At least half the world’s population lives in countries where there are more private security workers than public police officers
In Britain, 232,000 private guards were employed in 2015, compared with 151,000 police.In 2017 the global market for private security services, which include private guarding, surveillance and armed transport, worth an estimated $180bn, and was projected to grow to $240bn by the end 2020. 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 US, Spain and Italy, private guards carry handguns as well.
In all, estimates suggest there are more than 20 million private security workers worldwide – more than the total number of people living in Chile or the Netherlands. Such “everyday” private security has become “so widespread that you almost don’t see it; you take it for granted”, said Rita Abrahamsen, a professor at Ottawa University. “You stop noticing it – there are guards everywhere.”
Source: Freedonia 2017; OECD 2017; World Bank 2017
At Denver University, Prof Deborah Avant said the private security industry had surged with contracts during the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when “an army of private workers flooded in to do all sorts of things”.
Afterwards, she said, companies “began to look elsewhere … at private security domestically but also for people living abroad, and for the private sector; for companies”.
Growing economic inequality was also part of the story, she said. “You have a ton more [money] than everyone around you, so you want to protect it. Getting [security] from the private sector is an obvious way to do it.”
According to Department of Labor statistics, there are more than 1.1 million private security guards in the US today.
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