992. Even so, the UK's wealth will still have doubled in size in a decade, a growth rate that reflects the rapid rise in house prices as well as mostly healthy economic growth over the period.

By far the biggest asset owned by the nation is the housing stock. This makes up about 60 per cent of the total, up from about 50 per cent of national net worth at the beginning of this decade. Stocks, shares, bank accounts and pension plans are in fact a much bigger gross asset, at almost £26trn, but are more than outweighed by the national burden of debt – public and private – to leave a net negative contribution of £381.6bn on the national balance sheet. Offices and factories and the national fleet of cars, lorries, aircraft and ships make up most of the rest of the national wealth.

In terms of who owns what, again the British householder takes pride of place. Modern Britons, with their notorious appetite for debt, are still worth more than they owe – with a net worth of £4.1trn, even after £1.5trn in mortgages and debts have been accounted for. Public corporations and local government are also in the black, but central government is not.

It is not quite clear what value has been assigned to 10 Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and other national treasures but, according to the ONS, central government still has liabilities exceeding its assets to the order of £202bn. Nor is any particular worth attached to pieces of national "human capital" such as the leadership of Gordon Brown, the judgement of George Osborne or the "talent" of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. Private companies and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the banks are also in the red.

With the fall in national wealth brought by a recession, we are likely soon to feel poorer, and to be poorer as well. But there is still a very large cushion before this country finds itself with liabilities exceeding its assets.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada