When Nature Speaks … Wildlife. Be calm. Love an elephant. What everybody should know about these gentle giants.



That is … until you see them return to
the lands and vegetation we have
encroached into, when we settled in their habitat.

When elephants leave their habitats for
their watering holes, for however long,
it does not mean they have resettled.

And so, it becomes hard for us to
imagine the way a child intuitively
understands these gentle giants.  Instead, …

When we think of elephants, we conjure up
images of majesty and aggression!


  1. Introduction
  2. Basic Facts about elephants
    • The impact elephants have on the ecology
    • Historical reasons for the demise of elephants
    • What is fuelling human’s obsession for hunting?
    • Why men trophy hunt?
    • About the elephants
    • About the tusk
    • About the poachers and the trade
    • About the end consumer
  5. Beijing master ivory carvers cling to their trade
  6. Who is the silent voice and what does it say?

Population. At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants. Today, there are an estimated 450,000 – 700,000 African elephants and between 35,000 – 40,000 wild Asian elephants.  Most captives are endangered Asian elephants; African bush elephants and African forest elephants are less amenable to training.  Animal rights organizations estimate there are 15,000 to 20,000 elephants in captivity worldwide. That brings the total number of elephants today to about 500,000.   Half a million.

The real question is, what would you do if it had been the global human population that has been decimated by up to three quarters of its numbers by another species?  And you are left with a quarter of you!




Elephants are among the most intelligent of the creatures with whom we share the planet, with complex consciousnesses that are capable of strong emotions.  Across Africa they have inspired respect from the people that share the landscape with them, giving them a strong cultural significance.  As icons of the continent elephants are tourism magnets, attracting funding that helps protect wilderness areas.  They are also keystone species, playing an important role in maintaining the biodiversity of the ecosystems in which they live.

Attribution:  http://www.savetheelephants.org/about-elephants-2-3-2/importance-of-elephants/


What is the spiritual meaning of an elephant?

Symbolic Elephant Meaning. … Symbolic elephant meaning deals primarily with strength, honor, stability and tenacity, among other attributes.  To the Hindu way of thought, the elephant is found in the form of Ganesha who is the god of luck, fortune, protection and is a blessing upon all new projects.


What does elephant symbolize?

Many African cultures revere the African Elephant as a symbol of strength and power.  It is also praised for its size, longevity, stamina, mental faculties, cooperative spirit, and loyalty.  South Africa, uses elephant tusks in their coat of arms to represent wisdom, strength, moderation and eternity.



What hunts the elephant?

Elephants generally do not have predators (animals that eat them) due to their massive size. Newborn elephants are however vulnerable to attacks from lions,tigers, and hyenas. The biggest danger to elephants are humans; elephants have been hunted for their tusks to near extinction in some cases.Oct 8, 2015

Yet, today they stand at the brink on its way of being wiped out.  Paving the way for the last man standing.  The man.

Yet, did you know that ….


As you read the article, notice the elephant (what we know about them: the facts, the emotions, the money trail, the larger-than-life images this animal conjures in our minds) that this majestic animal has brought into the room … and then, notice what is the “elephant that is not in the room”?

What do you think that is?  There right there, is our leverage.



Habitat loss is one of the key threats facing elephants. Many climate change projections indicate that key portions of elephants’ habitat will become significantly hotter and drier, resulting in poorer foraging conditions and threatening calf survival. Increasing conflict with human populations taking over more and more elephant habitat and poaching for ivory are additional threats that are placing the elephant’s future at risk.

Elephant, © Geoff Hall


© Geoff Hall

Defenders of Wildlife is working through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to maintain a ban on the sale of ivory as well as on regulations that govern worldwide elephant protection.

Of the two species, African elephants are divided into two subspecies (savannah and forest), while the Asian elephant is divided into four subspecies (Sri Lankan, Indian, Sumatran and Borneo). Asian elephants have been very important to Asian culture for thousands of years – they have been domesticated and are used for religious festivals, transportation and to move heavy objects.


Staples: Grasses, leaves, bamboo, bark, roots. Elephants are also known to eat crops like banana and sugarcane which are grown by farmers. Adult elephants eat 300-400 lbs of food per day.


At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants. Today, there are an estimated 450,000 – 700,000 African elephants and between 35,000 – 40,000 wild Asian elephants.


African savannah elephants are found in savannah zones in 37 countries south of the Sahara Desert. African forest elephants inhabit the dense rainforests of west and central Africa. The Asian elephant is found in India, Sri Lanka, China and much of Southeast Asia.


Elephants form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups of related females called a herd. The herd is led by the oldest and often largest female in the herd, called a matriarch. Herds consist of 8-100 individuals depending on terrain and family size. When a calf is born, it is raised and protected by the whole matriarchal herd. Males leave the family unit between the ages of 12-15 and may lead solitary lives or live temporarily with other males.

Elephants are extremely intelligent animals and have memories that span many years. It is this memory that serves matriarchs well during dry seasons when they need to guide their herds, sometimes for tens of miles, to watering holes that they remember from the past. They also display signs of grief, joy, anger and play.

Recent discoveries have shown that elephants can communicate over long distances by producing a sub-sonic rumble that can travel over the ground faster than sound through air. Other elephants receive the messages through the sensitive skin on their feet and trunks. It is believed that this is how potential mates and social groups communicate.


Mating Season: Mostly during the rainy season.

Gestation: 22 months.
Litter size: 1 calf (twins rare).
Calves weigh between 200-250 lbs at birth. At birth, a calf’s trunk has no muscle tone, therefore it will suckle through its mouth. It takes several months for a calf to gain full control of its trunk.

Abstract from: https://defenders.org/elephant/basic-facts


The Impact Elephants have on the Ecology

Elephants are the keystone species of their habitat.

The planet earth is inhabited by diverse array of living organisms such as microorganisms, plants, animals and human beings which collectively constitute the biodiversity.  Each and every element of the living component of the system has its own role, either positive or negative, to play as a system component. So preservation and conservation of living organisms, whether they are tiny or large, become immense important in playing beneficial role in maintaining biodiversity.

Mega-herbivorous animal such as elephant has major impact on the terrestrial ecosystems in which they live and thus on the animals that depend on these habitats.  Elephant can be referred as “keystone species” because it facilitates:

    • Feeding by other herbivores that disperse seeds and supports large assemblages of invertebrates, such as dung beetles, and


    • Lower plants such as algae and fungi apart from enriching soil nutrients through dung piles.


