New Paper – Differences in well-being among factory workers in six countries

A new paper in Applied Research in Quality of Life examines cross-cultural comparisons of well-being among factory workers, as measured by the six well-being domains of happiness and life satisfaction, physical and mental health, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, close social relationships, and financial and material stability.  Differences in Multi-Dimensional Well-being Among Factory Workers: Evidence from Six Countries, authored by Piotr Bialowolski, Matthew T. Lee, Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska, Ying Chen, Richard G. Cowden, Eileen McNeely and Tyler J. VanderWeele, looks at survey data from factory workers in Cambodia, China, Mexico, Poland, Sri Lanka, and the United States. Results varied by country; here is a sample of findings:

-Financial and material stability ranked last in all examined samples with Mexico scoring the lowest. Mexican respondents ranked the meaning and purpose domain highest of all the domains of well-being and their mean score was higher than in other countries.

-The traditional collectivist orientation within Chinese culture remains dominant, and the social relationship component still appears to be a highly valued aspect of well-being among the Chinese.

-Sri Lankan participants had the lowest mean score for happiness relative to the other five samples and they ranked happiness in fifth place out of the six domains of well-being. Consistent with low happiness, the suicide rate in Sri Lanka is double that of the U.S., three times higher than in China, and over six times that of Mexico.

-Financial security in Poland not only ranked lowest among the six well-being domains but also the mean score was much lower than in the U.S., China, Sri Lanka, and even Cambodia.  Polish factory workers also provided a low assessment of their health relative to the other domains of well-being (ranked 5th ) and the lowest compared to other examined groups of workers.

-Cambodians ranked close social relationships highest and their mean scores across all domains were higher than those in other samples. The low score for financial and material stability (ranked last among the six domains; only Poland and Mexico had lower means) is consistent with our expectations in light of both low gross domestic product and indicators originating from other survey data.

This study shows that the level of various domains of well-being of production workers varies across organizations (and possibly countries), even if these organizations are engaged in improving worker’s well-being and have implemented a worker well-being program. This study indicates that promotion of general worker well-being initiatives might be ineffective. Instead, tailored programs taking into account specificity of targeted groups of employees might emerge as a valuable business resource helping organizations to retain workforce and increase productivity.

Read the full paper.