With political and social unrest on the rise and the threat of terrorism an ever-present concern across the globe, the safety of a nation is becoming an important factor when deciding where to emigrate – particularly for would-be-expats with families.
While there are no guarantees about how safe a country can be, there are considerations which can be taken into account when picking a destination.
If you’re thinking about moving abroad with your family, check out our list of some of the world’s safest emigration locations.
Over 800 miles from the UK is the island nation of Iceland. The country is regularly a high-scorer on rankings of the world’s safest countries, and for good reason.
In addition to having a relatively small population that prevents overcrowding, Iceland also scores top marks on the safety chart due to widespread equality among the nation’s citizens.
While there are still wealthy and less-wealthy citizens, ensuring that these groups mingle from early ages in the educational system goes a long way to eliminating the usual division of rich and poor.
Firearms are present and legal in the country, but gun laws are much stricter than in places like the US and most crimes are anticipated and resolved quickly before they get a chance to escalate.
With a geographically remote location, low levels of pollution and a cold climate, Iceland is not known for stirring up trouble – the last major national incident was the 2015 resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, due to implications made in the ‘Panama Papers’.
Visions of Humanity compiles an annual Global Peace Index (GPI) of most of the world’s nations, and Iceland has repeatedly claimed the top spot due to its proven track record of safety and security.
Healthcare is also of a high quality, and after six continuous month of residence, coverage is granted by Icelandic health insurance. Additionally, after six months of employment, paid maternity and paternity leave is allowed, while child benefits are paid where applicable at four points of the year.
Of the downsides to such a peaceful place, there are only a few – the cost of living in Iceland is estimated to be 40% higher than in the UK (according to rankings website Numbeo), and being located so far to the north, learning to cope with the cold is required of those looking to stay permanently.
Another northern entry on the list of safe spots to move is Denmark, found straight east from Northern England across the North Sea.
Denmark is another consistent high scorer on global peace rankings (2nd place on the GPI), but holds particular pride of place at the very top of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2015, where at 91 points it came in as the least corrupt nation out of the 168 studied.
As well as offering free university education to EU/EEA citizens (the UK is currently still in the EU and may (re)join the EEA after leaving), the Danish authorities also have a heavy focus on handling most of the costs and complications of childcare for working parents. On the GPI rankings, Denmark comes in at a comfortable second place in 2016.
Denmark itself is spread across the Jutland Peninsula and two islands crossing the mouth of the Baltic Sea, which are all wedged between Germany to the south and Sweden to the east.
On the negative side, as with Iceland, the cost of living in Denmark is higher on average than the UK, though at around 17%, the difference is a lot smaller. While Denmark operates on the same seasonal system as the UK, winters are often a lot more intense compared to the occasionally sunny affairs seen in the British Isles.
The last of the Scandinavian entries on the list is a quick splash across the North Sea from Denmark – the nation of Norway.
Norway shares many of the same traits that keep peaceful countries high on the global rankings – a top notch education system, low unemployment and a firmly equal opportunities governance structure, extending to almost complete gender equality.
On the 2016 GPI, Norway comes in at 17 out of 163 nations for peacefulness, with low scores across most of the board contributing to this high ranking. The country also grabbed 5th place on the 2015 CPI.
Provided that you have enough money to sustain yourself and your family, upping sticks from the UK and moving to Norway is a fairly simple process, with the permanent right of residence being granted after five years living in the country.
In a recurrent trend with Iceland and Denmark, living in Norway is more expensive than in the UK, coming in at an almost 50% increase in prices when the two nations are compared.
For this extra cost, however, you get free access to the bulk of university education, and the healthcare system is made affordable via relatively small but widespread capped payments from citizens each year.
Bordering the Norwegian Sea along much of its coastline, Norway extends in a north-western strip across the top of Sweden, Finland and a small section of Russia. Despite being located so far up in the northern hemisphere, Norway isn’t as cold and wet as might be expected.
As the Norwegian Meteorologisk Institutt points out, during winter, a considerable expanse of the coastline actually remains above freezing even in the nation’s coldest months.
Moving south into Europe proper we reach Austria. Landlocked and bordered by wealthy neighbours like Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany, Austria has been another high scorer on the GPI, having grabbed 3rd place in the 2016 record.
While Austria made headlines at the height of the migrant crisis as a passageway for refugees into Germany, the nation still remains a peaceful place, with the usual mix of high quality, often low-cost educational facilities and widespread equality keeping the country high in terms of social development.
National development is a more surprising picture, however, as a sizable part of the population still subscribe to more conservative, traditional attitudes and reside in rural areas.
On the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) 2016 Global Liveability Ranking, Austria’s capital city of Vienna came in at 2nd place, with a whopping 97.4 points out of 100.
In addition to being enriched by centuries of culture and enlightenment thinking, Vienna also features a number of international schools, which can provide English language education alongside Austrian German instruction to ensure a stable transition into Austrian society.
Unlike the Scandinavian entries on the list, the cost of living in Austria isn’t much higher on average than in the UK, coming in at a roughly 2% above the levels you’d be used to.
Squeezing past Liechtenstein in the west of Austria, another long-time safe haven is reached, Switzerland.
The nation is not a newcomer to being considered politically and economically secure, having prospered throughout history as a result of its famous neutrality and defensive, rather than offensive, attitude towards the rest of the world.
Ironically, much of the historic state of peace in and around Switzerland can be traced back to firearms, which are prevalent to the point of being commonplace. Because Switzerland maintains an active state of ‘armed neutrality’, able bodies male Swiss citizens are required to undergo mandatory military training, though civilian options are also available.