    • These algae and fungi are preferred nutrient plants for some reptiles such as monitor lizard and star tortoise in the semiarid tropical forests.


    • Dung beetle accumulation attracts many insectivorous birds.


    • Dung deposition into water holes is being benefited to the Pisces and amphibians.


  • Wherever they live, elephants leave dung that is full of seeds from the many plants they eat. When this dung is deposited the seeds are sown and grow into new grasses, bushes and trees, boosting the health of the savannah ecosystem.
  • Seed dispersal through alimentary canal induces germination and survival capacity of the seedlings to maintain the forest heterogeneity; some species rely entirely upon elephants for seed dispersal.

Elephant also does some of the silvicultural practices such as

  • Creation of paths in dense forest.  When forest elephants eat, they create gaps in the vegetation. These gaps allow new plants to grow and create pathways for other smaller animals to use.
  • On the savannahs, elephants feeding on tree sprouts and shrubs help to keep the plains open and able to support the plains game that inhabit these ecosystems.
  • Maintenance of grazing lawns and height of the trees and thinning in thick vegetation cover to keep the sustainable utility of the forest.
  • Identification of subsoil water and natural salt licks through elephants’ strong sense is also shared by the other animals especially the herbivores for which intake of minerals from the natural soil is most important for many physiological activities.
  • During the dry season, elephants use their tusks to dig for water. This not only allows the elephants to survive in dry environments and when droughts strike, but also provides water for other animals that share harsh habitats.

The pachyderm (a very large mammal with thick skin, especially an elephant, rhinoceros, or hippopotamus) is under severe threat due to various conservation problems such as loss of habitat (see example below that of forest cover in Sumatra), habitat quality and corridors, reduction of home range, population increase, impact of developmental activities, human-elephant conflict issues and poaching for ivory.  Among the factors, some of them may be responsible for major proportions, and some of them involve less proportion.  But these are the reasons listed as conservation problems for the long-run conservation of elephants.

Abstract from: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-10-6605-4_16




Historically, trade and capture are responsible for elephants’ demise

Since the Proboscidea originated 60 million years ago, the order has included some 10 families, 45 genera and 185 species and subspecies, in a spectacular diversity of forms.  The African (Loxodonta africana and Loxodonta cyclotis) and Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) existing today are the sole remnants of that remarkable evolutionary radiation.  Representing a tiny fraction of their former numbers, the living elephants survive in only small pockets of the land they once roamed.  In many areas elephant populations have already gone extinct or are highly endangered.

Over centuries legal and illegal hunting (“poaching”) for the commercial ivory trade and, in Asia, the capture of elephants for human use, have been largely responsible for the elephant’s demise.  The number of wild Asian elephants now comprise less than a tenth of all remaining elephants, and continue to decline in shrinking habitat.  In Africa, elephants once inhabited the entire continent, from the Mediterranean down to its southern tip, but the ivory trade coupled with human expansion caused a continental decline in their numbers.  By circa 1600 North Africa was devoid of elephants. In modern Africa, poaching for ivory has been fuelled by poverty, political instability and civil unrest coupled with the easy availability of arms.  In recent history, between 1979 and 1989, Africa’s elephants underwent a dramatic and devastating decline, falling from approximately 1.3 million animals to an estimated 609,000. Human greed and rising prices of ivory were responsible for the appalling slaughter.

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are imperiled by poaching and habitat loss.  Despite global attention to the plight of elephants, their population sizes and trends are uncertain or unknown over much of Africa.  To conserve this iconic species, conservationists need timely, accurate data on elephant populations.

Abstract from: https://www.elephantvoices.org/threats-to-elephants/-killed-for-their-ivory.html

There is an estimated population of 352,271 savannah elephants on study sites in 18 countries, representing approximately 93% of all savannah elephants in those countries.  Elephant populations in survey areas with historical data show it has decreased by an estimated 144,000 from 2007 to 2014, and populations are currently shrinking by 8% per year continent-wide, primarily due to poaching.  Though 84% of elephants occurred in protected areas, many protected areas had carcass ratios that indicated high levels of elephant mortality.  Results of the GEC show the necessity of action to end the African elephants’ downward trajectory by preventing poaching and protecting habitat.

Abstract from: https://peerj.com/articles/2354/


What is fuelling the obsession of trophy hunting poaching?

Why are savagery and violence so omnipresent among humans?
We suggest that hunting behaviour is fascinating and attractive, a desire that makes temporary deprivation from physical needs, pain, sweat, blood, and ultimately the willingness to kill tolerable and even appetitive.
Evolutionary development into the “perversion” of the urge to hunt humans, that is to say the transfer of this hunt to members of one’s own species, has been nurtured by the resultant advantage of personal and social power and dominance.  While breakdown of the inhibition towards intra-specific killing would endanger any animal species, controlled inhibition was enabled in humans in that higher regulatory systems, such as frontal lobe-based executive functions, prevent the involuntary derailment of hunting behaviour.
If this control – such as in child soldiers for example – is not learnt, the brutality towards humans remains fascinating and appealing.  Blood must flow in order to kill.  It is hence an appetitive cue as is the struggling of the victim.
Hunting for men, more rarely for women, is fascinating and emotionally arousing with the parallel release of testosterone, serotonin and endorphins, which can produce feelings of euphoria and alleviate pain. Bonding and social rites (e.g. initiation) set up the contraints for both hunting and violent disputes.  Children learn which conditions legitimate aggressive behaviour and which not.  Big game hunting as well as attack of other communities is more successful in groups – men also perceive it as more pleasurable.  This may explain the fascination with gladiatorial combat, violent computer games but also ritualized forms like football.
(Blog Author’s Note:  And as such conjures notions such as the “last man standing”  must necessarily therefore mean someone is more strong or witty than the rest who did not stay around to remain standing as he could.  Therefore, as such (in conclusion) no one, not his mother or his wife say he is ‘therefore not man enough’ for her.)



Prominent evolutionary anthropologists (Brian Codding and Kristen Hawkes from the University of Utah) have studied hunter-gatherer populations for decades.

