How Many People Live in a Political Democracy Today?
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How Many People Live in a Political Democracy Today?

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How Many People Live in a Political Democracy Today?

Governments come in all shapes and sizes, but can ultimately be divided into two broad categories: democracies and autocracies.

Using the Regimes of the World classification system developed by political scientists Anna Lührmann, Marcus Tannenberg, and Staffan Lindberg and data from V-Dem, it’s estimated that 2.3 billion people—about 29% of the global population—lived in a democracy in 2021.

By contrast, 71% of people lived under what can be considered an autocratic regime. In fact, the number of people considered to be living under a type of autocracy is at its highest total in the last three decades.

To see how this split has changed over time, the chart from Our World in Data, which uses data from the aforementioned sources, highlights how many people have lived under political democracies versus autocracies since the 18th century.

Forms of Political Democracies and Autocracies

First, let’s look at the four types of political regimes shown in the chart, based on criteria from the classifications of Lührmann et al. (2018):

  • Liberal democracies: Judicial and legislative branches have oversight of the chief executive, rule of law, and individual liberties.
  • Electoral democracies: Hold multiparty de-facto elections that are free and fair, have an elected executive, and institutional democratic freedoms such as voting rights, clean elections, and freedom of expression.
  • Electoral autocracies: Hold de-facto elections; democratic standards are lacking and irregular.
  • Closed autocracies: No elections are held for the chief executive or no meaningful competition is present.

It’s important to note that this is a fairly stringent and specific classification system. Many countries consider themselves an electoral democracy or strive to appear as one, but are still considered autocratic based on this criteria.

Using this categorization scheme, 34 countries can be considered liberal democracies, 55 are electoral democracies, 60 are electoral autocracies, and 30 are closed autocracies as of early 2022.

Over 200 Years of People Living in a Political Democracy

Many political systems around the world have made clear transitions in the last two centuries, but even in the last decade they’ve shifted substantially.

In 2010, the global population was split about 50/50 between democratic and autocratic regimes. Since then, there has been a clear trend towards autocratization.

Year
% Democracy
% Autocracy
202129.3%70.7%
201050.4%49.6%
200053.6%46.4%
199041.4%58.6%
198034.1%65.9%
197034.9%65.1%
196035.2%64.8%
195018.1%81.9%
194010.4%89.6%
193017.9%82.1%
192012.0%88.0%
19103.7%96.3%
19003.6%96.4%
18903.5%96.5%
18803.5%96.5%
18700.4%99.6%
18600.3%99.7%
18500.2%99.8%
18400.0%100.0%
18300.0%100.0%
18200.0%100.0%
18100.0%100.0%
18000.0%100.0%

Note: Missing regime data not included

Though modern democracies have roots in the 1700s and 1800s in Europe and the United States, governments have only more recently been able to check the boxes of the stringent democratic criteria highlighted above.

According to the data, liberal democracies and electoral democracies only emerged in Switzerland and Australia in the 1850s and in France in the 1870s after the Franco-Prussian war.

Following both World Wars, the number of democracies in the world increased, spreading across Europe, Latin America, and parts of Asia. After the Cold War, countries across Eastern Europe also adopted democracies, with the total populations shown in the table below.

Year
Liberal Democracy
Electoral Democracy
Electoral Autocracy
Closed Autocracy
20211.05B1.25B3.51B2.05B
20101.16B2.34B1.75B1.70B
20001.06B2.22B1.02B1.82B
1990865.52M1.33B999.81M2.12B
1980722.40M796.11M957.93M1.97B
1970632.53M655.49M439.89M1.96B
1960334.08M730.90M528.14M1.43B
1950217.75M239.01M306.07M1.76B
194074.46M156.01M113.89M1.87B
193089.64M274.29M67.96M1.60B
192070.22M152.50M275.10M1.36B
191020.74M41.46M261.16M1.34B
190013.70M40.82M222.36M1.25B
18906.00M40.19M179.48M1.11B
18805.03M38.73M158.42M1.05B
18704.41M0188.65M992.35M
18603.80M083.33M1.08B
18502.38M0113.98M1.03B
18400062.01M1.04B
18300047.54M986.50M
18200037.75M921.85M
18100025.74M847.04M
18000022.00M805.81M

Note: Missing regime data not included

On the flipside, it’s estimated that 5.5 billion people live in autocratic countries.

