Work ethics has had many definitions over time; however, we can conclusively say that it is a set of standards that is set and usually based on the level hard work and meticulousness that is expected. In other cases, for example when work is conducted voluntarily, as in the case of churches or community service, we view it as having a moral advantage or gain and posses the ability to enhance or produce good character. There are many attributes associated with good work ethics and include; having and keeping good social standings, being dependable and having a self-drive or not waiting to be pushed around and as the business men would term it, an internal locus of control. Good work ethics generally tend to foster good and healthy relations between employers and employees and amongst employees themselves. Work tends to run smoothly and a lot is covered. In similar situations, employees practicing this virtue tend to be elevated to positions of higher authority and responsibility, whereas it might not be the same case for the others, who would be maintained in the same position or be retrenched.
I am a native of Syria, a Middle Eastern country. Many things can be discussed about my country but for the sake of this study, the legal system. It is based on an amalgamation of the French and the ottoman civil law. Because of this, the Islamic law is applied especially in the family court system. The country also having a population of more than 90% being Muslims, has contributed this fact. My country has seen a tremendous change and improvement especially when it pertains to touchy issues for example the role of women in the workplace and in the society as a whole.
Women were not traditionally accorded jobs and when they were, they were not accorded positions of authority. Syrian statistics show that out of every five young people, only one is struggling to find work, in this case. Losing out on such potential and promising employment is significant. Women have continuously faced opposition and oppression. In recent reports by the media, some champions for the rights of women were attacked(verbally) by some clerics when they were attending prayers on the Friday, and this happened in different mosques across Damascus and the cause is attributed to them distributing questionnaires or survey forms inquiring the public opinion on how they felt about changing some of the laws(some which are acclaimed to be more than 50 years old) and that directly limit the rights and freedom of Muslim women in Syria. Most of who are employed. As one of the activists, Nada al-Ali pointed out, they were accused of being atheists, infiltrators, betrayers, unpatriotic and having violated religious rules.
In recent public view, one Sheikhs declared on TV that, “Woman is the most perilous thing on earth because of her nature. She is fitnah .which means is more seductive thus more tempting to men than men is to her. The best guarantee to keep social order therefore, would be to not to let women work to earn a living unless it is absolutely necessary.” Also, an article by Castro Nisi, ‘the woman is half the man’, it is apparent that there exists no apparent cause or inclination to liberate women in Syria; she generally criticizes the Syrian society for being oppressive to its women. She starts by detailing the main Islamic Syrian civil laws that affect women, lists many articles to depict how a woman, for example, accorded half or in some cases even less of the inheritance portion of her husband, brother or child. A woman is essentially denied the right to divorce, denied the same citizenship rights that the men are given, and many other basics. She further explains how not only the woman is viewed as a ‘body’ and ‘a tool’ in society, but also, that she must remain that way.
A research recorded online (sciencedirect.com, 18 Dec.2010) shows that, according to activists however, the women population in Syria is not even the most restricted in the Arab world. This begs the question whether we should be grateful on this simple mathematical analogy and hush our voices or continue to fight for total equality. The assumption here is that, more fighting and processions will only make the matters worse. Apparently, they enjoy greater access to higher education, more political involvement and comparatively, higher rates in the employment opportunities available to them. If the statistics are anything to go by, 15% of the employers in Syria are women and over 12% of the parliamentary seats are occupied by women. Admittedly, this numbers are low, but it is a start, in my opinion. This numbers notwithstanding, women continue to face discrimination in the closed or personal environment, especially to matters that relate to marriage and divorce.
Officially, Syria is a secular state. However, an Islamic revitalization has been witnessed over the past couple of years. External evidence has also been apparent, where scenes of women with head scarves that cover their hair just as a sign of religious piety.
We have had many scholars commenting and researching on the whole issue of capitalism and their remarks cannot go unnoticed. Given a prolific writer such as David Montgomery, He wrote an essay entitled work and in his essay, he sets to show us that the American work ethics, where they are obsessed with working, has had a very important if not key role in the developing of the nation. (Montgomery, 494) . This cannot be denied. With a greater working population over the years, we can certainly certify that the large number of working Americans would directly have an input that would directly influence of the general output and productivity of the country. The reverse is definitely true for countries that practice a reverse form of work ethics. In an African context for example, there is Tanzania, which had adopted a system of communism known as ujamaa. Generally, it meant that the output of each person did not serve to create or accumulate wealth for the individual, but was communally owned and therefore at the end of the day, the individual output of every worker would be accumulated and result in one massive output.
