The countries most and least likely to be affected by a natural disaster

16 September 2016

Natural disasters cause considerable harm to people, infrastructure and economies. Different countries around the world are affected differently by similar natural disasters, based on a range of social dimensions, from coping capabilities to adaption efforts. In a new report, the United Nations University Institute for Environment and partners develop a WorldRiskIndex to map out the countries most at risk of a number of natural disasters, as well as consider their preparedness for the effects of climate change.

Natural disasters can have a dire effect on local populations and economies. From earthquakes to floods, death tolls can rise quickly, and, in the case of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, secondary effects can be costly. The threat of natural disasters remains ever present, the ability for local populations to weather the storm, is dependent on a host of regional and social factors, from the strength of infrastructure to the resources to cope with a disaster. Changing climate conditions, as a result of changes to climate around the world, is also project to cause considerable chaos in a number of regions around the world, requiring countries to implement adaptions to meet future natural disaster trends.

The latest edition of the ‘World Risk Report’, from the United Nations University Institute for Environment, Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft and Human Security (UNU-EHS), in cooperation with the University of Stuttgart, ranks 171 countries around the world in its WorldRiskIndex, from the most vulnerable to the effects of a natural disaster to the least.

Natural disaster events and cost

Global natural disasters

Natural disasters are often relatively unpredictable events that cause widespread destruction, from the recent floods in China, which took more than 800 lives and caused more than $33 billion in damages, to the earthquake in Italy, which took more than 250 lives and destroyed several picturesque villages. Large scale natural disasters, such as the Boxing Day earthquake (Sumatra–Andaman earthquake) and subsequent tsunami killed between 250,000 and 280,000 people, while the 9.0 magnitude Tohoku earthquake off the Pacific resulted in an estimated $300 billion in direct damages to Japan.

According to the report, the number of reported natural disasters increased markedly between the 1980s and mid-2000s, up from fewer than 400 events to more than 1000. Total costs too saw considerable increases since the 1980s, with the period between 2010 and 2012 seeing around $650 billion in damages. The most recent period has seen almost 900 natural disaster events, generating around $300 billion in economic damages.

As part of the research, the authors identify in how far countries are currently at risk from the effects of a natural disaster. The countries are then ranked in the WorldRiskIndex, which is made up for five dimensions and a total of 28 sub-indices. The dimensions include Exposure, in how far a population is likely to be affected by one of the five natural disaster categories; Susceptibility to events, in so far as people come to harm; Coping, the ability of a populace to cope with natural disasters as well as the effects of climate change; and Adaption, in so far as a population is able to adapt themselves to future natural disaster events, including the mitigation of events as a result of changes to the local climate. Each dimension is weighted differently, with the overall score determining the severity and intensity of natural disasters, were they to strike.

Top 20 worst performers

Top 20 best performers

Qatar is the world’s top ranking country on the index, being the country least likely to be affected by a natural disaster (heatwaves are not considered within the report), and with relatively strong performances in all four dimensions regarding resilience to a natural disaster. Malta takes the number two spot, although the country has a relative weak coping capacity compared to Qatar. Saudi Arabia, which is also unlikely to be affected by a natural disaster, has a relatively strong performance in susceptibility. Barbados takes the number four spot – the country has its weakest performance in adaptive capacities.

European countries, such as Iceland (#6), Sweden (#9), Norway (#10) and Finland (#11) are strong performances in all categories, while the susceptibility for the latter three is considerably higher than the top performers on the list. Egypt performs relatively well, predominantly due to its low exposure. The UK comes in at #40, with a relatively high exposure level offset by strengths in all social dimensions.

Top 20 most resilient

Top 20 worst performers

The highest scoring countries include Vanuatu, Tonga, the Philippines Guatemala and Bangladesh. These countries are all highly exposed, with all countries faring relatively poorly in the social dimensions that offset the effects of a natural disaster in the region. The countries all lack a means of coping, with few countries able to adapt to the dangers posed by natural disasters today, or in the future. The people in the countries remain vulnerable. While most of the bottom 20 are developing countries, often with sub-par infrastructure, Japan finds itself among the bottom rung. The country, while performing well in the social dimensions to deal with natural disasters today, and in the future, is affected by a high exposure level – resulting in a high ranking on the list.

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Project management industry adds £156 billion of value to UK economy

15 April 2019

Project management has grown into one of UK’s largest areas of business over the past decade, amid the increasing ‘projectification’ of work. With the gross value added to the UK economy by project management estimated to be £156 billion, this trend is likely to continue in the coming era.