Electoral autocracies make up the majority of this total, with 3.5 billion people or about 45% of the global population today. Russia, Turkey, and Venezuela are considered electoral autocracies, as well as India since 2019.

Closed autocracies are the second-most common, and in the last decade, the number of closed autocracies rose from 25 to 30 countries.

One report estimates that as much as 20% of European countries are autocratizing as of 2021, including Hungary, Greece, Poland, and Croatia.

Changes in Political Systems

What countries became more autocratic in 2021, and why?

Coups, involving the overthrow of a government in power, played a large role behind the most recent autocratic shifts. Of the five coups that occurred in 2021, four​​—Chad, Mali, Guinea, and Myanmar—became classified as closed autocracies. Meanwhile, Nigeria, Tunisia, and El Salvador became classified as electoral autocracies.

Meanwhile, Austria, Portugal, Ghana, and Trinidad & Tobago shifted from liberal democracies to electoral democracies, as the transparency of laws and enforcement waned.

Moving in the opposite direction, both Armenia and Bolivia started being classified as democracies in 2021.

Current Obstacles

Reinforcing the current shift to autocracies is increasing polarization around the world. Research shows that political polarization is linked with democratic decline. Since 1950, 26 of the 52 instances of countries facing deep polarization saw their democratic systems downgraded.

At the same time, misinformation reinforces polarization. With democratic institutions facing headwinds, it remains unclear if current autocratic trends will continue.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Energy

What is the Cost of Europe’s Energy Crisis?

As European gas prices soar, countries are introducing policies to try and curb the energy crisis.

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What is the Cost of Europe’s Energy Crisis?

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Europe is scrambling to cut its reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

As European gas prices soar eight times their 10-year average, countries are introducing policies to curb the impact of rising prices on households and businesses. These include everything from the cost of living subsidies to wholesale price regulation. Overall, funding for such initiatives has reached $276 billion as of August.

With the continent thrown into uncertainty, the above chart shows allocated funding by country in response to the energy crisis.

The Energy Crisis, In Numbers

Using data from Bruegel, the below table reflects spending on national policies, regulation, and subsidies in response to the energy crisis for select European countries between September 2021 and July 2022. All figures in U.S. dollars.

CountryAllocated Funding Percentage of GDPHousehold Energy Spending,
Average Percentage
🇩🇪 Germany$60.2B1.7%9.9%
🇮🇹 Italy$49.5B2.8%10.3%
🇫🇷 France$44.7B1.8%8.5%
🇬🇧 U.K.$37.9B1.4%11.3%
🇪🇸 Spain$27.3B2.3%8.9%
🇦🇹 Austria$9.1B2.3%8.9%
🇵🇱 Poland$7.6B1.3%12.9%
🇬🇷 Greece$6.8B3.7%9.9%
🇳🇱 Netherlands$6.2B0.7%8.6%
🇨🇿 Czech Republic$5.9B2.5%16.1%
🇧🇪 Belgium$4.1B0.8%8.2%
🇷🇴 Romania$3.8B1.6%12.5%
🇱🇹 Lithuania$2.0B3.6%10.0%
🇸🇪 Sweden$1.9B0.4%9.2%
🇫🇮 Finland$1.2B0.5%6.1%
🇸🇰 Slovakia$1.0B1.0%14.0%
🇮🇪 Ireland$1.0B0.2%9.2%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria$0.8B1.2%11.2%
🇱🇺 Luxembourg$0.8B1.1%n/a
🇭🇷 Croatia$0.6B1.1%14.3%
🇱🇻 Lativia$0.5B1.4%11.6%
🇩🇰 Denmark$0.5B0.1%8.2%
🇸🇮 Slovenia$0.3B0.5%10.4%
🇲🇹 Malta$0.2B1.4%n/a
🇪🇪 Estonia$0.2B0.8%10.9%
🇨🇾 Cyprus$0.1B0.7%n/a

Source: Bruegel, IMF. Euro and pound sterling exchange rates to U.S. dollar as of August 25, 2022.

Germany is spending over $60 billion to combat rising energy prices. Key measures include a $300 one-off energy allowance for workers, in addition to $147 million in funding for low-income families. Still, energy costs are forecasted to increase by an additional $500 this year for households.

In Italy, workers and pensioners will receive a $200 cost of living bonus. Additional measures, such as tax credits for industries with high energy usage were introduced, including a $800 million fund for the automotive sector.