Interestingly, analyses of the types of animals hunter-gatherer men target are very similar in that they are often the largest animals in the landscape.  Importantly, they are also animals with high ‘failure rates’.  That is, men are likely to come home empty handed from hunting.  This is very different from women hunters, who target smaller animals that they are more assured to acquire and bring home as food.

On that hunt, on a lake outside Tampa, I met Jay, a hugely successful New York photographer and author, who said, “I watched Romancing The Stone as a kid. In the movie, Michael Douglas kills a crocodile and turns it into a pair of cowboy boots. That’s what I’m here. I want to wear a pair of cowboy boots and to be able to say to my friends, ‘I killed these’”.

And kill them he did, from a flat-bottomed boat after he first harpooned it with a buoy tied to a rope so it couldn’t swim away, making Jay holler “this is like something out of Jaws!”

Men who target these large, difficult-to-acquire animals, therefore, signal to others that they can absorb the costs of an inefficient behaviour.  It signals that they have high-quality underlying mental and physical characteristics to be able to absorb such costs.

This ‘costly signalling’ to which it’s referred in the evolutionary literature, provides a way for men to accrue status. And status is universally important for men to ward off competition and attract mates. (I’ll note here that hunter-gatherer populations consume the animals they kill, unlike most trophy hunters.  In no way do I advocate any opposition to the ways in which Indigenous peoples earn their livelihood).

What are your major messages?

We believe this ‘costly signalling’ model applies equally well to trophy hunters from the developed world. By paying big bucks to trophy hunt, or even forgoing smaller individuals within populations to wait for chances at the very biggest, imposes costs on trophy hunters. And it’s prestigious to signal that you can absorb these costs.  In other words, trophy hunters, whether they realize it or not, are likely hunting for status.  It’s like driving a luxury car, though in this case the lives of animals are taken.

How do your findings extend and differ from what others have written about trophy hunting?

People, including me, were confused as to why men do this.  Are they sick in the head? Bloodthirsty?  Some believe that these are appropriate terms.  For me, this evolutionary explanation goes deeper and asked, why did this behaviour evolve?  We think we offer a good explanation.

Some might argue, ‘Well, if this is natural behaviour, then it’s justified’.  I believe this is a dangerous argument referred to as the naturalistic fallacy.   My colleague and mentor, Dr. Paul Paquet of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, makes this abundantly clear by reminding us, “Trophy hunting can neither be justified for being natural nor as an aid to help populations, given the enormous costs paid by individual animals – their lives.”

How might one apply what you found to put a stop to this reprehensible practice that some claim they do “in the name of conservation”?

One interesting observation post-Cecil (the lion’s death by trophy hunting) is that demand for lion hunting has declined owing to prohibitions on transporting the remains on planes, etc.  If hunters cannot bring the trophies home to boast with, then they have no costly signal.




The Elephant

How many elephants are killed by poachers every year?

100 Elephants are killed per day.  The U.N. says up to 100 elephants are being slaughtered a day in Africa by poachers taking part in the illegal ivory trade.  Mar 19, 2015.

How many wild elephants are left in the world?

Population at the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants.  Today, there are an estimated 450,000 – 700,000 African elephants and between 35,000 – 40,000 wild Asian elephants.  That is a third or less than a third or even by as much as a quarter of the population of elephants that existed at the turn of the last century.  Three-quarters of them have disappeared effectively.

Endangered Asian elephants

Asian elephants are even more endangered than African elephants — but the threat isn’t poaching so much as human encroachment. The Asian species is smaller than the African, and none of the females and only some of the males have tusks. While some are hunted for ivory or meat, most of the Asian elephants taken from the wild are not killed, but domesticated for zoos, safari tourism, or timber hauling. There are only about 30,000 remaining wild Asian elephants, while 15,000 live in captivity. The wild herds in India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand are dwindling, too, as human development shrinks their habitat. Many populations are now cut off from migration routes and forced to inbreed.

Abstract from: http://theweek.com/articles/449437/tragic-price-ivory

The Tusk

What Exactly Is an Elephant Tusk?

An elephant’s tusk is a tooth. It’s an elongated incisor, one-third of which is embedded into the elephant’s skull. The tusk is made up of nerve endings and pulp matter, and removal is deadly.

Elephants use their tusks in a variety of ways. They are used to protect themselves and their herd from predators, and elephants can even use their tusks for digging water holes. However, elephants are also anintegral part of the environment. They are sometimes referred to as “mega gardeners,” and without them, hundreds of animal and plant species would cease to exist as well.

Why are Elephants Killed for Their Tusks?

Up to 70 percent of ivory poached goes to China, where half a kilogram of it can sell for as much as 1,000 U.S. dollars. This increase in demand has been fueled by the growth of a middle class in China.  People can now afford the material that they have grown up believing is better than diamonds.

Do Elephant Tusks fall off?

Tusks are specialized teeth and elephants have only one set that continue growing throughout the elephant’s life. They are sometimes broken off as a result of natural movements, such as digging and sparring with other elephants. If a tusk is not broken off at its root, then yes- the tusk will continue to grow.Feb 2, 2010

Can you cut off an Elephant’s Tusks without killing it?

A tusk can be removed without killing the elephant. … But poachers use darts, poison and high-powered automatic rifles with night scopes to take elephants down and, while they are dying, the tusks are gouged out of from the living elephant’s skull. Jul 30, 2014

The Poacher & The Trade

How much is a pound of Ivory worth?

Ivory fetched prices as much as $1,500 per pound due to demand in Asia, where elephant tusks are ornately carved into art.Jun 2, 2016

Poachers kill elephants for their valuable tusks — a single pound of ivory can sell for $1,500, and tusks can weigh 250 pounds.  That is USD375,000 (or just over a 1/3 million dollars) per tusk!  Nov 7, 2016

How extensive is the poaching?

Poachers are now slaughtering up to 35,000 of the estimated 500,000 African elephants every year for their tusks. A single male elephant’s two tusks can weigh more than 250 pounds, with a pound of ivory fetching as much as $1,500 on the black market. The ivory is so valuable because all across Asia — particularly in China — ivory figurines are given as traditional gifts, and ivory chopsticks, hair ornaments, and jewelry are highly prized luxuries. “China regards ivory as a cultural heritage; they are not going to ban it,” said Grace Gabriel of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Many Chinese consumers don’t realize that elephants must be killed for their ivory; in one survey, more than two thirds of Chinese respondents said they thought tusks grew back like fingernails.

