IATA plots ‘clear positive correlation’ between air connectivity and democracy

Countries with more democratic institutions tend to be much better connected to the world by air, new analysis by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has highlighted. It says that while this “is not the same as causation”, the findings show “a clear positive correlation” between air connectivity and democracy.

In its regular chart of the week feature, the airline group plotted its own measure of how well a country is connected by air with the results from the recently released Democracy Index 2018 from The Economist. Using how many available seats serve a country on the vertical scale, weighted by the importance of the destination, for every 1000 people in the population on the horizontal, it identified a clear correlation.

There are some outliers (illustrated in the graphic in fainter colours) – partly explained by the presence of global hubs or island states, identifies IATA, but nevertheless there is a clear positive correlation. Two clear, and very different, examples are Morocco and Venezuela. Morocco had a 23% rise in its democracy score and a 60% gain in air connectivity over the past five years. By contrast, Venezuela saw falls of 38% in its democratic score and 73% in air connectivity in that same period.

The Economist’s Democracy Index 2018 showed that political participation was on the rise in almost every region last year, despite a deterioration of trust in democracy. This index is recognised as providing an annual snapshot of the state of world democracy for 165 independent states.

In the IATA analysis a 1-10 scale was used on the horizontal axis, ranging from an authoritarian state to full democracy – as measured by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Notable changes in the past five years, it says, were moves towards more democratic institutions in China, Iran, Morocco and Haiti, and moves in the opposite direction in various countries including Congo, Libya, Venezuela and Russia.

“Globally the Democracy Index stabilised for the first time in three years” says IATA. “If there is causation in the correlation that is positive news for air transport.”

The Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Based on their scores on 60 indicators within these categories, each country is then itself classified as one of four types of regime: full democracy; flawed democracy; hybrid regime; and authoritarian regime.

The eleventh edition of the Democracy Index reveals that political participation is on the rise in almost every region of the world. “Whilst clearly disillusioned with formal political institutions, the population has turned anger into action, and turned out to vote, and to protest,” it says.

It identifies the most striking advance as being in the participation of women – in the past decade the indicator has improved more than any other single indicator in its model. But this improvement takes place amid “a deterioration of trust in democracy,” that is evident in the worsening of most categories in this year’s Index.

There was no change among the top five nations in the 2018 edition of the Democracy Index with Norway remaining the global leader. North Korea remains bottom, ranked 167th, some way behind Syria, while the Democratic Republic of Congo also slipped into the bottom three last year.