By teaching about the regulations and dangers of improper firearm usage, Swiss authorities have largely been able to avoid the problems plaguing more gun crime-prone nations, as well as maintain a reserve defence force that can spring into action at a moment’s notice.
As well as being quite capable of defending itself, Switzerland also has an incredibly high quality of life and educational system, with the ETH Zurich University being one of the most renowned in the world.
On the global rankings, Switzerland came in at 7th place for both the Transparency International 2015 index and 2016’s GPI.
This economic and social prosperity comes with a high price tag, however, as compared to living in the UK, the cost of living in Switzerland is around an eye-watering 78% higher on average. While getting into the country can be difficult even for EU members, prosperity is high and the experience of encountering the various ‘cantons’ (administrative regions) of the country offers a good opportunity to find the one that fits.
Switzerland has four official languages, which are French, German, Italian and Romansh; English is often used to bridge the gaps between these various languages. Given this fact, finding places at one of the country’s many international schools for your children is recommended, unless bringing up a polyglot is desired.
For those looking to emigrate with their family to North America, Canada offers a sound choice, coming in as it does at 8th place on the GPI and 9th place on the CPI.
In addition to being a highly developed, forward-looking nation, Canada ticks all the boxes when it comes to having the magic formula for peace and stability. The standard of education is high, and while there are a number of variations on teaching methods based on which region you are in, a broad level of national similarity is present which means having your children educated in one part of the country shouldn’t isolate them from another.
Crime in Canada is a particularly notable statistic as it is lower than might be expected for such a large country, thanks to the widespread implementation of crime-preventing practices, such as steering those that may be at risk of becoming criminals into healthier, more productive pursuits.
Bucking the trend of safe countries costing an arm and a leg to live in, the average cost of living in Canada is actually around 2% lower than the UK, though given the sheer size of the country and the large stretches of rural wilderness, this may not be indicative of the real cost of city living.
Three of Canada’s cities made the top ten for the EIU liveability rankings; Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver, coming in at 5th, 4th and 3rd respectively.
Canada has two official languages – English and French.
Heading across the world to another English-speaking nation, the distant New Zealand is a solid choice when emigrating for the safety and security of you and your family.
On the EIU liveability ranking, the large urban area of Auckland was ranked 8th in 2016, while for the other figures, New Zealand sits in a comfortable 4th place on the 2016 GPI, 4th place on the 2015 CPI and is approximately 14% more expensive to live in than the UK.
The country ranks highly for education, healthcare, quality of life, natural beauty and the variety of housing options available, as well as having a stable climate that is rarely too hot or too cold.
Despite its size, the country has well developed transport links, and the work pace is comparatively more laid back than in the UK.
Welfare and support systems are well-established in the island nation, and unlike their biologically diverse neighbours Australia, predators and dangerous wildlife are scarcely an issue.
New Zealand maintains a popular image as being covered by lush, green hills, but also features a spinal mountain range running down the long South Island and an iconic volcano in the west of the North Island. The nation has a heavy focus on agriculture and renewable energies, but also plays host to a thriving tourism industry thanks to its worldwide appeal.
Moving a bit further down the rankings and a lot further north, another peaceful island nation is reached, Japan.
Japan clocks in at 9th on the 2016 GPI, 18th on the 2015 CPI and is around 30% more expensive to live in than the UK.
On Numbeo’s crime index, Japan scores highly, thanks to deeply ingrained attitudes of shame towards criminal activity and an extremely vigilant criminal justice system. Firearms are rare except in the hands of the authorities, and the ubiquitous presence of mini police stations, known as Kobans, encourage the returning of lost property and the reporting of suspicious activity.
When it comes to education, Japan is famous for drilling in instruction over the academic career, though given the relative complexity of the Japanese language, an international school that instructs in English and Japanese would be the best bet for your children.
One of the downsides to such a high ranking nation on the world indexes is that the country is prone to sometimes devastating earthquakes, such as 2011’s Tohoku Earthquake and initially at least, settling into such a unique and distinct culture could prove difficult due to the almost-perpetual treatment of foreigners as ‘others’.
Closing off this list of the safest places in the world is the final island nation, Singapore. The nation is contained to a relatively small island (a bit larger than the Isle of Mann) located at the southern tip of the Malaysian Peninsula, with the Indonesian archipelago across the sea to the south.
In years gone by, Singapore has been a British colony and part of Malaysia, but now claims full independence, along with chart-topping performances in healthcare, education and technological development.
The small country boasts countless parks and activities for families with children to engage in, as well as having relatively low rates for nannies for when both parents are in employment.
Due to its position slightly above the equator, Singapore is hot most of the year, with rainstorms also being commonplace.
On the rankings, Singapore is 8th on the CPI, 20th on the GPI and ranks extremely highly when it comes to having a low crime index and high safety index. This crime score comes from an extremely harsh attitude to crimes, relative to UK sentencing. On average, the cost of living is around 21% higher than in the UK.
Singapore has a diverse melting pot of a history, with major influences being present from the UK, China, Malaysia and India. In-keeping with this mixture of cultures, while English-speakers are prevalent, the dialect is known as ‘Singlish’ and borrows bits from Malaysian, Indian and Chinese languages, just as the English language has pinched certain words over the centuries. After this, Mandarin Chinese is the second most popular spoken language.
So there’s our round up of nine of the safest emigration locations. If you’re thinking of moving abroad with your family in the near future, any one of these destinations could provide a sense of security and peace of mind.
If any of these countries take your fancy, it’s always recommended that you go on a fact-finding visit beforehand to get a first-hand feel of whether the nation in question will suit you and your loved ones.
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