France is no longer France, Donald Trump said provocatively after the nation came under repeated terrorist attack. Now a new report casts the country as riskier for disrupting businesses than many developing nations with a history of violence and upheaval.
London-based risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft has put together a Civil Unrest Index that ranks almost 200 countries in terms of their exposure to protests, mass demonstrations, ethnic or religious violence. France ranks 16th, just behind Argentina and barely in front of Afghanistan and Mali, a former colony. It is the only European country in the top 20 and considered "high risk." Greece, which almost got the boot from the euro, came in 25th. Germany and the U.K. are still considered "low risk."
"It is notable that civil unrest does not just occur in the ‘usual suspects’ of high risk political violence countries," such as Syria, Yemen and Libya, the report specifies. Several of them — India, Mexico, South Africa, France, Brazil — have weathered significant protests on a weekly basis in the past 12 months and "companies operating in key G-20 countries must deal with an increasingly complex set of risks in relation to political violence,'' it said.
To be sure, places like Afghanistan and Somalia are far more dangerous environments for businesses to enter. But in France, the value of the infrastructure coming under attack is so much higher. That means there is more at stake with more frequent and more violent civil disorder. Last year, Air France workers ripped the shirts off the backs of executives after the airline slashed jobs.
So what's the science behind this index? The results are compiled from a survey that assigned scores and importance to a range of different factors. How frequent is unrest? What's been the impact in the past, from damage to property to actual deaths? What instruments are used to tackle discontent? What are the underlying economic conditions, from cost of living to inflation? Are government subsidies on fuel and food being cut? These factors are considered drivers to civil disruption.
The report draws a key distinction between France and Germany: "While France has an active civil society and trade unions, these actors tend to encourage demonstrations, as protest and industrial action are key facets of the country’s political culture. In contrast, Germany’s more consensual political culture supports close cooperation between trade unions, industry and government."
In light of Brexit, the report says U.K. should be more vigilant.
"The implications of the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU increase the potential for unrest in the country," the report says. "The possibility of price rises for imported goods, combined with a slowdown in economic activity is likely to serve as a key source of popular discontent."