9. Safety

In nearly two-thirds of OECD countries, the homicide rate is below 1 per 100 000 population (Figure 9.2). However, the rate is more than three times higher than this in the United States and more than 20 times higher in Mexico and Colombia. Since 2010, the homicide rate has fallen by at least 33% in more than one-third of OECD countries, and the OECD average has fallen by around one-third. Nevertheless, rates have risen by more than 15% in the United States and Turkey, as well as (from a relatively low base) in Iceland and Slovenia.

More than 85% of people in Finland, Switzerland, Iceland, Slovenia and Norway feel safe when walking alone at night where they live, but fewer than 50% do in Chile, Colombia and Mexico (Figure 9.3). The share of people in OECD countries who feel safe has increased by 4 percentage points, on average, since 2010, up from 67% to 71%. The largest improvements occurred in Lithuania (up by 20 percentage points) the Czech Republic and Portugal (15 points), Estonia (13) and the Slovak Republic (11). Nevertheless, feelings of safety have fallen in Mexico (-7 percentage points), Germany (-6), Chile (-5) and Sweden (-3).

Road deaths are lowest in Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom at fewer than 3 per 100 000 population (Figure 9.4). By contrast, deaths are between 3 and 4 times higher in Korea, Chile and the United States. The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011-2020 as a “Decade of Action for Road Safety” (WHO, 2010[1]), in an effort to focus countries’ efforts towards meeting the road accident target of the 2030 Agenda (Target 3.6, to halve global road deaths by 2020) (OECD, 2019[2]). Among the 31 OECD countries with available data, road deaths have fallen by over 20%, on average, since 2010. Five countries (Norway, Greece, Switzerland, Portugal and Denmark) have reduced road deaths by over one-third. Despite these improvements, progress to date is still far from sufficient to meet Target 3.6.

In all but four OECD countries, men are much more likely to be victims of homicide than women: the OECD average homicide rate for men is 4 deaths per 100 000 population, compared to 0.9 women (Figure 9.5). Nevertheless, in Iceland, Slovenia, Switzerland and Austria, women are either equally or more likely than men to be homicide victims.

Men feel safer than women when walking alone at night in all OECD countries. The gap is particularly high in Australia and New Zealand, where around 80% of men report feeling safe, while only around 50% of women do. Despite this, existing evidence suggests that the gender gap in feelings of safety narrowed slightly between 2006-12 and 2013-18 in several OECD countries (Figure 9.6), and notably in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and the Slovak Republic. In two cases, this was because overall feelings of safety improved among both genders, but especially so for women (Spain, Slovak Republic), while in others it was due to a combination of strong improvements for women coupled with slight declines for men (France, United Kingdom, Italy).

People aged 30-49 generally report higher feelings of safety than both young adults and those aged 50 and over (Figure 9.7). Exceptions include Japan, Korea and Turkey, where older people (aged 50 and over) feel safer than all other age groups; and Latvia, Iceland, Costa Rica and the Russian Federation, where people aged 15-29 report slightly higher feelings of safety than the 30-49 age group.

Feelings of safety also vary by education level: on average in OECD countries, 64% people with only a primary education, 69% of those with a secondary education, and 73% of those with a tertiary degree said they felt safe walking alone at night during the years 2010 to 2018.


[5] ITF/OECD (2019), IRTAD Road Safety Annual Report 2019, ITF/OECD, Paris, http://itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/docs/irtad-road-safety-annual-report-2019.pdf (accessed on 16 January 2020).

[3] OECD (2019), How’s Life in the Digital Age?: Opportunities and Risks of the Digital Transformation for People’s Well-being, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264311800-en.

[2] OECD (2019), Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets 2019: An Assessment of Where OECD Countries Stand, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/a8caf3fa-en.

[4] OECD (2017), How’s Life? 2017, https://doi.org/10.1787/23089679.

[6] UN DESA (2019), Global SDG Indicator Database, http://unstats-undesa.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets (accessed on 28 October 2019).

[1] WHO (2010), Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road, http://who.int/roadsafety/decade_of_action/plan/global_plan_decade.pdf (accessed on 23 December 2019).

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