Originally a good idea, this system had adverse effects on the economy of the country. This is because the general motivation for an individual to outdo his/her performing capabilities was reduced as whatever the input, it would still be divided amongst many. Many people were living without fear of lacking as amongst other things; this system was set to provide for everyone. The result thence was that laziness was bred and no one had any inclination to work. Talk of bad work ethics. To support the Americans and say that their culture of competitiveness and being addicted to work, tallied with the fact that they worked overtime to earn more and also achieve more, directly contributed to them being a prosperous nation.
And it is not just the working aspect of the American culture that we admire. There are other aspects that come with it.leisure.as much as they are hard working and addicted to work, the Americans are one of the greatest contributors in the entertainment scene. They are widely involved in recreational activities like movies, if Hollywood is anything to go by. They believe in a system where any good work should be rewarded. In fact, if there is anything that they are ore addicted to than work, it is entertainment. It is recorded, that they would at times work for long hours and save up just to go for camping, excursions and general activities of leisure. (Montgomery, 114)
Amongst the touchiest issues in the American workforce is the issue of labor. There are many laws and policies that have been put in place by and for the American people, to safeguard their rights as worker. They believe that no one should be enslaved and everyone should be paid their dues according to the measure of their work. They also believe that the work conducted by the human workforce is sacred and hard to come by. Skills attained from institutions of higher learning are charged at an even greater cost. In retrospect, the cost of hiring labor in America (skilled or unskilled) is higher than in any other part of the world. A figure and value that is slightly higher than the one witnessed in the Middle East counties.
One cannot delve deep into work ethics without analyzing the economic system that governs that society. In this case, capitalism governs the markets in most parts of the world. According to the oxford dictionary, (oxford press, 2008), Capitalism (Market economy) is an economic system that resolves the basic economic problems through the market system i.e. the price mechanism. The following questions in terms of production are tackled by the free market economy: What to produce, how to produce and for whom to produce.
The Middle East is on the up. Over the years Western superpowers have tried to subdue this exponential growth. This is of course to no avail. The presence of oil over the years has given countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq and Iran a major say in world politics. Many a time, due to this companies in those countries have not been as productive in terms of manufacturing goods owing to the wealth of the nation. They have simply relied on importation of goods. Over time, the realization that this ‘liquid gold’ will one day run out has sparked a rude awakening in the Middle East. This has resulted in the dire quest for knowledge and involvement in academic research for the development of their countries.
This realization has sparked deep infrastructural development within the countries e.g. UAE. This development needs money and the oil barons have this wealth. So what happens to the poor peasant? They are forced by circumstances to work and provide the unskilled labor force for various developments. Most work in 12 hours shifts either at night or during the day thus the term ‘24 hour economy.’ The skilled labor force also has a lot to do in terms of productivity and low productivity result in the famous ‘sack’.
In comparison, the U.S.A has over the year’s perpetuated capitalism to the rest of the world. Speak of economic liberation and a free market economy. Due to the valiant work force, practical economic policies in the U.S.A and World War 2 the country saw itself acquire superpower status. A 24 hour economy and development in all sectors of the economy; from entertainment to sports to technology to financial markets has ensured they retain this status but have recently come under stiff competition from China. The strict work ethic principles have ensured that its labor force is not underpaid and overworked. This is ensured by a minimum wage in every state as stipulated by the laws of that state. In most states the minimum wage is about 7$.
Work ethic in U.S.A is different to that of Middle East. How? In U.S.A there is overtime work, which has been engrained in the American work ethic. This simply refers to a better hourly pay rate for every additional hour worked. This mainly affects low and middle income earners who could use the extra buck. Senior corporate employees already earn a lot of money and a few dollars to them is insignificant. In the Middle East this concept is fairly new, but is slowly gaining momentum. (Applebaum, 12)
In a capitalist society the semi-skilled and unskilled laborers are the ones that support the economy. This labor force produces high end products for sale to the wealthy in society yet this is not reflected in their pay. Many opt to simply work for food. In the U.S.A for example there is outsourcing of unskilled jobs to third world economies, particularly Asia. The Asians simply work in these factories as the work conditions cannot be tolerated in the U.S.A. The finished products, such as designer clothing are shipped off to high end shops such as on 5th avenue in Manhattan and the wealthy buy them.
So how does the work ethics in the Middle East compare with the work ethics in the United States? Well, for starters, there are several general key words or points that we can agree on. Corruption, bribery and the lack of transparency in the work place leads to anything apart from harmonious working amongst employees. This fact in mind therefore, it is important to enhance integrity in the workplace and by this, discouraging and monitoring the issuance and acceptance of bribes even amongst officials that hold public offices.
It is widely known that almost all countries of the Middle East (and even Africa) suffer from Corruption that is perpetrated by officials in the public office. This as we all know is one of the greatest impediments to economic growth and the overall attraction of prospective investors. Awareness of the reality that bribery does more harm than good on any given day has been spread out throughout businesses and corporate.
