What are the safest cities in the world?
February 28, 2018
From traffic to violent crime, it’s advisable to investigate your destination ahead of your move. In an era of record urban growth and growing concerns about the reach of international terrorism, one of the most important standards on which to judge quality of life is safety.
The Economist publishes an annual report titled “The Safe Cities Index”, which draws upon a range of data to list the world’s safest metropolises. The granular level of detail provided (from violent criminality to traffic fatalities) make it an invaluable resource for those looking to relocate.
In the most recent (2017) report, Tokyo holds the top spot for the second year running. Three of the remaining nine cities are also East Asian (Singapore, Osaka and Hong Kong). The other six include three European cities (Amsterdam, Stockholm and Zurich), two Australian (Melbourne and Sydney) and one Canadian (Toronto).
The report doesn’t rank cities solely on personal safety (safety from violence), it also evaluates other threats to wellbeing, such as the prevalence of traffic accidents and health issues arising from pollution. While these indicators are certainly important, they can be confusing since we are used to thinking a city's level of safety purely in terms of violent criminality.
For example, when you take personal safety as a separate category, the rankings shift. Singapore takes the top spot, with Osaka and Tokyo in third and fourth respectively. Other East Asian cities that make the top 10 are Taipei and Hong Kong. While the remainder are a mix across Europe, Canada and Australia.
Even within this index however, there are questions. The Economist uses the “level of police engagement” as a ranking factor in assessing personal safety. This depresses the rankings of cities such as Singapore, with its infamously strict law enforcement, despite its arguably deterrent effect upon criminality. It is worth bearing in mind for some people looking at relocating, more zealous police are an acceptable price to pay for a safe and stable living environment.
Another useful report is the Global Peace Index (GPI), published every year. This particular index looks at the domestic and international conflicts a country may be engaged in. Generally speaking, Iceland, New Zealand, Austria and Denmark always perform well. However, it’s important to be aware of the inherent biases of this methodology too.
For example, because the GPI uses “relations with neighboring countries” as a ranking factor, this negatively impacts the ranking of many East Asian countries; but do people moving overseas necessarily care about regional spats if they have no direct impact on them personally?
Another important way of assessing a city’s safety and quality of life is word of mouth. While your friends, family and wider network can never replicate the same sort of sample sizes seen in the reports and indexes above, they can give valuable insight.
For example, expatriates and visitors may be disproportionately more likely to be victims of certain sorts of crime; the prevalence of pickpockets in subway systems is one such example. Another is the dangers of receiving counterfeit currency from certain businesses or parts of a city.
On-the-ground information of this sort is priceless for avoiding security and safety pitfalls that aren’t widely reported. At Crown Relocations, our move managers are experts in their destinations and can help you settle in quickly. Click here if you’d like to get in contact.