Monday, January 28, 2008

Geert Hofestede and Intercultural Communication

Gerard Hendrik Hofstede (born 2 October 1928, Haarlem) is an influential Dutch writer on the interactions between national cultures and organizational cultures, and is an author of several books including Culture's Consequences (2nd, fully revised edition, 2001) and Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind (2nd, revised edition 2005, with his son Gert Jan Hofstede).

Hofstede's study demonstrated that there are national and regional cultural groupings that affect the behaviour of societies and organizations, and that are very persistent across time.

The Power Distance Index (PDI) is one of the five intercultural dimensions developed by Hofstede. In short this cultural dimension looks at how much a culture does or does not value hierarchical relationships and respect for authority.

Examples of cultures with high PDI scores include Arabic speaking countries, Russia, India and China. Those with low scores include Japan, Australia and Canada. See a world map of power distance index scores.

So how does this manifest in a culture or country?

In a high power distance cultures the following may be observed:

. Those in authority openly demonstrate their rank.
. Subordinates are not given important work and expect clear guidance from above.
. Subordinates are expected to take the blame for things going wrong.
. The relationship between boss and subordinate is rarely close/personal.
. Politics is prone to totalitarianism.
. Class divisions within society are accepted.

In a low power distance culture:

. Superiors treat subordinates with respect and do not pull rank.
. Subordinates are entrusted with important assignments.
. Blame is either shared or very often accepted by the superior due to it being their responsibility to manage.
. Managers may often socialise with subordinates.
. Liberal democracies are the norm.
. Societies lean more towards egalitarianism

Hofstede's four dimensions are:

Power Distance

This dimension relates to the degree of equality/inequality between people in a particular society.

A country with a high Power Distance score both accepts and perpetuates inequalities between people. An example of such a society would be one that follows a caste system and in which upward mobility is very limited.

A low Power Distance indicates that a society does not emphasise differences in people?s status, power or wealth. Equality is seen as the collective aim of society and upward mobility is common.

Read more on Power Distance or Have a look at the world map of power distance scores.


This dimension focuses on the degree to which a society reinforces individual or collective achievement and interpersonal relationships.

If a country has a high Individualism score, this indicates that individuality and individual rights are dominant. Individuals in these societies tend to form relationships with larger numbers of people, but with the relationships being weak.

A low Individualism score points to a society that is more collectivist in nature. In such countries the ties between individuals are very strong and the family is given much more weight. In such societies members lean towards collective responsibility.

Read more on Individualism or Have a look at the world map of individualism scores.

Uncertainty Avoidance

This dimension concerns the level of acceptance for uncertainty and ambiguity within a society.

A country with a high Uncertainty Avoidance score will have a low tolerance towards uncertainty and ambiguity. As a result it is usually a very rule-orientated society and follows well defined and established laws, regulations and controls.

A low Uncertainty Avoidance score points to a society that is less concerned about ambiguity and uncertainty and has more tolerance towards variety and experimentation. Such a society is less rule-orientated, readily accepts change and is willing to take risks.

Read more on Uncertainty Avoidance or Have a look at the world map of uncertainty avoidance scores.


This dimension pertains to the degree societies reinforce, or do not reinforce, the traditional masculine work role model of male achievement, control, and power.

A high Masculinity score indicates that a country experiences a higher degree of gender differentiation. In such cultures, males tend to dominate a significant portion of the society and power structure.

A low Masculinity score means a society has a lower level of differentiation and inequity between genders. In these cultures, females are treated equally to males in all aspects of the society.

Read more on Masculinity or Have a look at the world map of masculinity scores

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Hajnal Line

The Hajnal line links Saint Petersburg, Russia and Trieste, Italy. In 1965, John Hajnal discovered it divides Europe into two areas characterized by a different levels of nuptiality.

West of this line, the average age of women at first marriage was 24 or more, men 26, spouses were relatively close in age, and 10% or more of adults never married. East of the line, the mean age of both sexes at marriage was earlier, spousal age disparity was greater and marriage more nearly universal. Subsequent research has amply confirmed Hajnal's continental divide, and what has come to be known as the 'Western European marriage pattern', although historical demographers have also noted that there are significant variations within the region.

The Western European pattern of late and non-universal marriage restricted fertility massively, especially when it was coupled with very low levels of childbirth out of wedlock. Birth control took place by delaying marriage more than suppressing fertility within it. Women's life-phase from menarche to first birth was unusually long, averaging ten to twelve years.

The region's late marriage pattern has received considerable scholarly attention in part because it appears to be unique; it has not been found in any other part of the world prior to the Twentieth Century. The origins of the late marriage system are a matter of conjecture prior to the 16th Century when the demographic evidence from family reconstitution studies makes the prevalence of the pattern clear. Many historians have wondered whether this unique conjugal regime might explain, in part, why capitalism first took root in Northwestern Europe, contributing to the region's relatively low mortality rates, hastening the fragmentation of the peasantry and the precocious formation of a mobile class of landless wage-earners. Others have highlighted the significance of the late marriage pattern for gender relations, for the relative strength of women's position within marriage, the centrality of widows in village land inheritance, and the vitality of women's community networks.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Unemployment and 15 to 24 Participation in Italy

Well lets start by looking at the story so far, at least as far as Italy goes. Fortunately we do have a number of key stylised facts at our disposal. First off, unemployment has been steadily - I could say relentlessly - dropping in Italy over the last two or three years:

But then if we take a look at one of the younger age groups for a minute, the 15 to 24 one, we can see some important changes.. As is well known this group is now in historic decline as a proportion of the total Italian population. The decline has been very rapid, with a drop of around one third (from 15% to 10% of the population) since 1990.

What this means, logically enough, is that there are steadily less and less people in this age group to fill places in the labour market. To this numerical decline we need to add theongoing secular decline in economic activity rates among this group, as more and more of Italy's - now scarce resource - young people delay entry and seek to improve their education, their human capital rating and hence their future earning capacity.

Thus the proportion of this group which is economically active has been declining steadily, as have the absolute numbers of those who are active, and the numbers of those who are actually employed. It is perhaps worth noting that the absolute size of this age group has been virtually stationary over the last 3 or 4 years (a statistical effect), but it is now set to fall steadily.

So if new employees will be hard to come by in this age group as we move forward, where can employment growth come from? Well basically there are two evident potential sources of labour, immigration and older workers. It is hard to envisage any large increase in employment in the 25 to 34 or the 35 to 54 age groups since - as can be seen from the chart below - activity rates among these groups are already fairly high, and even the slight fall-off which can be seen to have taken place recently in the 25 to 34 age group seems to be the result of a decline in female activity rates, and this is almost to be hoped for if Italy is to do one thing which is very important for its long term future, and that is have more children. Squeezing this particular lemon too hard at this point in time is only likely to obtain short term benefit in return for substantial negative long term outcomes.