‘Korea has positive work ethic’ -Australian Branch

Chris Baumann, senior lecturer at Macquarie University in Australia and visiting professor at Seoul National University
Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

By Chung Hyun-chae
Korea has good and positive work ethic which has been formed by its Confucian pedagogical approach in its schools, Dr. Chris Baumann, senior lecturer at Macquarie University in Australia and visiting professor at Seoul National University (SNU), said.
Baumann and his research team define a work ethic as passion for the job ― how much people enjoy working hard.
He presented his study about the relationship between education and a work ethic to the Fourth Korea University-UC Berkeley Hallyu Workshop at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Feb. 6.
“Korea’s work ethic is very good and positive as people seem to be very hard working and achieving success,” Baumann told The Korea Times.
“I am aware of Korean Air’s recent ‘nut rage’ incident, but that is not a representative reflection of the brand’s work ethic. As a passenger, I could feel Korean airlines such as Korean Air, Asiana and JejuAir all have very good service and a strong push to do a great job,” he added.
Pedagogical approach
Baumann started his research to take a fresh approach to explain why people work hard.
“I tried to take a look at work ethic not in terms of how many hours people work but how they really enjoy working hard, and I wanted to find out whether that is linked to the experience they had when they were at universities and schools,” he said.
In order to figure out associations between education and work ethic, Baumann analyzed data from 10 countries in Asia and the West — China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the U.K., the U.S., Germany and Australia.
He concluded that pedagogical approaches contribute substantially to the formation of work ethic, which appears to be influenced by six factors.
“Strong associations were found for performance orientation, impact on workforce and respect passed on at schools and universities, both in Asia and Western countries among the six determinants,” Baumann said.
Performance orientation means that a country’s educational institutions should teach performance orientation to the students while respect means the education system should also teach this.
What the study found was that work ethic learned in school carries over to the workplace and to the workforce.
These three factors are the most significant determinants of a country’s work ethic, according to Baumann’s research.
The other three determinants are: stricter discipline, academic performance and competitive entry into higher education.
In the study, Baumann also established the explanatory power of the study’s results, as represented by “R-square,” or how much the research can explain in the variation of work ethic.
For example, India’s R-square is “0.367,” which means the six dimensions determine roughly 37 percent of the country’s work ethic, while that of the U.S. is “0.187,” meaning that explanatory power is only nearly half of India. This suggests that influencers such as discipline and academic performance do not affect work ethic in some Western countries.
Difference between East and West
His research team found that the explanatory power of his model is quite a bit lower for Western countries, ranging from 18 percent to 22 percent, compared with 10 percent to 37 percent in Asia.
What this means is that there are many more factors in Western countries than in Asia that would contribute to work ethic. Such factors include parents, relatives and the media, to varying degrees.
Aside from the explanatory power of the determinants, Baumann also argued that the association between the pedagogical approach to education and work ethic differs between Asia and the West.
“The strict discipline and focus on academic performance was very strongly associated with the formation of work ethic in India, Indonesia, China, Japan, and to some degree, Singapore as well. But these two factors are not associated with work ethic in the West at all,” Baumann said.
In Korea specifically, unlike in other Asian countries in his research, performance orientation, impact on workforce and competitive entry into higher education are the most important factors in forming work ethic.
“I found that as Korean people recognize the difficulty in entering higher education institutions, they tend to work hard and with passion,” Baumann said. Ultimately, this is a contributing factor to Korea’s economic success as an important instrument to form a competitive workforce and should not be given up.
Baumann’s study might call for each country’s politicians in charge of educational institutions to determine the appropriate pedagogical approach in that their choices will influence the work ethic as well as the country’s workforce and ultimately economic development.
His research includes education and competitiveness, in addition to work on marketing and customer loyalty.