China’s workers are less engaged with their jobs than workers of any other nation, according to a Gallup poll of workers in 142 nations conducted in 2011 and 2012.
Those engaged with their jobs make up just 6% of China’s workers, less than half the average of 13% of workers globally. Workers in Hong Kong too shared the same low level of engagement.
In general the level of engagement was lower than average in East Asia at 11% in S. Korea, 9% in Taiwan and 7% in Japan. The report suggests that the low level of engagement among workers in Asia stems from a culture of strict deference to authority which discourages initiative.
The most engaged workers are in Panama where 37% are rated as engaged. Costa Rica is second at 33%, followed by the US at 30%. Workers in Western Europe are only slightly more engaged than average at 14%.
Globally 63% of employees are not engaged with their jobs while 24% are “actively disengaged.” The latter category of workers are most common in North Africa and the Middle East, with Tunisia at 54%, Algeria at 53%, and Syria at 45%.
Degree of engagement was determined by responses to 12 questions, including whether they learned new things on the job, whether their efforts were recognized and whether they made friends in the workplace. Engaged workers bring benefits and innovation to their companies but their efforts can be sabotaged the actively disengaged, according to the report.
The survey found little correlation between engagement and educational levels or type of work. Among workers in China about 7% of those with a university degree and 5% of workers with a high school diploma were engaged with their jobs. Among highly skilled workers and managers the rate of engagement is 8%. Among retail and service sector workers the rate is only 4%. The lowest rate of engagement is the 3% found among secretaries and office workers.
The report blamed the “command-and-control” style of management used by China’s managers for the low degree of engagement. Only one in eight workers in China feel their opinions carry weight with their bosses while the global average is 25%.
The survey results don’t necessarily contradict the image of hard work and dedication often applied to employees in Asia’s firms. Hard work isn’t the same as being engaged, notes Wei Shujuan, assistant professor in philosophy and sociology School at Lanzhou University in northwestern China. China’s middle class tends to choose jobs that pay the most regardless of whether the work is deemed interesting or confers a sense of belonging, he notes, and people seldom engage with their jobs if they are seen only as a source of income.