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World’s greatest worries and risks revealed in first ever global survey

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The Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll, the first ever global study of worry and risk across the world, was published today (6th October) including the World Worry Index, data on safety and risk for 142 countries, and including new research on subjects such as risks faced by women, experience of serious injury and violence and harassment in the workplace, climate change, and online safety.

2019 World Risk Poll

Find out more about the Poll

An overview of the Poll

  • Gallup poll data on safety and risk released for 142 countries.
  • Topics covered include risks faced by women across the world, experience of serious injury and violence and harassment in the workplace, climate change, and what we worry about most online.
  • Two new indexes have been created by the poll:
    • The World Worry Index shows the countries who worry the most and which everyday risk they worry about.
    • The Experience of Harm Index lists countries by level of experienced everyday risk.

The World Risk Poll was conducted by Gallup as part of its World Poll, and is based on interviews with over 150,000 people, including those living in places where little or no official data exists, yet where reported risks are often high.

Set to repeat three times over the next eight years, the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll will enable businesses, regulators, governments and academics to work with communities to develop policies and actions that save lives.

Professor Richard Clegg Chief Executive, Lloyd’s Register Foundation

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll represents the views of 98 per cent of the world’s population on safety and risk, including many people whose voices have never been heard before. Knowing what people think will help us to identify gaps between peoples’ thoughts about risk and their experiences of threats to their safety. We can use this data to work with communities and empower people to take action most likely to reduce harm - that saves lives and helps them feel safe.

Richard Clegg

The World Risk Poll has a reach and range never seen before. The results show both the vast differences as well as the similarities in how people across the globe perceive and experience risks. It is also the last snapshot of the world’s vulnerabilities and worries before the COVID-19 pandemic. This makes the World Risk Poll uniquely useful for those concerned with empowering people to take actions that makes them be and feel safer.

Professor Paul Slovic University of Oregon

Key findings from the Poll: Safety at work

The planet’s most dangerous places to work are the fields and fishing boats of some of the poorest countries in the world.

"We go into the field to work, anything can happen at any time, we can get injured, grievously with our equipment. We can get attacked by wild animals or catch an infection because of insects or we experience snake bites."

Ankit, New Delhi, India interviewed by Gallup for the World Risk Poll

Nineteen per cent of workers – 600 million people worldwide – say they have been seriously injured while working. Significant numbers, and as many as 50 per cent in some countries, have experience violence and harassment in the workplace

Thirty-four per cent of farmers, agricultural labourers and fishers in low-income countries were recorded by the World Risk Poll as having been seriously injured at work, and 32 percent in lower middle-income countries. In some countries the figures are significantly higher than the average. For example 69 per cent workers in Sierra Leone say they have been injured at work – more than 57 per cent of the country’s GDP comes from agriculture.

The next most dangerous jobs in the world are in construction and manufacturing. In low-income countries 37% of workers in these areas of work reported being seriously injured at work with some regions reporting even higher numbers.

The poll also reveals the proportion of workers in each country who have experienced significant workplace risks including fire, using mechanical and heavy machines and exposure to chemicals and biological hazards.

Violence and harassment in the workplace

In addition to the workplace risks listed above, violence and harassment is recorded as being a notable concern for working people across the globe. Seventeen per cent of working people worry about violence and harassment and 12 per cent actually experience this.  Malawi has the greatest level of worry about violence and harassment with 75 per cent of working people worrying about it and 45 per cent of workers experiencing violence and harassment. Violence and harassment are the top reported concerns at work in many high-income countries, higher than a range of physical issues.

The World Risk Poll shows that experience of violence and harassment in the workplace is linked with experience of mental health issues.

Women and risk

While similar numbers of women and men experience violence and harassment in the workplace globally, there is a significant gender gap in some high-income countries. In Finland 27 per cent of all workers are worried about violence and harassment, but 42 per cent of Finnish working women report that violence and harassment is a risk compared to 14 per cent of men.  Twenty-nine per cent of Finnish women and 14 per cent of Finnish men have experienced this threat. The biggest gender gap in experience of violence and harassment in the workplace is seen in Australia where nearly twice as many women than men have experienced the issue (39 per cent versus 24 per cent).

Fourteen per cent of working women globally report being seriously injured in the workplace and this figure goes up significantly in regions where most women are working in agriculture. In South Asia, for example, 27 per cent of women report being seriously injured at work.

Climate change

Despite these figures, many people across the world remain sceptical about climate change with 13 per cent of people seeing climate change as ‘not a threat at all’ in their countries. High levels of scepticism exist across the world including in some of the world’s biggest producers of climate changing emissions, China, US and India. As most climate change experts across the world are agreed that climate change is a significant threat to safety across the world, more needs to be done for people to understand how climate change might affect them, and empower them to take action.

People most likely to see climate change as a serious threat are those who have experienced harm from severe weather and those dissatisfied with the quality of air and water where they live.

People in Southern Europe and Latin America are most likely to see climate change as a serious threat with over 73 and 71 per cent respectively expressing this view.

Safety of food and water

"Sometimes the water levels are too low. We don’t get clean water and if we drink that water there are high chances of falling sick from bacteria, getting stomach infections. Children fall sick frequently and become weak."