What impact has the slaughter had on the elephants?

Elephants are highly intelligent, social creatures that live in matriarchal groups, and poaching has ravaged much of their social structure. The biggest tusks are found on the largest breeding males and on the oldest females, who lead the elephant troops.  Where these animals are targeted and killed, elephant populations are reduced to leaderless groups of traumatized orphans huddling together. In the past year, even they are being wiped out, as some poachers have started dumping cyanide into watering holes, killing every animal that drinks there.  Last year, poachers killed an estimated 300 elephants in Zimbabwe’s largest park, Hwange, by lacing watering holes and salt licks with cyanide.  To read more about the impact poaching of elephants have had on Botswana, more here.

Who are the poachers?

Since the industry is illegal, those who run it largely come from criminal syndicates or terrorist organizations. Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based wing of al Qaida, raises $600,000 a month from poaching to fund its activities. Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, the rebel group notorious for enslaving children, also raises money through poaching. “Poaching has become one of the most profitable criminal activities there is,” says Peter Seligmann, the CEO of Conservation International. Chinese mafia organizations mostly do the purchasing and distribution of ivory after it’s been obtained, selling it mostly in China and Southeast Asia but sometimes to markets in the U.S.

Why is the price so high?

When ivory became contraband, the supply got scarcer, but demand remained strong.  In 1989, the international community passed a global ban on the trade in new ivory to stop the killing of elephants. Only ivory that had been harvested before 1989 could be sold, so the ivory carving industry in China crumbled, and with it the demand for tusks.  Elephant populations rebounded — so much so that in 1999 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a global organization, decided to allow a “one-off” sale of pre-ban, stockpiled ivory to Japan (what did we not say here?).

Then in 2008 it authorized another “one-off”sale, this time to Japanese and Chinesemarkets. The Chinese carving industry roared back to life, as the Chinese government licensed dozens of carving factories and retail outlets. Since there’s no way to distinguish between pre-ban and new ivory, the illegal ivory trade has accelerated to meet the demand, and poaching is now worse than before the global ban.

(REUTERS/James Akena)

What steps are being taken to stop poaching?

Under pressure from some member nations, CITES refuses to institute a complete ban on the ivory trade.  But the U.S. is taking its own measures. The U.S. is the second-biggest ivory market, after China.  In a symbolic gesture last fall, U.S. officials smashed 6 tons of contraband ivory, including tusks and carvings, that had been seized from smugglers or confiscated from unwitting tourists. And in February, the Obama administration announced it would change regulations to ban interstate sales of all ivory except certified antiques, limit elephant trophy imports to two per hunter, and end commercial imports of antique ivory.

Is China cooperating?

Following the U.S.’s ivory crush, the Chinese government destroyed 6 tons this January, and Hong Kong authorities say they will destroy their 30-ton stockpile, one of the largest in the world.  Chinese environmentalists have also begun educating the public about the dire consequences of buying ivory. But it’s a tough sell in a country where ivory has long symbolized wisdom and nobility.With more disposable income in mainland China, many people are flaunting their wealth, and ivory is seen as a luxury product that confers status,” says Tom Milliken of the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network.

Why is the ban so hard to enforce?

There is no reliable way to tell pre-ban from post-ban ivory, or a real antique from a fake — in any country.  “It’s not like you walk into a store and find someone selling cocaine, which is illegal on its face,” said Edward Grace, deputy assistant director for law enforcement at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. In Chinese and U.S. shops alike, consumers simply assume that ivory trinkets are legal, and there is no way for law enforcement to prove that any particular item was made after 1989. Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, says there’s only one real solution: “We need to learn from history and permanently shut down all ivory trade — international and domestic.

The End Consumer

Why is Ivory so popular in China?

A carved ivory ship model

Ivory is often used to make elaborate and expensive ornaments in China.

In China and Hong Kong, ivory is seen as precious material and is used in ornaments and jewelry. It’s also sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Some rich Chinese people think that owning ivory makes them look more successful. Others think that ivory will bring them good luck.

China has the biggest ivory trade in the world and wildlife experts believe that around 70 per cent of the world’s ivory ends up there.

It is said that buyers of ivory don’t understand they have blood on their hands. That notion is startling given where we are in the timeline of civilization and the increasingly global dissemination of knowledge.  Conservation efforts have never reached so far and wide through media as they do today.  So how can people not know about the tragedy behind their white gold trinkets? Accountability for this gross misconception seems to lie with the Chinese government.


But from uncovering this bizarre ignorance, change has been set into motion.  A variety of conservation campaigns have been aimed at educating the middle class — those most likely to purchase ivory.  People who have seen these campaigns, such as posters depicting how an elephant’s life is sacrificed to harvest their tusks, are far less likely to purchase ivory products.  Japan was previously the largest demander of ivory, before organizations and celebrities raised awareness and reduced the consumption by 99 percent.

“Elephant teeth” is the direct translation of the Chinese word for ivory, xiangya, and it’s possible this has contributed to the idea that elephants are not harmed during ivory harvesting — an IFAW survey revealed that 70 percent of Chinese polled did not know that ivory was plucked from murdered elephants.


Beijing’s master ivory carvers cling to a controversial art

Beijing (CNN)When Li Chunke started carving ivory in 1964, the number of elephants in Africa was still on the rise. Demand for ivory in China was practically non-existent and tusks could be bought for under $7 a kilogram.

Today, this figure is closer to $1,100 — according to research by Save the Elephants.

But while this marks a significant increase over the course of Li’s career, the price of coveted xiangya (elephant teeth) has almost halved over the last 18 months.

An endangered art form?

Conservationists have welcomed the recent drop in demand, attributing it to awareness campaigns and President Xi Jinping’s commitment to abolish the ivory trade in China.

But for 65-year-old Li, these changing attitudes threaten an ancient art form and the livelihoods of many carvers.  “Ivory carving represents Chinese traditional culture” he says, sipping green tea in his small apartment in Beijing. “Chinese people love it because it is an ancient skill — it’s a practice that belongs to the imperial arts.”

At the state-owned factory where he spent his five-decade career, Li would sculpt everything from small trinkets to full-length tusks adorned with classical scenes.

