Being able to swim empowers individuals to make choices, have agency, and be free to choose core aspects of their life, such as working safely on or near water. It is also associated with lifelong health benefits and reduces the risk of drowning. Using data from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll 2019, this paper provides the first global estimates of adults’ ability to swim without assistance. Individuals in high-income countries are considerably more likely to report being able to swim without assistance than individuals in low-income countries. Disparities also exist within countries. In particular, women are less likely to be able to swim without assistance than men in virtually all countries, birth cohorts, and levels of education. Investing in reducing inequalities in life skills, such as swimming, can foster economic development and empowerment, especially in light of threats, such as climate change.