Everyone wants to live somewhere safe, although ‘safety’ can cover a whole range of variables. Some may prioritise civil freedoms, such as freedom of speech, whilst others consider low crime rates an accurate reflection of a country’s safety.
Western states, such as the US, UK and France, hold themselves up as examples of safety on the global stage. Both the UK and France invest heavily in welfare systems, to protect their citizens from hardship or personal health concerns, whilst America has historically provided a safe haven for those whose freedoms have been compromised abroad (earning the title ‘the free world'). However, it may surprise you that none of these countries appear in the top 10; in fact, America sits at number 88 on the global rankings.
A government’s decision to decriminalise certain activities necessarily drops recorded crime rates; however The Netherlands (which has famously decriminalised many controversial activities including prostitution and marijuana consumption) also misses out on a place on this list. This may demonstrate that crime rates are based on the quality of enforcement, not the volume of crimes which are being enforced.
So what do these countries do to produce such low levels of crime? For many on this list safety is an economic necessity, either as centres of trade or due to the importance of tourism. A cultural respect for the police (usually as a result of low levels of corruption) also helps to maintain law and order.
The eclectic mix of cultures on this list demonstrates that there is no one perfect formula for a safe society. What works in one region may have disastrous consequences if implemented elsewhere. It is not the decisions of a single government, but rather the combined history of many policies which produces order and safety within a society.
Thanks to information from the FBI and World Bank, compiled by statisticbrain.com, we've been able to narrow down the world's 10 countries with the highest safety rate variables, and the lowest rates of crime. Read on to find out what makes for a truly safe society.
10 Singapore, 80.02 Safety Rate Variable
As well as being a central trading hub (situated in the middle of one of the world’s fastest-growing trading routes) Singapore is one of the safest places to be. Perhaps due to its interesting political mix of free-market liberalism and a socialist outlook, the country combines the economic success of capitalism with the collective responsibility of communism (members of the 'People’s Action Party' still call each-other ‘comrade’). Because of this mix, the country’s citizens are well-served personally by their country’s successful trading model, and a strong welfare state supports those who cannot support themselves. The country has an extremely low tolerance for crime and corruption - in the 90s Singapore had one of the world's highest per capita execution rates - which reduces large-scale crime, and its citizens are predominantly well looked after, reducing petty crime. However, the country now faces problems of social inequality and high levels of immigration, so its safety may be under threat as prices rise and work becomes harder to find for the poorer of its society.
9 Bahrain, 80.21 Safety Rate Variable
In recent years Bahrain has offered a safe haven for those who wish to escape the persecution of a strict Sharia environment in Saudi Arabia. Bahrain offers freedoms unavailable in neighbouring countries (including open bars, relaxed attitudes toward dress and widely available pork). For travellers to the region, the targeting of westerners is uncommon and violent crime is rare as firearms are prohibited. However, in the past few months reports have emerged of a shift in the region’s attitudes; Amnesty International has reported that children are being targeted for participating in demonstrations against the government (following uprisings in 2011). If the government continues to crack down on protesters and discord persists this country is likely to become significantly less safe for both travellers and citizens.
8 Georgia, 80.43 Safety Rate Variable
Although the crime index in Georgia remains low at 19.6, levels have been rising over the last 3 years and citizens have become increasingly worried about the potential for theft and attacks. In the country’s capital, Tbilisi, you can usually expect to remain very safe walking alone during both the day and night (89% during the day and 79% at night, in comparison with New York where safety at night is a mere 54%). Indeed the country is significantly safer to live in than the American state of Georgia , defying American perceptions of the ‘dangerous Middle East’.
7 Luxembourg, 81.25 Safety Rate Variable
This tiny European country has incredibly effective law enforcement, and consequently very low crime rates (with a crime rate variable of only 18.8). Violent crime is very low, however pickpockets are known to operate on public transport routes, abusing tourists’ perceptions of safety whilst travelling. Practices such as prostitution have been legalised in the country, however brothels and prostitution rings remain illegal and the police maintain surveillance to prevent human-trafficking. However, during Schueberfouer (a three-week event in the summer) there is an annual rise in crime, as thieves take advantage of the crowded fairs.
6 Malta, 81.46 Safety Rate Variable
In spite of being one of the world’s most densely populated countries, this popular holiday spot is the safest place to go in Europe. Violent and organised crime rates are low and crimes against tourists are rare. Safety recommendations for travellers extend predominantly to common sense advice, including vigilance when carrying valuables. Malta’s ‘crime capital’ (St Julian’s) does suffer from a high level of thefts; however thieves are rarely armed, therefore personal safety remains high. Malta has very strict gun-control laws and crimes involving firearms remain incredibly rare.
5 United Arab Emirates, 81.99 Safety Rate Variable
Although the UAE may border countries which lack the same levels of safety and political security, the region itself is considered by many a modern safe-haven within the Middle-East. Although other countries on this list have remained safe by legalising controversial practices and maintaining a relaxed attitude towards the lifestyle choices of its citizens, the UAE has a number of local laws and penalties which may appear harsh by western standards. Antisocial behaviour and public displays of affection (particularly between non-married couples) are often dealt with harshly and many travellers have been convicted for offenses committed unwittingly (including a British couple who were arrested for drinking alcohol and kissing on a beach whilst on holiday).
4 South Korea, 82.6 Safety Rate Variable
It may be a surprise to many to hear the words ‘Korea’ and ‘safe’ in the same breath, however North Korea’s neighbour is incredibly safe for both citizens and travellers (acting as a safe haven for North Koreans who succeed in escaping their country's totalitarian regime). Although relations remain tense between North and South Korea along the border, this has little effect on the safety of South Korean citizens. Gun ownership is illegal except in certain circumstances and less than 0.01% of the population privately owns a gun. High school children are safe to walk home alone late at night, and frequently do. It is nature, not crime, which actually poses the most pressing threat to Koreans (the volcano Mount Baekdusan has been due to erupt for over 10 years and annual typhoons can cause severe damage).
3 Hong Kong, 83.43 Safety Rate Variable
Constant police patrols ensure this city state is one of the safest places to be in the world. Indeed, it is pollution rates rather than crime which pose a threat to public safety (following the industrial transformation of the mainland) and respiratory problems in the region have been on the rise for a number of years. Hong Kong’s police force offer accessible ‘tips for personal safety’ online, ensuring that those they protect are well informed on the best ways to act should they become the victim of a crime.
2 Taiwan, 83.74 Safety Rate Variable
Taiwan currently has an impressively low crime rate variable (16.3) and although fraud is endemic throughout Taiwan, this poses little or no threat to the personal safety of citizens and travellers. Recently, there have been fears that political unrest in Taipei (Taiwan’s capital) may endanger global perceptions of the country, which until now has been world-renowned for its safety. Tourism is a major contributor to Taiwan’s economy, so presenting and delivering a safe environment for travellers has been of paramount concern for the government.
1 Japan, 86.89 Safety Rate Variable
Japan boasts a crime rate variable of only 13.1 and walking the streets during the day or night poses little or no threat to personal safety. Law enforcement in Japan follows a European-style structure and police officials hold great authority and respect within communities. Police are called on as respected third-party advisors to settle family quarrels and minor disputes and public attitudes towards them are favourable across the country. Japan is currently battling the media to prove that the nuclear radiation from the Fukushima power plant no longer poses a threat to personal safety, with hundreds of pounds of fish caught off Onjuku being tested amid concerns that they may be contaminated by radiation.