Work-Related Attitudes in Asia and Europe: Institutional Approach


  • Ruth Alas Estonian Business School
  • Vincent Edwards Buckinghamshire New University


China, Asia, Europe, institutionalism, attitudes


The differences in attitudes and values in countries with similar cultural roots but different institutional backgrounds were found in a study conducted in three European countries (Alas and Edwards 2007). The differences in work-related attitudes in the three Finno-Ugrian countries, Estonia, Finland and Hungary, are influenced by the respective countries' historical legacy, in particular differences in levels of institutional development (ibid). In order to test this result and to advise companies doing business on different continents, the authors enlarged the sample by adding countries from Europe and Asia. Countries on both continents have been divided into two groups according to their institutional backgrounds. Europe has been divided into two parts according to recent history and developmental level: East European and West European countries. The former group has undergone a transition from planned command economy over the last 20 years, the latter has a long tradition of capitalism and the market economy. Similarly, in Asia Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong have well established market systems, while China has been developing a socialist market economy since the late 1970s (Warner et al., 2005). Managers in Eastern Europe and China have had similar challenges: to focus on organisational efficiency and to change competitive strategies (Alas et al2009b; Wang, 2007).The main research question is: are there differences in work-related attitudes between employees from countries with different institutional background on two continents and, if so, what are the reasons for these differences?The paper begins with hypotheses development. This is followed by description of the empirical study and finally data collected from empirical studies in four regions (China; Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong ['Asia']; formerly socialist Eastern Europe; and Western Europe) are analysed and the results discussed. An institutional model of differences in attitudes toward society, organisations and work has been developed.The findings indicate both similarities and differences between work-related attitudes in Asia and Europe. Even between East and West European respondents who share a similar culture, there were in certain instances substantial differences in attitudes. The same is true in Asia:   attitudes  of  Chinese  respondents  differ  from attitudes of the three other Asian countries in the survey. At the same time the findings indicate that the institutional framework influences work-related attitudes, as evidenced by the similarities in some of the responses from Chinese and East European respondents.The main conclusion from this study is that the differences in attitudes held toward society, organisations and work by people in Asia and Europe are influenced both by institutional context and cultural background. Both factors, and combinations of both factors, should be considered by owners and managers of multinational corporations. These results may help managers of multinational companies to achieve better work-related attitudes among employees working in plants on different continents.

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