Mass protests rise 36% globally in decade following 2008 financial crisis

The number of large protests and demonstrations globally has risen 36% since the financial crisis in 2008-2009, from an average of 355 per year in the decade to 2009 to 482 per year in the decade following the global financial crisis, according to a study by reinsurance group Chaucer.

Increases in large protests have been notable across Europe, as well as the Middle East and Africa. The number of large protests in Europe increased 71%, averaging 92 annually from 2000-2009 and 157 from 2010-2019. Average annual figures for the Middle East and North Africa region increased by 229 % (22 to 72 per year), while those for sub-Saharan Africa increased by 48%.

The effect of the global financial crisis on public finances led to austerity measures in many economies ranging from spending cuts and reductions in subsidies to tax increases. Political opposition manifested in popular movements and street protests from the indignados in Spain and gilets jaunes in France to the Occupy movement in the US and elsewhere. More recently the Black Lives Matter movement has led to large number of protests in the US and more widely across the globe. Chaucer’s analysis of US protest data has found that the number of large protests jumped 156% last year from 2,553 to 6,545, driven by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Germany, which in the last decade has experienced sizeable protests on issues including EU austerity measures and anti-immigrant feeling, saw the largest increase in protests of major European economies. Numbers jumped from an average of 4.7 per year (2000-2009) to 16.3 (2010-2019), an increase of 247%. Over the same period France saw the 2nd largest increase and the second highest number of large demonstrations (from 7.1 annually to 14.8, an increase of 108%).

Andrew Bauckham, head of political violence and crisis management at Chaucer said: “These figures clearly show an increase in political unrest in the post-financial crisis world. When times are tough, anger invariably mounts against governments and elites, which spills over into protest and civil unrest. Increasing incidents of civil protest has led some international insurers to exclude damage caused by protests and unrest from mainstream insurance. This process of removing cover was accelerated by the increase in global protests after the global financial crisis.”

According to Chaucer, the rise in the number of protests has generated increased interest in strikes, riots and civil commotion insurance (SRCC) insurance, a special category of cover which protects businesses against losses incurred due to protests and other civil unrest. Bauckham added: “This has created the need for a specific class of insurance that banks, retailers, leisure operators, real estate funds and other businesses can buy to make sure they are covered for what can be very major losses.”

As a consequence of finding themselves without cover for damage caused by protestors, businesses and homeowners are increasingly turning to specialist SRCC insurance to supplement their standard policies. Failure to do so could potentially be costly. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the Black Lives Matter protests between 26 May and 8 June 2020 are estimated to have cost US insurers between US$1-2bn.

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