Some nations experience earthquakes and hurricanes frequently, others have high crime or protracted wars—which countries are safest? Global Finance has answers.

Author: Marc Getzoff
Project Coordinator: B Pham
Hallstatt, Austria

The new year is already here and so is the 2019 Global Finance ranking of safest countries in the world. The new rankings feature update sources, an updated formula, and lots of interesting dynamics that affect where countries are ranked.

So which countries are safe, and which are not?

To explain briefly, the safety score for countries equally weighs each of the three factors: war and peace, personal security, and natural disaster risk. The safety score aggregates the indices from these three risks, thus presenting a comprehensive view of safety for each country. This also means that a high level of risk in one factor will have limited effect on the country’s overall ranking. For example, the Philippines is ranked least safe while Yemen is ranked second least safe. This can be attributed to the fact that the Philippines has poor scores in peace, security, and prevalence of natural disasters. Yemen's terrible score is due to war and famine but the country has a very low risk of natural disaster. Thus, the Philippines ranks lower than Yemen even though Yemen is a warzone.

Since our safest countries index is data-driven, Global Finance did not include countries like Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan that were missing from the reports our rankings are based on. Including countries that have incomplete or unavailable data would have led to miscalculations and entailed guesswork, which we aimed to avoid.

The countries at the top offer little surprise; they are mostly European countries with developed economies and healthcare systems. In fact, 16 of the top 20 safest countries are located in Europe while only Qatar, Singapore, New Zealand, and Canada rank in the top 20 without being in Europe. Economic development seems to low risk from military conflict or domestic crime. In essence, these two factors are more controllable than the risk from natural disaster, which is often a function of geography.

However, several important exceptions exist for countries that are economically developed. The U.S. ranks almost exactly in the middle at 65th, well behind its economically developed peers. This is because the risk from violent crime in the U.S. is higher due to the higher rate of homicide, thus lowering the personal safety and security score. The U.S. also has a slightly higher risk from natural disaster simply due to its geographic landscape and size. The U.S. is not alone among economically developed countries with middling scores—Japan ranks 43rd, largely due to its high risk from natural disaster.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the countries that typically rank the lowest usually have a combination of dire threats from all three threats to safety. These countries are often economically developing and are located in areas with a high risk of natural disaster. Countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Bangladesh suffer from earthquakes frequently. Poor economic development in these countries is also associated with less personal safety and security.

Two countries that may be surprises are Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine (116th) has been in the midst of a low-intensity civil conflict since 2014 and joins Russia (108th) as the only two European countries to rank below the U.S. Russia has suffered from high crime as well as threats to peace amidst an economic decline that shows no signs of reversing or halting any time soon. Ukraine also suffered economically and the violence in Eastern Ukraine has not yet abated.


Safest Countries in the World

Global Finance magazine's safety index factors in risks of natural disaster with crime, terrorism and war to present a more rounded analysis of the world's safest countries. 

Rank

Country

Global Finance Safety Index Score

1 Iceland 6.16
2 Switzerland 7.01
3 Finland 7.04
4 Portugal 7.07
5 Austria 7.08
6 Norway 7.27
7 Qatar 7.28
8 Singapore 7.34
9 Denmark 7.41
10 New Zealand 7.42
11 Canada 7.42
12 Slovenia 7.44
13 Sweden 7.50
14 Czech Republic 7.68
15 Spain 7.81
16 Ireland 7.82
17 Estonia 7.89
18 Australia 7.95
19 Belgium 7.98
20 Germany 8.09
21 United Arab Emirates 8.21
22 Croatia 8.27
23 Oman 8.34
24 Latvia 8.45
25 Lithuania 8.49
26 Slovakia 8.53
27 Poland 8.54
28 Hungary 8.61
29 Mongolia 8.74
30 Bhutan 8.79
31 Netherland 8.82
32 Cyprus 8.88
33 Romania 8.88
34 South Korea 8.93
35 Uruguay 8.93
36 France 9.01
37 Kuwait 9.10
38 United Kingdom 9.21
39 Malaysia 9.22
40 Italy 9.23
41 Botswana 9.25
42 Bulgaria 9.27
43 Japan 9.49
44 Kazakhstan 9.50
45 Morocco 9.53
46 Moldova 9.58
47 Laos 9.61
48 Jordan 9.67
49 Georgia 9.68
50 Argentina 9.80
51 Rwanda 9.98
52 Zambia 9.98
53 Nambia 10.00
54 Saudi Arabia 10.02
55 Bahrain 10.02
56 Bosnia and Herzegovina 10.04
57 Greece 10.13
58 Serbia 10.14
59 Macedonia 10.24
60 Paraguay 10.25
61 Chile 10.25
62 Armenia 10.25
63 Ghana 10.27
64 Panama 10.27
65 United States 10.30
66 Malawi 10.33
67 Bolivia 10.39
68 Tajikistan 10.48
69 Albania 10.48
70 Sri Lanka 10.53
71 Azerbaijan 10.56
72 Gabon 10.57
73 Mauritius 10.72
74 Tunisia 10.77
75 Ecuador 10.81
76 Nepal 10.82
77 Iran 10.84
78 Lesotho 10.88
79 Tanzania 11.02
80 Senegal 11.08
81 China 11.11
82 Algreia 11.14
83 Vietnam 11.15
84 Brazil 11.15
85 Peru 11.22
86 Sierra Leone 11.26
87 Indonesia 11.27
88 Madagascar 11.32
89 Kyrgyzstan 11.43
90 Benin 11.60
91 Uganda 11.62
92 Israel 11.64
93 Zimbabwe 11.84
94 Cote d'Ivoire 11.85
95 Mozambique 11.91
96 Ethiopia 12.01
97 Costa Rica 12.02
98 Nicaragua 12.06
99 Trinidad and Tobago 12.19
100 Thailand 12.27
101 South Africa 12.33
102 Dominican Republic 12.48
103 Egypt 12.63
104 Mauritania 12.76
105 Mexico 12.82
106 India 12.85
107 Turkey 12.94
108 Russia 12.94
109  Cambodia 12.96
110 Jamaica 13.02
111 Kenya 13.13
112 Lebanon 13.43
113 Burundi 13.46
114 Honduras 13.55
115 Cameroon 13.56
116 Ukraine 13.91
117 Congo 13.96
118 Venezuela 13.98
119 Mali 14.15
120 Chad 14.31
121 Bangladesh 14.66
122 Colombia 14.79
123 Pakistan 14.80
124 Nigeria 14.88
125 El Salvador 15.43
126 Guatemala 15.81
127 Yemen 15.93
128 Philippines 17.70

Sources: World Economic Forum, The Global Institute For Peace.