Hong Kong to phase out ivory trade

Alternative raw materials to ivory

Legal restrictions mean that he is rarely able to keep raw ivory at his home.  Nonetheless, on the far side of his living room I find a small workshop besieged by chisels, drill bits and tools.  Some are electronic, but the majority are simple hand tools — the sort he trained with. From the clutter, Li picks out figurines carved from a variety of different materials.

Ivory’s rare combination of density and smoothness makes it ideal for intricate carving, but there are alternatives. Hippo, narwhal and walrus tusks possess similar qualities.  “When we don’t have ivory, we also use beeswax and agarwood,” he explains.

Li shows me a small horse statuette and an ancient goddess fashioned from a piece of mammoth tusk — an ivory substitute excavated from the Siberian permafrost.

“When we made carvings for export [in the 1960s] the products had to represent Chinese traditional culture — it was merchandise,” he recalls. “Now I can carve on any theme, including religion and modern life.”

Hong Kong’s illegal ivory trade exposed

Legal vs. illegal ivory trade

Since retiring from the factory in 2013, Li estimates he makes fewer than 10 carvings a year, and can spend as long as two months on a single item.  He appears despondent about elephant poaching and the black market that are now associated with his industry.  “We are legal ivory-carving professionals,” he says. “The ivory we used was from natural deaths. We ought to protect wildlife. I like animals and I’ve kept a puppy as a pet.  I find it shocking that elephants are killed by men.”

With the worldwide ban on ivory in 1989, factories like Li’s were able to stay open, as China still permitted domestic trade. A licensing system allowed the continued import of tusks sourced from natural elephant deaths and police seizures.

But the distinction between legal and illegal trade is becoming blurred, say conservationists.  A 2011 investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found that almost 60% of licensed vendors and carving factories in China were involved in black market trade.

A high-profile campaign featuring former basketball star Yao Ming argues that all ivory consumption — even the licensed trade — feeds the cycle of killing.  “Yao Ming’s ‘no buying, no killing’ is only partly right — we still have to think about the inheritance of traditional Chinese culture,” Li says.  “Of course, the raw material can be replaced by alternatives, which is why my students also use woods and jade. But some of the nuances of carving — ones that can only be reflected in ivory — are at risk.”

Carvers are turning to ivory substitutes including beeswax, agarwood and even mammoth tusk dug up from Siberian permafrost.

Carvers are turning to ivory substitutes including beeswax, agarwood and even mammoth tusk dug up from Siberian permafrost.

Rise in demand for mammoth tusks

On the other side of central Beijing, one of Li’s students, Li Jiulong (no relation), leads me into his small, dusty workshop. The 26-year-old shares the space with four other apprentices. A fellow carver sits practicing her technique on a small block of wood, her engravings guided by ink markings.

Work surfaces are arranged in a square, each littered with hand tools for breaking down large chunks of tusk and more accurate electronic ones for finer details.  While his master is old enough to ignore the diminishing demand for ivory, the younger Li must keep his options open.

In addition to his apprenticeship he is also undertaking a master’s degree which sees him working with lacquer — a traditional colored finish applied to wood.  He can obtain ivory through “the proper channels,” but Li spends much of his time carving other materials, including mammoth tusks.

“These tusks have been buried underground for a long time, which can cause cracks and change their color,” he explains, sketching out their differing patterns of grain on a piece of paper. “They would [originally have been] white like the elephant tusks, but they’re also more compact than normal ivory.”

Imports of mammoth tusks from Hong Kong (the main route bringing them in from Russia) has more than tripled since 2000. But the young apprentice retains some hope for traditional ivory carving, despite the recent drop in demand.

“It’s true that ivory won’t be huge business in the future but it won’t vanish. It is part of our cultural heritage,” he says.  “It will survive and keep its place,” he argues.

Abstract from: 




What is the “elephant” that is not in the room? Literally.

We can see what they do.  Can we see why it happens?
What do we not understand as yet?

What would that silent voice say to us?

When The Economy Speaks … Cracking the Botswana Productivity Code. Short Notes.




30 Oct 2017

In its 2015 survey of African workers, South Africa’s Rand Merchant Bank found Batswana to be the laziest on the continent.  The problem is actually more acute than that.

In the 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Report, Botswana scores the worst among the 137 countries that are tracked by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) on 12 pillars of economic competitiveness.  From a list of 16 factors, respondents to the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey were asked to select the five most problematic factors for doing business in their country and to rank them between 1 (most problematic) and 5.  The results were then tabulated and weighted according to the ranking assigned by respondents.  One of those factors is “Poor work ethic in national labour force.”

With a score of 19, Botswana’s national workforce (which would include those in the public and private sector as well as NGOs) emerge as standard bearers of the poorest work ethic in the world survey.  Also doing poorly are Trinidad & Tobago (15.9), Brunei (14.4), Sri Lanka (11.1), Liberia (10.8), Bhutan (10.5), Seychelles (10.1), Malta (9.8), Georgia (9.7), Mauritius and Vietnam (9.5), Namibia (9.3), Bahrain (9.0), Kuwait (8.7) and United Arab Emirates and Jamaica (8.6).

WEF’s interest in labour productivity has to do with the fact that it impacts on business. A University of Botswana study by Professor John Makgala and Dr. Phenyo Thebe (“There is no Hurry in Botswana”: Scholarship and Stereotypes on “African time” Syndrome in Botswana, 1895-2011”) found that this lack of productivity has frustrated effort to attract foreign direct investment. Interestingly, there was a time when, according to literature that the authors quote, Botswana’s civil service “was generally believed to be the most efficient in the whole of the African continent.”

On a past trip to Singapore, former and late President Sir Ketumile Masire gained an appreciation on the efficiency of the country’s workers. Where a Motswana factory worker would produce one shirt within a given period of time, a Singaporean counterpart would produce six within the same period.

“This was productivity not in theory but in demonstrable terms.  When we say we are not productive, this is what we meant,” Masire recalled to Sunday Standard in 2015 of this experience which would lead to Botswana benchmarking with Singapore and delegations from the two countries travelling back and forth.

As one of the Four Asian Tigers, Singapore would provide one quarter of the inspiration to establish the Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC). The tigers are Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. Along the way, however, the late president appears to have given up on ever inculcating the right work ethic in Batswana. On assessing the apparent resistance, he determined that Batswana’s poor work ethic was a result of their pastoralism.