With energy bills predicted to increase three-fold over the winter, households in the U.K. will receive a $477 subsidy in the winter to help cover electricity costs.

Meanwhile, many Eastern European countries—whose households spend a higher percentage of their income on energy costs— are spending more on the energy crisis as a percentage of GDP. Greece is spending the highest, at 3.7% of GDP.

Utility Bailouts

Energy crisis spending is also extending to massive utility bailouts.

Uniper, a German utility firm, received $15 billion in support, with the government acquiring a 30% stake in the company. It is one of the largest bailouts in the country’s history. Since the initial bailout, Uniper has requested an additional $4 billion in funding.

Not only that, Wien Energie, Austria’s largest energy company, received a €2 billion line of credit as electricity prices have skyrocketed.

Deepening Crisis

Is this the tip of the iceberg? To offset the impact of high gas prices, European ministers are discussing even more tools throughout September in response to a threatening energy crisis.

To reign in the impact of high gas prices on the price of power, European leaders are considering a price ceiling on Russian gas imports and temporary price caps on gas used for generating electricity, among others.

Price caps on renewables and nuclear were also suggested.

Given the depth of the situation, the chief executive of Shell said that the energy crisis in Europe would extend beyond this winter, if not for several years.

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Politics

Mapped: Which Countries Still Have a Monarchy?

Beyond the 15 nations under the British monarchy, 28 other countries still have a ruling monarch. Here’s a look at the world’s monarchies.

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monarchies

Mapped: Which Countries Still Have a Monarchy?

In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the question of monarchy is brought sharply into focus.

However, a surprising number of countries have ruling monarchs, and in this visual we break down the kinds of royal leadership across the 43 countries that still have them.

Types of Monarchies

A monarch in the simplest sense is a country’s king, queen, emir, or sultan, and so on. But before diving in, it’s important to break down the distinctions between the types of monarchies that exist today. Generally, there are four kinds:

① Constitutional Monarchy

The monarch divides power with a constitutionally founded government. In this situation, the monarch, while having ceremonial duties and certain responsibilities, does not have any political power. For example, the UK’s monarch must sign all laws to make them official, but has no power to change or reject new laws.

Here are some examples of countries with constitutional monarchies:

🇯🇵  Japan
🇬🇧  United Kingdom
🇩🇰  Denmark

② Absolute Monarchy

The monarch has full and absolute political power. They can amend, reject, or create laws, represent the country’s interests abroad, appoint political leaders, and so on.

Here are some examples of countries with absolute monarchies:

🇸🇿  Eswatini
🇸🇦  Saudi Arabia
🇻🇦  Vatican City

③ Federal Monarchy

The monarch serves an overall figurehead of the federation of states which have their own governments, or even monarchies, ruling them.

Here are some examples of countries with federal monarchies:

🇦🇪  UAE
🇲🇾  Malaysia

Malaysia is a unique form of federal monarchy. Every five years, each state’s royal leaders choose amongst themselves who will be the monarch, or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, of Malaysia and the respective states. Furthermore, the monarchy is also constitutional, allowing a democratically elected body to govern.

④ Mixed Monarchy

This is a situation wherein an absolute monarch may divide powers in distinct ways specific to the country.

Here are some examples of countries with mixed monarchies:

🇯🇴  Jordan
🇱🇮  Liechtenstein
🇲🇦  Morocco

Interestingly, Liechtenstein is the only European monarchy that still practises strict agnatic primogeniture. Under agnatic primogeniture, the degree of kinship is determined by tracing descent from the nearest common ancestor through male ancestors.

Kings, Queens, Emperors, and Sultans Around the Globe

Now let’s break down the different monarchies country by country:

