Iceland has topped a list of safest countries in the world. The list, curated by ‘Global Finance Magazine,’ considered war and peace, crime rates and natural disasters to work out a Safety Score Index to rate countries.
The list included 123 of the 193 countries recognised by the UN. European countries dominated the top 20 safest nations on the list. Of the larger nations included; the US ranked 65th, the UK was 38th after Romania, Australia was 18th, and New Zealand was 10th.
See also: Travel Safety in Iceland
The data used to assess each country came from the World Economic Forum and the Global Peace Index.
Despite the high earthquake rate (up to 500 per week) and many active volcanoes, Iceland landed in the number one spot. The main reason for this was Iceland’s incredibly low crime rate.
Iceland has no military, and violent crime is so uncommon here that police officers do not need to carry firearms. There have only been 36 murders since the year 2000. For a population under 400,000 there is quite a high number of guns in the country (almost 90,000 firearms), but practically zero gun violence. The last gun-related death was in 2007.
Automatic weapons and handguns are illegal. As a result, the majority of guns are used for hobby shooting or hunting.
It’s also tough to get a gun here. To qualify for a gun license, you must pass a strict psychological evaluation and a substantial criminal history check. Then you have to pass an assessment by a doctor which includes an eye test.
Once that is completed all you need to do is purchase and read two books; attend a three day course; score no lower than 75% in an exam on gun safety, management, and what animals are forbidden for hunting; then pass a practical exam to prove you know the processes for safe gun operation.
Then once you have obtained a gun license, you need to show you have a reliable gun safe to store it in. If you manage to get through all that, congratulations you are a gun owner. There’s no such thing as a free gun with any toaster purchase at the supermarket in Iceland.
It is believed that one of the reasons for Iceland’s incredibly low murder and violent crime rate is the lack of a class system. This enables most Icelanders to feel that they can have the same opportunities as their peers, making it less likely for people to feel disenfranchised.
A recent study of Icelanders’ attitudes towards a class system, by the University of Missouri, found that only 1.1% identified themselves as upper class.
Iceland has a social welfare system and universal education. There is also an egalitarian attitude toward society. The children of incredibly wealthy families go the same schools as everyone else.
Within Icelandic society, there are low rates of both extreme wealth and extreme poverty. This tends to lessen the likelihood of fear and aggression. There’s also an interconnectedness, unlike other developed nations. Citizens are able to connect with people in power with greater ease than those in countries like America or Great Britain.
Iceland isn’t completely void of crime, but most offenders are quickly apprehended. For example, in 2015 two men robbed a bank in Reykjavík. The assailants escaped to a nearby neighbourhood where one was caught; the second turned himself in, and the stolen money was recovered the following day.
The level of security and safety felt by locals in Iceland is very evident to tourists visiting the country. Images of baby carriages outside coffee houses have been shared online for years by tourists from all over the world, often with captions exclaiming concerns that the children are unattended and could be snatched away. If the parents of these children were asked for comment, they would probably respond with, “We’re on an island, any criminal isn’t going to get very far.”
This is the second time in recent months Iceland has made headlines for its level of safety. In November last year the travel magazine ‘Which?’ listed Iceland as the safest country in the world to visit.
With all of this in mind, the number one spot on a safety index isn’t a surprise to residents and visitors to Iceland. It’s probably one of the last places in the world where hitchhiking is still considered a safe form of transport, although if you want something reliable, it’s better to hop on a bus or rent a car.