“If you look at the life of pastoralists, they don’t have a good work ethic,” he had said.  The example he had cited was that beyond sinking a borehole for their livestock, letting out cattle to pasture and doing some other undemanding work, most of the time pastoralists are just lazing about as their cattle graze untended in the bush.  By Masire’s analysis, this is the work ethic that has been bequeathed to modern-day Botswana.

As a University of Botswana study shows, not one productivity intervention scheme by the government has produced the desired results. In his 2015/16 budget speech, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo, lamented the low levels of labour productivity in Botswana.  The best performers in terms of work ethic in the national labor force are from Zimbabwe and Venezuela underpinned by a perfect score.

Source: Sunday Standard.  http://www.sundaystandard.info/batswana-have-worst-work-ethic-world-%E2%80%93-report Retrieved May 23, 2018

Productivity Systemic Story by Ranking

Table 1:  Comparison of Botswana with 2017’s Best Global Labour Productivity Data




  1. An economic system defines the mechanism of production, distribution and allocation of goods, services and resources in a society/country with defined rules and policies about ownership and administration.
  2. The most commonly followed economic system is modern-day capitalism.  It was based on a framework to secure supply of the key elements required for industry – land, machinery and labor.  A disruption in any of these would lead to increased risk and loss for the venture.


  1. Socialists viewed this commoditization of labor as an inhuman practice.  I am of the view, that those words are distinctively that of the female voice possibly lending itself from Marx’s known instances of showing great sympathy for peasants, and especially women, as important forces for change within Marx’s theory (and quite possibly marks the genesis of a matriarchal society – even so where women leads quietly from behind the scenes often as a response to survive in the face of absent males who  have needed to travel long distances to work in the agriculture and mining industries – and so have become increasingly ‘masculinized’).
  2. These, I believe, led to the birth of Karl Marx’s idealism on socialism and socialist economies across a few countries.

    • How does a socialist economy work?
    • The starting point to this form of economy is three-fold typically:
      • The country has substantial access to wealth generated by mining underground mineral and fossil fuel resources and which is demanded by other world economies and is traded in exchange for income;
      • Or it has traditionally enjoyed a monarchy and/or a pastoral economy and access to substantive land spaces that allows it to multiply livestock and warm crops (that does not require as much attention compared to cold crops) at rates faster than the rate at which the human population multiples with relative ease.  The monarchy supports its people when they ask for help and assist in distributing the wealth in the form of  shared resources (such as land) or meat and food as needed.
      • Either ways, the population therefore, has a tradition and work ethics unlike that of the farmers in parts of Asia, such as southern China where rice cultivation can be an intricate, laborious, multi-seasonal in a year and since the majority of whom have limited resources, they have learned to improve the returns on their labor by “becoming smarter, being collaborative, by being better managers of their own time, and by making better choices.”  In other words, more than simply working hard, they worked intelligently and strategically.  Cultures “shaped by the tradition of wet-rice agriculture and meaningful work” tend to produce students with the fortitude to “sit still long enough” to find solutions to time-consuming and complex math problems, for instance.  As such hard work given this context, can easily be perceived as more difficult than usual and therefore quite possibly regarded as inhumane.
        Source: “Rice Paddies and Math Tests,” Malcolm Gladwell
    • There are three prominent characteristics of the socialist economy:
      • That the goods and services are produced based on usage value or for their usefulness (subject to the needs of the society, and so preventing under-production and over-production).  Therefore, it eliminates the need for a demand-based market for products to be sold at a profit.   This is completely different from the common capitalist economic system, where goods and services are produced by economies of scale to generate profit and capital accumulation.  In this way, it discourages accumulation, which is assumed to be the root cause of wealth imbalance across the society.
      • It is a financial system based on the public or cooperative ownership of production.  Socialism, similar to communism, advocates that the means of production be owned by the people, either through a state-controlled agency or worker cooperative; or else property/capital might be commonly owned by the society as a whole, with delegation to representatives.  Socialist economies discourage private ownership.  For example, this includes having a mostly state-run economy, subsistence farming on lands purposed for shared or communal use, a national health-care program, government- paid (i.e. free) education at all levels, subsidized housing, utilities, entertainment and even subsidized food programs.   These subsidies compensate for the low salaries of workers, making them better off than their international counterparts in many other countries.
      • Socialism also believes that wealth and income should be shared more equally among people.  Therefore, perceiving the receipt of income as an entitlement rather than merit is acceptable within all levels of society.  “If you have it, then I should have it too.”  Taken to an extreme, that would not bode well for productivity, would it?  It therefore becomes a misnomer to say that socialism and free market economies can realistically co-exist. However, the main goal of socialism is to narrow, but not totally remove, the gap between the rich and the poor.  The government, through its agencies and policies, takes the responsibility to redistribute production and wealth, making the society fairer and leveled.
    • The consequences of the above, are as follows:
      • The economy relies on sectors whose productive practices are not apparent to the masses or there is heavy reliance on machinery and technology such as in mineral extraction and processing, real-estate and passive income business practices such as multi-level marketing. The social environment makes it difficult for the general masses to imbibe productive work ethics and practices, to a point of shunning and even dismissing those who may display such practices;
      • The dominant trade offered by the masses to foreigners and professional include domestic maid services and guard duty security services.  Neither of these services train the individual learn to generate income but rather protect and consume resources that are already there.  The element of hard work is for the most part, removed.
      • Significant masses of citizens make purchases primarily do so, not to support entrepreneurial growth but to ensure redistribution of wealth, i.e. flows from professionals, foreign investors or expatriates operating within the system to the citizens;
      • The system works on ‘forces’ that facilitate the flow of money from those who have to those who do not and who are then, in turn, amply rewarded, even if with kind words.  The following are used intentionally or otherwise, to draw special notice to it to facilitate the flow to:
        • The informal business sector with standard essential products the masses use such as airtime, sweets, fat cakes, essential foods such as vegetables, meat and milk, drinks, cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.  A significant part of the income from the sector is used with a view to make ends meet rather than necessarily to grow an enterprise.  Growing large enterprises is shunned unintentionally or perceived as too difficult and would cause the ‘flow’ within the system to slow down to accumulate or even stop.  Most therefore stay as self-employees for life which makes for ‘things’ to be easier.
        • Citizen businesses rotate two monthly to allow more to gain access to government purchase schemes (catering, uniforms, supplies, etc.) before relinquishing the turn to the next ‘business’ in the queue.  We shame or shun who otherwise overstay their dues or are engaged in sales (who are too active and over the top and are perceived as being impatient and rude to wait their turn and is therefore callous and uncultured) or even make claims they are engaged in corrupt ways.
        • Young women who have young children often present subtle pressures as to one is more deserving than others to receive help and to come to one’s aid by virtue of the number of children one has mothered or the shanty standards of living one has unfortunately fallen into.
        • Women who are open to offering sexual favours in return
        • The youth or the orphaned child
        • The disabled
        • The disenfranchised or the ostracized
        • The man who has fathered large numbers of children and is unemployed or is a self-employee.
        • The royalty and therefore are naturally privileged to entitlements
        • When left untreated, these creates the perfect conditions for the growth of beggary as an acceptable occupation on the streets during the day and crime by night.


