Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and includes the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime. Crime may lead to loss of life and property, as well as physical pain, post-traumatic stress and anxiety. One of the biggest impacts of crime on people’s well-being appears to be through the feeling of vulnerability that it causes.

Feeling safe walking alone at night

According to recent data, about 74% of people in OECD countries say they feel safe walking alone at night. There are major differences, however, between countries. While 85% or more of people in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, and Switzerland say they feel safe, the level in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico is just below 50%, and below 40% in South Africa.

Homicide rate

Homicide rates (the number of murders per 100 000 inhabitants) only represent the most extreme form of contact crime and thus do not provide information about more typical safety conditions. They are however a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police. According to the latest OECD data, the average homicide rate in the OECD is 2.6 murders per 100 000 inhabitants.

In most OECD countries, homicide rates for men are usually higher than those affecting women, with rates of 4.4 per 100 000 for men and 0.9 per 100 000 for women on average for the most recent data. However, while men are more likely to be homicide victims, women are the primary victims of domestic and intimate partner violence. EU data based on police-recorded offences indicate that 86% of the victims of sexual violence are women. Across the OECD as a whole, 82% of men and 66% of women feel safe when walking alone at night in the area where they live.

Social status also has an impact on victimisation rates and perceptions of security. People with higher income and higher education usually report higher feelings of security and face lower risks of crime. This can be explained by the fact they can afford better security and are less exposed to criminal activities such as youth gangs or drug smuggling.

Note: data for the indicator "Feeling safe walking alone at night" is provided by the Gallup World Poll.

Safety in Detail by Country