2015 safest cities revealed

Singapore reflection of buildings Marina Bay Sands

How important is safety to your expat life?

Being an expat in the Middle East I am often asked ‘is it safe?’

I cannot deny that security concerns are ever-present in everyday life but according to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey, my home town Abu Dhabi is the safest city in the Middle East and 25th overall in cities surveyed – so should I now be resting easy?

This post is part of Expatriate Lifestyle advice series

Source: The Economist Safe Cities Index White Paper 2015

As always survey headlines need to be taken with a grain of salt; business and tourism boards from cities that rank well, of course, like to beat their drum about these achievements but there are definitely limitations to the current EIU results.

What exactly does the survey tell us? Safety in this survey has been taken based on 40 qualitative and quantitative indicators across four categories; health security, infrastructure safety, digital security and personal safety.

The EIU point out that being statistically safe does not tally to a perception of safety, with only two cities (Zurich and Mexico City) ranking the same on both scales, meaning city leaders still have more to translate safety into public perceptions.

Much progress has made over the past decade in improving the prevalence of ‘street crime’, but overall reported crimes are still on the rise in urban centres due to the rapid increase in the number of cyber-related offences.

The EIU also note that safety is closely linked to wealth and economic development; unsurprisingly developing countries ranked lower in the survey. Of the five Middle East cities included in the survey, four are considered high wealth but only Abu Dhabi ranks in the top half.

The overall ‘winner’ on the safety index is Tokyo, but city leaders recognize there is still a lot of work to be done in disaster prevention and the environment, particularly air quality (health security was their poorest performing category – this afflicts a number of the worlds ‘megacities’).

I should point out that the survey pool they have used for this index is severely limited – only data from 50 international cities have been compared which is hardly representative of the expat world.

The conclusion drawn by EIU seems to be that progress in the physical world needs to be matched in the virtual world.  Technology needs to be used more for everything from street lighting systems to allowing local agencies to share data. Having the available resources to deliver this is seen as vital.

Where does safety fit in your list of ‘needs’?

Safety may not be the first thing you think of when deciding where to work and live (I’m guessing job availability and pay are likely to be at the forefront of mind in most expats moving decisions). As a family, it is likely to receive a fairly high consideration when working out the pros and cons of a move.

The EIU provides a number of surveys which rank cities internationally, the latest #safecitiesindex is just one of several used to rank world cities. Out of interest taking combined results from different EIU indices, Toronto, Canada while not ranking highest in any one index gets the best overall combined index score (other indices include livability, cost of living, business environment, democracy and food security).

Employees should use this survey as just one of many negotiating tools with an employer. In cities that rank lowly for example, you could make a case for increased danger pay and assess the feasibility of being able to move your family with you.

Do I feel safe in the Middle East?

There has in recent months been an isolated act of terror against a westerner and non-specific threats made against teachers at western curriculum schools, but we do live in an age where extremists are deliberately trying to incite fear and cities such as Sydney and Paris have equally been subjected to these sorts of random acts which have unfortunately become far too commonplace.


Personally, I do feel safe in Abu Dhabi but there is more that could be done in improving the physical presence of security in our schools, and a lot more can be done to improve safety on our roads –driver behaviour can be a daily nightmare to deal with. 

The bigger issue that still exists is tackling matters of domestic abuse and the fair treatment of domestic employees, these matters too often seem to be swept under the carpet and go unreported; I feel that there is not equality for all in the justice system which contributes to a feeling of safety (and human rights). 

Like anywhere you would travel in the world, be vigilant all the time, especially with your children and you will be as safe here as any leading developed city.

  • For the full EIU survey and to see where your city ranks visit the safe cities homepage

Do you live in one of the top ranking ‘safe cities’? Would you agree with the EIU or is your overall safety still a daily concern?

© Our Globetrotters 

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12 thoughts on “2015 safest cities revealed

  1. lovetotrav says:

    An interesting read having lived in some of the safest and maybe not some of the safest. I live in the Toronto area (deemed safe) and have lived in Jo’burg (years ago, and I did not feel as safe at all) and am about to move to Egypt (again not deemed safe I am sure) but I am always cautious on the ground and analyze what is going on around me. And sometimes, sadly it is luck as well. Things can happen in the safest of areas and a person can do all the right things and still be unlucky. I look forward to reading more of your blog. Happy travels, Cheryl

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      The survey was very limited I think in terms of cities covered, they seemed to focus mostly on capital cities though I imagine Dubai would rank similarly to Abu Dhabi. (Some lovely pics on your site by the way!) ~ Keri

  2. Catherine Wallwork says:

    I think that once children are added to the mix, you do take safety more seriously. In Abu Dhabi we do feel safe, with the exception of the driving. When we lived in Colon, Panama, we didn’t feel safe. Shootings were rife and many parts of the small town we lived in were ‘off limits’. We lived-in a house on a compound with an armed guard and broken glass all along the top of our garden walls. For sure not how we wanted to live and it was a major factor in us leaving that expat posting and seeking something else. Being shot at when you visit a supermarket in the wrong part of town or being car jacked on your way to a restaurant in the evening was not a risk we wanted in our daily life.

  3. clara@expatpartnersurvival.com says:

    Interesting. I’m off on a security course this morning prior to moving to South Africa. Our employers take safety very seriously and we’re well looked after. But it’s impossible to know everything that’s going to happen. I’ve already been evacuated from one country due to terrorism. I’m hoping that’s not going to happen again but you’re right to say that these days you could be a target anywhere in the world. So whilst the emphasis this time might be on personal safety and security, I’ll never be complacent about all the security issues we need to know about, wherever we live in the world. ..

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      I would be interested to hear what they teach in these safety briefings – certainly not something all employers provide when they should. Thanks for the comments.

      • clara@expatpartnersurvival.com says:

        The one I went on was probably fine for the worker but they still struggle to focus on the needs of the accompanying partner. I don’t think the people giving the courses totally understand what it is like to be the one left to your own devices day in, day out. There was some useful info about residential security and security when travelling but more was needed on things like what to do if you break down or have a car accident, how to recognise if someone is following you, when are you most vulnerable etc.

      • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

        That’s a really interesting point, something you will be covering in your book I assume? Let Baby Globetrotter readers know when its ready to be released 😉

      • clara@expatpartnersurvival.com says:

        Thanks – yes I do write about security as I think it is very different for the worker and for the one not working. Will definitely let you know when it’s out – keep following me!

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