Safety, trust in institutions and political engagement in regions (SDG 16)

Confidence in national governments is very unequal across OECD regions, particularly in the Americas.

Safety in the place of residence is an essential determinant of individual well-being and confidence in institutions. Regional differences in personal safety, measured in terms of homicide rates, are persistent and stark within OECD countries. Although homicide rates declined by one-third in OECD countries since 2010, they remain very high in many regions of Latin and North American countries. Over the period 2000-19, annual homicide rates in OECD regions have declined from 3.8 to 2.7 homicides per 100 000 inhabitants on average. Despite this improvement, 40 regions in Colombia, Mexico and the United States still have homicide rates above 15 murders per 100 000 people (Figure 1.25).

Regional differences in confidence in national governments are highest in Latin American and Southern European countries. Such regional differences matter as trust in people and institutions, including the government, is associated with better economic and well-being outcomes (Algan and Cahuc, 2010; Macchia and Plagnol, 2019). During the period 2014-18, the levels of confidence in national governments between the regions with highest and lowest confidence levels differed by 15 percentage points on average in OECD and partner countries. However, in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, those regional gaps exceeded 35 percentage points. In those countries, there is at least 1 region where less than 10% of the population expresses confidence in the national government. While trust in the government in Europe tends to differ to a lower extent within countries compared to Latin America, Southern European countries still show relatively high regional differences. In France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, the gap between top and bottom regions in terms of trust in the government ranges from 13 to 20 percentage points, while in Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, it does not exceed 8 percentage points (Figure 1.26).

Low trust in institutions can trigger discontent and weak political participation in regions. Although over the last 20 years, voter turnout has slightly increased, on average, across OECD regions (by 2.7 percentage points), changes in voter turnout since 2000 differed by up to 20 percentage points across regions, leading to higher territorial disparities. Within OECD countries, the gap in voter turnout between the regions with the highest and lowest electoral participation averages 14 percentage points. Such regional differences are even more accentuated in countries such as Canada, Colombia, France, Greece and Mexico, where the difference between the top and bottom regions in terms of voter turnout is higher than 22 percentage points (Figure 1.27, panel A).

People in metropolitan regions participate more in elections than people living in regions far from metropolitan areas. Voter turnout is on average 3 percentage points higher in the former regions. This is even more pronounced in central European countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland where the differences in voter turnout between metropolitan regions and regions far from a metropolitan area range from 4 to 12 percentage points. Overall, regional disparities in political participation have widened across types of regions. In 12 out of 17 OECD countries, electoral participation has increased the most (or declined the least) in metropolitan regions compared to regions far from metropolitan areas (Figure 1.27, panel B).

Algan, Y. and P. Cahuc (2010), "Inherited trust and growth", American Economic Review, Vol. 100(5), pp. 2060-92,

Macchia, L. and A.C. Plagnol (2019), “Life satisfaction and confidence in national institutions: Evidence from South America”, Applied Research in Quality of Life, Vol. 14, pp. 721-736,

OECD (2020), OECD Regional Statistics (database), OECD, Paris,

See country metadata in Annex B.

Figure 1.25: 2017-19 average or: AUS, AUT, BEL, CAN, CZE, DNK, FIN, DEU, GRC, IRL, ISR, JPN, KOR, MEX, POL, PRT and ESP, 2016-18; LUX, CHE, GBR and USA, 2015-17; COL and EST, 2014-16; ISL, LVA and ROU, 2013-15; NZL, PER and SWE, 2012-14; TUR, 2011-13; and NLD, 2010.

Figure 1.27, panel A: COL, FIN, HUN, ITA, KOR, MEX and SWE, 2018; CHL, CZE, FRA, DEU, NLD, NZL and NOR, 2017; IRL, ISL, SVK and USA, 2016; EST, GRC, TUR and GBR, 2015; ROU and SVN, 2014; LUX, 2013; and PER, 2011.

Figure 1.27, panel B: First year: NOR, 2001; AUT, CZE, FRA, DEU, HUN, IRL, LVA, LTU, PRT and SVK, 2002; EST and CHE, 2003; ISL, 2004; and DNK, 2007. Last year: HUN and KOR, 2018; AUT, CZE, FRA, DEU and NOR, 2017; IRL and SVK, 2016; LTU and ESP, 2015; LVA, 2014; and ISL, 2012.

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