Despite the huge success of project management in recent years, until now there has been relatively little data available on the size of project activity. As a result, there has been a great deal of debate on things like the number of people involved in the sector, the number of projects, and how it contributes to economic output. Due to this need for clarity, APM, the UK’s professional body for project management (the largest organisation of its kind in Europe, with 28,000 individual members) commissioned economists from PwC to shed light on the industry's economic impact.

The research concluded that the profession makes a more significant contribution to the UK economy than the financial services sector. 2.13 million full-time equivalent workers (FTEs) were employed in the UK project management sector, generating £156.5 billion of annual gross value added (GVA). In comparison, the financial services sector contributes £115 billion, and the construction industry adds £113 billion.

Gross value added to UK economy

Commenting on the discovery, Debbie Dore, Chief Executive of APM said, “Project management runs as a ‘golden thread’ through businesses, helping to develop new services, driving strategic change and sector-wide reform.”

Who is a ‘project manager’?

To reach these estimates, PwC’s researchers used detailed models to map out the value of project management activity. They ultimately defined relevant ‘projects’ as “temporary, non-routine endeavours or rolling programmes of change designed to produce a distinct product, service or end result… [with] a defined beginning and end, a specific scope, a ring-fenced budget, [and] an identified and potentially dedicated team with a project manager in charge.”

Building on this, they then went on to define what the act of project management actually is. The job consists of applying “processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience” so that clients can meet their objectives and bring about planned outputs or outcomes. The analysts added that this includes “initiating the project, planning, executing, controlling, quality assuring and closing the work of an identified and dedicated team according to a specified budget and timeframe.”

Importantly, it should be noted that the profession is not exclusive to only roles explicitly labelled as ‘project manager’, but to any role where specialist project management skills are used. This means that across sectors these roles can have very different titles, from the self-explanatory contract managers of procurement, or the campaign managers of advertising, to the likes of festival co-ordinators in the events sector, and many more. The roles in question also span all strategic levels of the profession, from strategic to tactical and operational positions.

Gross value added of project management profession

From a sector perspective, the financial and professional services, construction and healthcare industries make up almost two-thirds of the total project management GVA. At the same time, understandably, the UK Government has a huge project portfolio, which further drives the size of the GVA the sector contributes, thanks to megaprojects like HS2 and Crossrail.

Commenting on this to the report’s authors, Oliver Dowden, Minister for Implementation remarked, “Project delivery is at the heart of all Government activity, whether it’s building roads and rail, strengthening our armed forces, modernising IT or transforming the way government provides public services to citizens. Getting these projects right is essential if we are to ensure that we build a country that works for everyone.”

Throughout 2019, 26 major government projects were delivered, representing a fifth of the overall Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) of 133 projects. According to the IPA annual report 2017-18, these represented a whole life cost of £423 billion. In addition to this were a plethora of smaller scale projects, and those in early development.

Elsewhere, with the increasing digitalisation of the economy impacting entities of all shapes and sizes, IT and digital transformations tended to dominate the projects of the UK scene alongside new product development projects, with a respective 55% and 46% of organisations in the research sample having undertaken these types of project in the past year. At the same time, this varied across sectors, and unsurprisingly, in the construction and local government sectors, fixed capital projects were the main project type undertaken.


Looking to the future, 40% of business leaders expect project management will grow in the coming years due to the increased use of projects – or the ‘projectification’ of the UK. In a trend that has been witnessed elsewhere, organisations have to rapidly and continuously change in the digital age of business, driving the need for project management.

Outlook for project management services

An increased focus on value over cost – especially in the construction sector – and a forecast increase in the number of international projects are predicted to be key drivers of growth, according to the expert contributors. However, this will not happen in the absence of challenges; more than half of organisations expressed concern over the perceived impact of political uncertainty in the UK. Skills and capability shortages were also cited as a potential barrier by a third of organisations.

With regard to budgets, meanwhile, a third of those surveyed by PwC said they expect the size of project budgets will increase in the coming three years, while 40% anticipate a growth in project size. As the profession continues to mature, and as the recognition of the importance of good project management grows, it is expected that a greater proportion of project work will gain more distinct attribution to the profession itself, giving more recognition and appreciation to the role of the project manager.

Speaking on the findings of the study, Sandie Grimshaw, a Partner at PwC, concluded, “The project management profession is relatively new compared to some other professions, such as lawyers, teachers and doctors. However, as project management is a core competence vital to organisations in the UK, the profession is critical and will continue to grow in stature.”