Priyanka, New Delhi, India, interviewed by Gallup for the World Risk Poll

People across the world experience serious harm from the food they eat and the water they drink and, as a result, in most regions of the world worry about food and water is high. Sometimes worry levels are significantly different from people’s experience of harm. In Southern Africa for example, 26 per cent of people have experienced serious harm from food and water but 43 per cent worry about this happening.  By contrast, in North Africa, 25 per cent of people have experienced harm from food and water but only 16 per cent worry about this issue.

The World Health Organisation estimates that three million people around the world die every year from food and waterborne disease, with millions more becoming sick. However, data on issues relating to harm from food and water is sparse and often poorest in the regions where the problems are most significant. The World Risk Poll is a vital new source of information in this area, adding a new layer of understanding to previous research.

Communication of potentially life-saving information about managing food and water related risk often comes from governments and policy makers. However, the World Risk Poll illustrates that only 15 per cent of people looking for information about food and water safety trust their government the most for this type of information. People who have first-hand experience of being harmed by food and water are the least likely to trust their government for information. The populations of developed countries are more likely to trust their governments the most but even here levels of trust are low such as Norway at 54 per cent and Sweden at 56 per cent.

Genetically modified (GM) foods continue to be viewed with suspicion across the world with 48 per cent of the world’s population regarding GM foods as more likely to harm them than help. Much higher proportions of people in developed economies are sceptical, such as Greece where 84 per cent of the population think GM food are more likely to harm them.

Cyber risk

Fifty-seven per cent of internet users view misleading information as the greatest concern and 45 per cent of users worry about online fraud. Thirty per cent have concerns about online bullying, a particular worry for younger users with 34 per cent of 15 - 29-year olds worrying about this aspect of internet use.

Concerns about ‘fake news’ are particularly prevalent in regions of high economic inequality and where ethnic, religious or political polarisation exists, weakening social cohesion and trust. The countries most concerned about misleading information were Malawi where 87 per cent of internet users were concerned, Rwanda at 87 per cent and Bolivia at 84 per cent.

Online fraud costs the world $600 billion per year, 0.8 per cent of global GDP, mostly via scams eliciting personal financial information such as credit card details. Forty-five per cent of internet users globally are worried about this with concerns rising in line with age and education levels.

Western Europeans are most concerned about online fraud with the most worried being in Portugal (78 per cent), Malta (77 per cent), France (74 per cent) and Spain (71 per cent).

The Worry Index and the Experience of Harm Index

The World Risk Poll includes indexes which rank countries by how much they worry about everyday risks – including severe weather, violent crime, unsafe food and water, electrical powerlines, mental health issues and electrical appliances – and their experience of harm from those risks. The World Worry Index ranks countries by how much they worry and shows what they worry about. The Experience of Harm Index reports where people have experienced harm from these risks. Together, these indexes paint a picture of nations that are over-worrying and those where perception and experience of risk are more balanced.

Across the world, the top three countries where people worry most are all in Africa – Mozambique, Guinea, and Malawi - with all three countries worrying most about severe weather. The countries who worry least are Sweden, Singapore and Uzbekistan. Their top worry is different in each country; in Sweden people are most worried about violent crime, in Singapore it is safety of food and in Uzbekistan, severe weather.

The Experience of Harm Index highlights the countries where citizens have the highest levels of experience of everyday risk. Liberia tops this index due to experience of harm from severe weather, followed by Zambia and Mozambique both of which experience high levels of harm from the water they drink. The safest countries are Uzbekistan and Singapore where the greatest source of harm is food, and Turkmenistan where the greatest harm they experience is from household appliances.

Looking at the results globally, 34 per cent of people were very worried about experiencing serious harm from severe weather, and 32 per cent about violent crime. Twenty-one per cent were concerned about harm from the food they eat, and 18 per cent about harm from water they drink. Twenty per cent were worried about being harmed by powerlines.

Trust in Government

The World Risk Poll asked people to assess their governments against these three issues as a measure of how well people feel their government keeps their critical infrastructure safe. Understanding what drives those perceptions can help authorities understand people’s concerns, and where the delivery of those services could be improved.

The populations that trust their governments the most for provision of critical basic infrastructure are Singapore at number one in the world, and Switzerland at number one in Europe and number 7 in the world. The Netherlands and Sweden rank at 2 and 3 respectively for trust in government in Europe, and at 9 and 10 in the world.

The countries least trusting of their governments on infrastructure are Yemen at 140, Afghanistan (139) and Lebanon (138).

Overall, high income countries tend to have a higher level of trust in their governments on infrastructure than low economy countries. The country a person lives in accounts for only 14 per cent of the variation in how a person rates the safety performance of their government. Whilst the country’s economic, social, cultural and political climate all play a significant role, individual characteristics such as education levels, gender and feelings about household income contribute to perceptions of how likely their government is to keep them safe.

Governments across the world have a responsibility to keep their people safe. They should use the World Risk Poll to work with communities to kick start initiatives in the many areas of the world where there is an urgent need for change.

Professor Richard Clegg, Chief Executive, Lloyds Register Foundation