At least half the world’s population lives in countries where there are more private security workers than public police officers, according to a new Guardian analysis.
More than 40 countries – including the US, China, Canada, Australia and the UK – have more workers hired to protect specific people, places and things than police officers with a mandate to protect the public at large, according to the data. In Britain, 232,000 private guards were employed in 2015, compared with 151,000 police.
The global market for private security services, which include private guarding, surveillance and armed transport, is now worth an estimated $180bn (£140bn), and is projected to grow to $240bn by 2020. This far outweighs the total international aid budget to end global poverty ($140bn a year) – and the GDPs of more than 100 countries, including Hungary and Morocco.
Around the world, private security guards patrol shopping malls, elite gated communities and some public streets. They often wear uniforms that resemble police clothing and in some countries, including Spain and Italy, private guards carry handguns as well.
From El Salvador to Vietnam, private guards restrict access to walled elite residential enclaves that are cut off from the cities around them. In Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon, guards and metal detectors block entrances to luxury hotels that tower over the extreme poverty surrounding them.