An analysis was conducted in 2000 in nine countries and jurisdictions (United Arab Emirates, the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt Saudi Arabia, Tunisia,) by the Council on Foreign Relations Study Group on Middle East Options, a US based NGOs revealed that most people, businessmen and otherwise, consider corruption and bribery as the 3rd most harmful vice and stumbling block to their activities. It was ranked with preposterous taxes and high tariffs.
Other than the negatives, both the Middle East countries and the states have very strong and common positives and examples of good working ethics that they share. The good working ethics are the ethics that are accepted worldwide and that both of these countries have demonstrated to have and share:
Honesty: this is where one does any work that has been allocated without cheating or stealing, which also manifests itself in many forms for example in writing or typing documents, plagiarism. This virtue has been harnessed and encouraged in both countries; with Middle Eastern countries using the religious aspect while Americans using the conscience aspect. Non-conformity to ethics leads to uneasiness of the mind.
Dependability: most of who are dependable are considered to be reliable and trustworthy. It increases the trust level and eventually means that more responsibility can be bestowed upon the worker. In the states, reliability leads to job promotions and good referral whereas in the Middle East, being reliable is a virtue that is valued and everyone tries to own.
Efficiency: Efficiency is important while assessing a personal growth level as well a s the general performance of the workplace. Good efficiency always produces better results and achievements. In the states, inefficient workers, who are always easy to spot by the way, are retrenched or demoted? The case happens in the Middle East countries but to an extent where inefficiency ma even lead to one’s loss of respect in the community. Efficient workers would always prosper in most aspects of their lives including marriage.
Positive Work Habits: good working habits tend to impress superiors and other colleagues who will come in handy including when things such as referrals are in need. Bad habits for example laziness and coming in too work lat will always be discouraged in both countries. Sloth in Middle East is really discouraged and would lead to people despising you.
Initiative: To be initiative means that not only do you have create ability to come up with ideas, but also the will to move them off he ground. Initiative people always go a step further and studies indicate that they have been more successful in their operations. In the American context, initiative people always come up with ideas such as clothing lines and the same case is for the people in the Middle East.
Humility: being humble means that you always see other people as greater and not value your opinion over others. In Middle East, humility is associated with religion and it’s not usually put in question. In fairness, the competitiveness of the American people leaves less of the humility to be admired.
Positive Attitude: Maintaining a positive attitude will always make everything else seem easier. It will help you enjoy and like your work and n the end, your general output will always be higher. Positive attitude entails that in spite of both the internal and external conditions, one’s mindset is the same and good.
Teamwork: A few sayings have been initiated to assert this; including that there is no I in team. This is true, there is always more that is accomplished and achieved as a team as compared to individual output. Organizations all over including America and the Middle East have always harnessed this and continue to encourage it even through practices in the organization of team building nature.
Industrialization has had a very key role in the workplace of both countries. It has enabled workers from both the countries to achieve amore and greater output compared to the initial ones. Also, it has improved the general working environment and other business practices including the safety of the employees. (Begley, 12)
It has been argued that the general ethical practices in America and the Middle Eastern countries have been on the decline. Several factors have been attributed to this, including increase level of laziness especially from the younger generation. They are the ones who are expected to take over businesses and lead the next generation. They are however otherwise engaged with computer games and toys. Also, tendencies such as the ‘blame game’ are apparent in today’s workplace.
A number of recent reports show U.S. employees place a high precedence on quality-of-life issues, such as spending time with their families. Nevertheless, they are still considered the hardest-working labor force in the entire world. a report last year conducted the International Labor Organization show that U.S. workers averaged close to 2,000 hours of work in a given year. A rough mathematical calculation would be 40 hours/week x 52 weeks = 2,080 hours. This compares to other workforces in other countries working fewer hours than America. For instance, on average U.S. workers use over 70 hours more per year on the job than the Japanese, and virtually 350 hours for each year more than Europeans. This compares to nearly 10 more weeks of toil per year.
In the Arab world, the Islamic law states the rules of traditional social behavior. Under this law, women are in some cases rendered a role inferior to that of men. Although the portrait of the egalitarian woman is slowly developing within some of the more secular Arab countries, it remains largely restricted to urban areas and upper-class spheres. Customary sexual mutilation of females is still practiced in the rural areas of Egypt, Libya, Oman and Yemen.
Moreover, laws that restrict the rights of women in Arab countries still remain in play. For example, in Libya, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Oman and Yemen, married women are required to have written permission from their husbands to travel abroad and may be prevented from doing do for any reason. Cultural restrictions sometimes prevent women from attending colleges and universities. In Iran, a suspected female adulterer was handed a death sentence early last year. Despite international denunciation, the uncompromising Islamic government executed the woman through stoning.