  1. Botswana’s real labour productivity per capita (when measuring the employed population’s output excluding value added by mining and real-estate sectors, against the total population of the country for a truer reflection of real per capita income of the country) is USD 2.2 per hour or USD 18 per day, and that is, before deducting costs of operations.  Luxembourg sets the pace as the global labour productivity leader at USD 93.4 per hour or USD 747 per day (or USD 16,437 per month).  At this rate, Botswana’s productivity (and therefore wealth) lags (falls behind by) at 30-40x behind that of Luxembourg.
  2. It makes one wonder, that in our efforts to avoid capitalism, apparent inhuman labour practices, wealth accumulation, and for that perfect equality in the distribution of income, at what cost have we done so?  Will our efforts to transform the manufacturing and industrialization sectors OR efforts to diversify the economy (from the tried and tested) gain traction without understanding the underlying forces that detract us from such efforts?
  3. The Question Is.
    • Would we rather continue this way as business as usual and dragging a burgeoning burden on the state in the process?
    • Would citizens know how big that burden is or what that would become of and cause to the state?
    • Would it help citizens of the country, see and learn what these distinctions stand for and what that would mean for them?
      Gaining such understanding in our mind would mean gaining the power in our hands.  If you can imagine it, then you can create it.


  1. However, this would deter organizations from worlds that practice capitalism, wanting to be a part of such an economic system.  These are organizations that grew their wealth by virtue of merits of their performance, have withstood the test of time being measured by defined standards and rates of growth of income and wealth and believed in reducing costs of production to accumulate business wealth so as to grow the economy.
  2. Interestingly, no pure socialist, pure capitalist or pure communist economy exists in the world today.  All economic system changes were introduced with a big bang approach and had to make “adjustments” to allow appropriate modifications as the situation developed.
  3. Eventually most state-run subsidies without high productivity standards, become insufficient to support the numerous social programs.  Despite perhaps, enormous aid received from outside itself, high poverty levels continues to persist, widening the gap of rich and poor, and becoming a massive burden on social programs.
  4. A reform will often aim to shift towards a mixed economy that would allow free-market mechanisms, remove government control of small businesses, lay off unnecessary state workers and make self-employment easier allowing up to 40% of the government workforce to move into the private sector, enabling the inception of income tax payment, which in turn will lead to more self-reliance.
  5. In the short-run, to relieve the income pressures of the economy, policies may be aimed at bringing in higher foreign investment. Tax-free special development zones are introduced for foreign companies to conduct business freely and allow transfer of tariff-free profits abroad, among other benefits. This may cause a significant change from the central “socialist” planning.  However, this cannot act as a substitute for it.
  6. Fundamental changes, however, will call for reforms (yes, even if it is aimed at our own citizens), designed to allocate wages based on  citizen or worker productivity.  Not rank.  Not seniority.  Till citizens see the direct link between their productivity and the national and personal incomes, the transformation will not be complete.


Socialist economies across the globe have existed and continue to progress. However, there may not be any standard pure socialist economy remaining.  Timely, fundamental shifts in programs and policies have allowed such economies to thrive and flourish – China being the world leader among them.  The ones taking a rigid stand are facing severe problems or developing parallel markets.

Source: Socialist Economies: How China, Cuba And North Korea Work | Investopedia https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/081514/socialist-economies-how-china-cuba-and-north-korea-work.asp#ixzz5GKkjPmXQ
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Newspaper Column #3: Is unemployment, the real problem? The Story of Supply of Labour – Part III

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Nov 4, 2012 edition.

Labour is a cost

It can assist to generate revenue but it is firstly, a cost.  When we add them up, it can rack up into billions of dollars.  Easily.

Hence a situation of ‘that we have labour’, will not be enough reason why ‘jobs will be created’.  The jobs need to be paid.  When the money dries up, including borrowings, so does the job.  This will happen in the same way for any country.

The supply of labour however remains unchanged.  They are either more who are employed or more who are unemployed.

Next, think bottleneck.

When the supply of labour exceeds the demand for it, the demand becomes the ‘neck’ of the bottle.  It narrows the uptake of the supply. Competition and waiting for jobs are the inevitable consequences of the bottleneck.  As we release the bottleneck competition disappears.  And so would unemployment.

We would therefore require solutions on both sides of the ‘neck’ to solve the problem of persistent unemployment.

In the past two week’s editions of this column, we introduced two factors that influence persistent unemployment.  Should we create new jobs (i.e. there is demand for labour), unemployment goes down.  Should however, the numbers of births and immigration (i.e. the supply of labour) go up over time, so does unemployment.

We also discussed that the ability of sectors to create jobs is influenced by the health of profit margins of three interrelated industries, i.e. the primary, secondary and tertiary industries.   We discussed when the primary industry grows; they help to grow the secondary industries which in in turn help to grow the tertiary industries.

At this point, unemployment becomes resolved.  Hard as it may sound, it is a solution we cannot ignore.  The easy way out, would lead us back in, one way.  Back to the problem.

In today’s edition of the column, we explore the story of the supply side of unemployment and its solution.

This becomes important to help us see solutions that are digging us in deeper into the problem.  It will be ironical that what we had hoped will help the situation could actually be making them worse.  Things become better before they become worse.  At that point, we would have a situation spiralling out of hand.

