Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pakistanis top in the view that hard work pays off!

by Salman Hameed

I had posted a Pew survey yesterday about the economic outlook in 21 countries. With a few exceptions, the outlook was seen as dismal in most of the countries. Amongst the Muslim-majority countries, Turkey was the exception, and Pakistan had one of the lowest rates. However, in reply to the question about the correlation between hard work and success, Pakistanis have the most optimistic view out of all 21 countries!

This is actually puzzling as well as interesting. Puzzling, because Pakistan usually rates high on corruption scales, and I would have expected that to correlate with a general sense of unfairness (for example, see Russia in the chart above). And remember, that only 15% of the Pakistanis feel that hard work is no guarantee to success. I think this is also really interesting and says something about the general narrative of the country. Here is my speculative take on the reason: Perhaps, this is related to a sense of exceptionalism that has always existed in Pakistan. Some of this sense, perhaps, comes from an identity crisis - shunning her Moghul and Indian heritage in favor of an Islamic identity. Not too surprisingly, until recently, Pakistan has been a fertile ground for pan-Islamism, and Pakistanis saw themselves as the natural leaders in the Muslim world. The current state of affairs, including corruption, may be seen as an unfulfilled promise due to a myriad of reasons. The economic outlook is gloomy, the government is inept and corrupt, the US conflict in Afghanistan has brought its war into Pakistan, and ethnic and sectarian violence is tearing the country apart. And yet - this poll suggests that there is also a lot of hope.

Read the full Pew report here (and download the pdf here).


Tomas Rees said...

Interesting that, with the exception of the US, most wealthy countries are skeptical of the idea that success always follows hard work.

Especially interesting that there are a lot of people in the US who work very long hours but are not particularly successful!

So it may have more to do with having a few high-profile examples of people who work hard and also are very successful (and the US has a lot of those too), which affects national consciousness and beliefs about the general link.

Salman Hameed said...

Hmm..yes - the issue of wealthy countries is interesting. But in the US, there is a general perception of hard work = success, and of course that plays a major role in immigrant thinking here as well. I think part of it, as you say, are a result of prominent stories - especially in the US. Obama, himself, is a fantastic story of you can break barriers if you work hard. But I think it may also be tied to the narrative of American exceptionalism (of course, the genre of Westerns has also done a lot to shape it) - and extending out to "Manifest Destiny". This is the reason I was looking at the narrative of Pakistan - as something similar might be playing a role there as well.

But this is indeed an interesting question to ask and explore.

Amina said...

Weird. I suspect it's because Pakistanis have the most practice at mouthing platitudes they know aren't true!