Men and women are treated as equals in most sections of the Lebanese criminal and penal codes, with the exception of the laws that tackle adultery, violence against women in the name of honor, abortion, rape, and prostitution. A woman can be charged guilty of adultery if the act takes place inside or outside her home, whereas a man will only be punished for extramarital acts that take place inside his home or when his adulterous relationship is public knowledge. Women have generally longer adultery sentence than men. In general, few cases of adultery are actually handled in the courts. Lebanese law differs from general Arab sentiment in that adultery is seen as a moral crime, not a legal one punishable in a court of law. Adultery in many cases may lead to divorce, family quarrels, and disagreements, but in a few cases, it may lead to the murder of the woman in the name of family honor.
Large number feminist groups are active in Lebanon. While a few of these groups are government-associated entities, the majority of these women groups are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that operate within the country. The National Committee on Lebanese Women (NCLW) is a national body, under the control of the Lebanese government, which was created through a governmental decree on December 12, 1996, to implement the Beijing Platform for Action. Since its launch, the position of committee’s president has been filled by Lebanon’s first lady, while the wife of the head of parliament has held the position of committee’s vice president. The NCLW has no legislative or executive mandate and much of its work is limited to conferences and presenting recommendations to government officials. The Women's Affairs Bureau, an office in the Department of Family Affairs which is housed in the Ministry of Social Affairs, is the only other governmental entity that addresses women's issues in Lebanon.
In recent years, significant steps have been taken to improve the quality of education, health, family life, economic opportunities and political empowerment for women in the United States.
In many ways the genesis of the women's rights movement in the United States is closely linked to the abolitionist movement, which was supported zealously by many American women. It was the omission of female abolitionist delegates from the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention held in London that inspired Elizabeth Cady Stanton and abolitionist Lucretia Mott to discuss the development of a women's rights movement in the U.S.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, women were not allowed the liberties men enjoyed in the eyes of the law, the church and the government. Women were not allowed to vote, hold elective office positions, attend university or earn a living. If married, women could not make legal contracts, divorce an abusive spouse or gain custody of their children.In 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution, American women finally gained the right to vote in elections. (Rodgers,32)
Equal opportunities were offered to women in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited gender discrimination in employment. To ensure that the act's provisions for women were enforced fully, activists joined together in 1966 to form the National Organization for Women (NOW). NOW is currently the largest entity for feminists in the United States, with over 500,000 members. By the early 1970s, women serving in both chambers of the United States Congress helped focus more attention on the needs of women in the country.
American women have made substantial gains in the pursuit for equal opportunity in the nation's economic and political spheres of life, but there are still problems to be overcome. For example, the United States Census Bureau reported that in 2005, women over the age of 16 comprised 59 per cent of the workforce, yet, on average, they earned only 77 cents for every single $1 their male counterparts earned.
Another challenge facing working women is how to balance the requirements of home and family with that of their workplace. (Lafair, 68). Many women with children and jobs face the challenge of neglecting one or the other. Some high-achieving women found themselves forgoing families. Despite the challenges they still encounter, American women can be proud of their achievements, and National Women’s History Month, established by Congress in 1987, is a good time to reflect upon women’s progress. Even with the passing of legislation to protect women’s rights, some sad facts remain. Every nine seconds a woman is battered in the U.S and one out of every six women has been the victim of an attempted or competed rape in her lifetime.
In conclusion, there are many and advancing ways in which business practices in the United States and the Middle East countries compare. Most of the practices adopted in the Middle East are borrowed from America and given; it is due to the success rate that it has proven. The Middle East does not however neglect its core values, rather assimilates the new trends as most of this countries become more modernized and industrialized to fit in the global arena. At this rate, in future, in my view, when we talk of work ethics, we’ll have a solid and unified definition across the board.
David Montgomery, “the workplace, the state and the American Labor Activism” The Fall of the House of Labor 1865-1925 (Cambridge: Cambridge university press,1987) pp.494
Applebaum,Herbert A,The American Work Ethic and the Changing Work Force.Cambridge,Cambridge university press,1998.print.
“Beliefs about work in the Middle East and the convergence versus divergence of values”,www.sciencedirect.com.sciencedirect n.d. web. 18 dec. 2010
Lafair.S, “Don't Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns That Limit Success”. Oxford.Oxford university press 1792.print
Rodgers.T.D., “the work ethic in industrial America”,Chicago.the university of Chicago press,1978.print
Begley .P.T, “the ethical dimensions of school leadership (studies in educational leadership)” longhorn press.2009.print