Several of the world's weathiest countries also lay claim to a title they would not be so proud of - the biggest gaps between rich and poor.

A United Nations global study was recently conducted on the topic of 'income inequality' worldwide.

Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States, all touted during the last century as economic success stories (barring the recent financial meltdown on Wall St!), top the list of those countries whose gaps are the widest.

Hong Kong, noted for garish shows of ostentatious wealth, also features poverty-stricken housing estates where almost half the population live.

There is also no 'minimum wage' policy in Hong Kong.

Countries with a wide distribution of income tend to have more widespread income poverty. Also, social mobility is lower in countries with high inequality, such as Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.

New Zealand comes in at number 6 on the list. Australia is three places below us, at number 9.

Scandinavian countries, Japan, and the Czech Republic were found to have the least amount of inequality.

Top 10 countries with the biggest gaps between rich and poor

No. 1 Hong Kong
No. 2 Singapore
No. 3 US
No. 4 Israel
No. 5 Portugal
No. 6 New Zealand

The report's commentary on New Zealand said: "According to the OECD, New Zealand had the biggest rise in inequality among member nations in the two decades starting in the mid-1980s.

"The country's economy emerged from recession in the second quarter, but with growth of just 0.1 per cent, the central bank is likely to keep interest rates low until well into 2010."

No. 7= Italy
No. 7= Britain
No. 9 Australia
No. 10= Ireland
No. 10= Greece

- NZHERALD STAFF