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Business trends

More than half of self-made female billionaires are Chinese

Education and urbanization help women to excel

 Chinese women make 57% of the total number of self-made female billionaires. Five of those Chinese billionaires made their fortunes in construction and real estate.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Chinese women make 57% of the total number of self-made female billionaires, a recent survey found, and the number is set to rise thanks to education, urbanization and technological advancements. 

Hurun, a Shanghai-based research company, named 89 female billionaires this year, of whom 51 are Chinese, in a survey it released ahead of International Women's Day on Friday. Hurun did not issue a separate report on the number of male self-made billionaires. 

Wu Yajun, 55, cofounder and chairperson of Hong Kong-listed Longfor Group Holdings, was the richest with assets worth $9.8 billion. Since the development of its first residential project in Chongqing in 1997, Longfor has more than 200 projects under its belt with a total area of nearly 80 million square meters. 

Among Chinese self-made billionaires, Chen Lihua, cofounder and chairwoman of commercial property developer Fu Wah International Group, was named second wealthiest. She was followed by Zhang Yin, founder and director of Nine Dragons Paper Holdings, a paper manufacturing company.

Seven of the 51 work in the pharmaceutical industry and five in real estate. On the list of 89, there were 18 Americans and six British women. 

Chen Lihua, cofounder and chair of commercial property developer Fu Wah International Group, was named second wealthiest on Hurun's list of female self-made billionaires.   © AP

Hurun did not speculate on the reasons for the dominance of Chinese on the list but other analysts said that education, urbanization and productivity growth has helped to provide an environment for all to thrive.

Josef Stadler, group managing director and head of ultra high net worth at UBS Global Wealth Management, said such conditions provided "unprecedented opportunities for individuals not only to build businesses but also to change people's lives for the better."

Since the opening up of China in the 1990s, colleges began to expand the enrolment of women and offered courses such as international trade and marketing to meet economic needs. Analysts said that more Chinese women were also embarking on careers in sciences, technology, engineering and math.

Four other Asian female billionaires made the list in 2019. India's Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chair and managing director of biotech company Biocon, is ranked 11th and South Korea's Yoo Jung-hyun, auditor and wife of the founder of gaming company Nexon, is 28th. 

Vietnam's Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, president and CEO of Vietjet, is ranked 41st while Singapore's retail and hospitality tycoon Christian Ong comes in at 55th.

Hurun named 2,470 billionaires globally, including those who had inherited their wealth. Of this total, just 15.5% were female. 

A UBS and PwC Billionaire report released Thursday also showed a similar trend. There were 62 female billionaires in the Asia-Pacific region in 2018, up from just 2 in 2005.

UBS said that entrepreneurs made the majority of their female Asian clients. These clients are becoming more focused on sustainable investments. UBS noted that by 2021, female investors could be set to invest $2.3 trillion to improve global social welfare. 

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