CountryType of MonarchyTitle of Head of StateMonarchTitle of Head of Government
🇦🇩 AndorraConstitutionalCo-PrincesJoan-Enric Vives, Emmanuel MacronPrime Minister
🇦🇬 Antigua and BarbudaConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇦🇺 AustraliaConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇧🇭 BahrainMixedKingHamad bin Isa Al KhalifaPrime Minister
🇧🇪 BelgiumConstitutionalKing PhilippePrime Minister
🇧🇿 BelizeConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇧🇹 BhutanConstitutionalKingJigme Khesar Namgyel WangchuckPrime Minister
🇧🇳 Brunei DarussalamAbsoluteSultanHassanal BolkiahSultan
🇰🇭 CambodiaConstitutionalKingNorodom SihamoniPrime Minister
🇨🇦 CanadaConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇩🇰 DenmarkConstitutionalQueenMargrethe IIPrime Minister
🇸🇿 EswatiniAbsoluteKingMswati IIIPrime Minister
🇬🇩 GrenadaConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇯🇲 JamaicaConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇯🇵 JapanConstitutionalEmperorNaruhitoPrime Minister
🇯🇴 JordanMixedKingAbdullah IIPrime Minister
🇰🇼 KuwaitMixedEmirNawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-SabahPrime Minister
🇱🇸 LesothoConstitutionalKingLetsie IIIPrime Minister
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein MixedSovereign PrinceHans-Adam IIPrime Minister
🇱🇺 LuxembourgConstitutionalGrand DukeHenriPrime Minister
🇲🇾 MalaysiaConstitutional & FederalYang di-Pertuan AgongAbdullahPrime Minister
🇲🇨 MonacoMixedSovereign PrinceAlbert IIMinister of State
🇲🇦 MoroccoMixedKingMohammed VIPrime Minister
🇳🇱 NetherlandsConstitutionalKingWillem-AlexanderPrime Minister
🇳🇿 New ZealandConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇳🇴 NorwayConstitutionalKingHarald VPrime Minister
🇴🇲 OmanAbsoluteSultanHaitham bin TarikSultan
🇵🇬 Papua New GuineaConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇶🇦 QatarMixedEmirTamim bin Hamad Al ThaniPrime Minister
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and NevisConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇱🇨 Saint LuciaConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaAbsoluteKingSalmanPrime Minister
🇸🇧 Solomon IslandsConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇪🇸 SpainConstitutionalKingFelipe VIPresident of the Government
🇸🇪 SwedenConstitutionalKingCarl XVI GustafPrime Minister
🇹🇭 ThailandConstitutionalKingRama XPrime Minister
🇧🇸 The BahamasConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇹🇴 TongaConstitutionalKingTupou VIPrime Minister
🇹🇻 TuvaluConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇦🇪 UAEFederalPresidentMohamed bin Zayed Al NahyanPrime Minister
🇬🇧 UKConstitutionalKingCharles IIIPrime Minister
🇻🇦 Vatican CityAbsolutePopeFrancisPresident of the Pontifical Commission

Constitutional monarchies are undoubtedly the most popular form of royal leadership in the modern era⁠, making up close to 70% of all monarchies. This situation allows for democratically elected governments to rule the country, while the monarch performs ceremonial duties.

Most monarchs are hereditary, inheriting their position by luck of their birth, but interestingly, French president, Emmanuel Macron, technically serves as a Co-Prince of Andorra.

Another unique case is the Vatican’s Pope Francis, who has absolute power in the small independent city⁠—he gained his role thanks to an election process known as a papal conclave.

The Role of Monarchies

One of the most notable and famous ruling monarchies is the United Kingdom’s House of Windsor⁠—also known as Queen Elizabeth II’s family. King Charles III has now ascended to the country’s throne, making him head of state in 15 nations total, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Many see the benefit in having a stable and consistent form of tradition and decorum at the country’s head of state.

“The Crown is an integral part of the institution of Parliament. The Queen [now King] plays a constitutional role in opening and dissolving Parliament and approving Bills before they become law.” – British Parliament

Japan’s royal family has been a prime example of stability, having reigned in the country for more than 2,600 years under the same hereditary line.

Critiques and the Future of Monarchy

Some claim, however, that there is no function of monarchy in the modern day, and complaints of monarchies’ immense wealth and power are rampant.

For example, according to the Dutch government, King Willem-Alexander’s budget for 2022, funded by the state and thus, taxpayers, comes out to more than €48 million.

Beyond tax dollars, with absolute monarchies there is typically a lack of political freedoms and certain rights. Saudi Arabia, for example, has no national elections. Rather its king, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, stays in power for life, appoints the cabinet himself, and passes laws by royal decree.

The death of Queen Elizabeth, though, may bring about change though for many of the world’s royally-governed. Since Barbados’ removal of her as head of state in 2021, six other Caribbean nations have expressed the desire to do the same, namely:

🇧🇿  Belize
🇧🇸  The Bahamas
🇯🇲  Jamaica
🇬🇩  Grenada
🇦🇬  Antigua and Barbuda
🇰🇳  St. Kitts and Nevis

The future of monarchy in the 21st century is certainly not a guarantee.

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