A case in point is, if there are more of us than there are jobs available, skilling people without creating jobs will not make unemployment go away.  I know we do not like to hear this.  And neither do I.

Jobs do not stay vacant.  They are going to others.  And yes, while the best man may win, there is another man (or woman) out there.  That is the point.

If the problem does not budge despite resources, then it is a sign that all what we have done was to apply a solution to the consequence of the problem but not to its cause.  To deal with the cause, we would need to pull ourselves away from the fire to notice where the gas pipe is coming from.  A fireman cannot help us at this stage.

Supply of Labour

What causes the increase in the supply of labour?

One might say, well that’s easy.  It is caused by migration.  Well, that is certainly true.   For the short term.  Migration is just that.  Sometimes they are in.  And sometime they are out.

Sustained long-term increase in the supply of labour is caused by the rates at which locals add births to the population numbers within the country.   This impact is pre-determined.  It cannot be changed,  its effects are not felt immediately but they were set into motion twenty years ago.  They are felt twenty years later when the babies have grown into young adults and are about to join the employment pool of the country.

We therefore do not connect the problem to the cause since they are both distant in time and space from each other.  And when we do not see this relation, we disregard the cause and take the easier way out.  We look at immigration.  This happens for any country.

And so, if unemployment is persistent today, then this is an indication that numbers of those born twenty to thirty years ago and have now joined the labour pool, had been pushing up slowly but steadily.   Yesterday, we rejoiced each birth in our families.  Of course, we were not watching their total consequences on the nation for tomorrow.  Well, not yet.

As a nation, how many persons have we added to the pool of supply in the past forty years?  Yes, it may feel late to ask such a question.  It is meant as a way to face reality.

Let us say, should we produce 5,000 children per month, and that makes it 60,000 babies born in a year, then we can reasonably expect that twenty years from now (and 1.2 million people later), when they grow up, we would need to be preparing for an additional 60,000 jobs (given gender equality) for that cohort.

This is in addition to those already employed prior to them.  If we are seeing 30,000 retirees, we are still looking at creating an additional 30,000 or more new jobs for the cohort.  And do not forget these 60,000 do not stay at producing another 60,000.  Yes?  How many will they produce in ten to fifteen years from now?  That will become tomorrow’s reality.

How much would an additional 30,000 jobs (for that year) cost us?  Don’t forget the other years and other employees.

Who created the children?  You are right.  We did!

Who will create the jobs for them?

Creating Jobs

In a recent project on unemployment in a country, we saw the population of 35 year olds and younger, ballooned six folds in a thirty-year period.  On the other hand, job creation had not risen by anywhere near as much.  The population had disregarded these economic factors.  Of course, we can say, economic and bedroom choices do not always mix.

At rates of six-fold increases, just that layer of the population would quite easily add over another 1/3 million persons by the next generation.  These are figures before immigration.

So what is happening?

In short, we are now attempting to “fight” the problem somewhat oblivious to these realities. We saw the fire. But not what caused it! We had hoped that the supply of labour could influence the demand for labour. But that is just not economics.

Still, I wonder if, as citizens, we can totally absolve ourselves from not understanding these figures and how they play up in our everyday lives.   What do you think?

At some point we would no longer be able to shut our eyes to this.  The reality would soon wake us up, as as we see our children stay unemployed.

Have we come back full circle here?  Who designed this circle of causality?  Is this unique for one country?

What should we do today?

As citizens should we know what these numbers look like for the country?

Understanding this trends, profoundly changes the game plan in many ways.  Firstly, it allows the problem to be solved where it started (the community), not where it ended (government).  There is leverage here, as it allows the greatest changes to happen with the least amount of effort.

I have tended to believe that should citizens understand these numbers, they would become clearer at steering the country out of this problem.  Even by themselves.  These may include making choices such as coming up to speed in ways to create jobs rather than wait for jobs to be created.  Or consider seeking employment outside the country.  It is the go-getter attitude by such individuals that will eventually help draw revenue to any country and themselves.

That’s for today.  How may we better prepare ourselves for tomorrow?

Families are key

We could actually become better at matching birth with job creation rates.  Knowing these trends, may free us as families, to consider channelling resources to the building of the primary industries of the economy.  This is a strong system of production of raw materials for all levels of the economy.  Farmers, and growers of raw materials, who see this impact beyond putting food on their table for their family, are beginning to pay attention to this systemic reality.  Production is now greater than consumption in the country.

When they do so, the family is now taking a step towards ensuring that jobs are more likely to be created at other levels of the economy, for the children we produce.  We may find that as more resources are allocated to primary industry production (and less to child production) we become better at learning to manage our population numbers more in line with the capacity of the country to produce jobs for our children.  There is an order in which causality happens.

Unemployment, at that point, stops becoming a problem.

How do you see this issue?  Given the above, do we need to understand the picture that is happening for the country today?  What’s stopping families allocating resources to primary industries?

Go forward another twenty years from now.  What trends would you like to see?  For our families?  The economy?  And our country?  For employment?

Hope this inspires discussion amongst your family and friends for ways you see us resolve this issue.

English: US Whig poster showing unemployment i...

English: US Whig poster showing unemployment in 1837 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Newspaper Column #1: Is unmployment the real problem – Part I

As it appeared in the Sunday Standard, Botswana on  Sunday Oct 21, 2012 edition (maiden print).

This is the 1st of a three part series of this article.  Each part will build on the earlier article to an eventual conclusion.  We invite you to participate in the column as well as do your ‘own homework’ – searching and discussing to build your own conclusions.

When unemployment persists (hard as it is to admit it is happening)

Persistent unemployment, in any country is a consequence of two factors.

The rate of increase of supply of labour (birth rates from twenty years ago) relative to the rate of increase in the demand for labour (job creation rates of today).  In jest, it is a mismatch of rates of child creation of the past vs. rates of job creation today.

Should the rate of demand for labour exceed supply year on year; we would have full employment of the locals and perhaps be able to employ foreigners as well.  However, should supply of labour persistently outgrow demand; we would now have a classic case of persistent unemployment.

When we, as citizens, learn to watch these two behaviours of change as a nation over time then we should expect to resolve the issue of unemployment.   For good.

When we don’t, and we are oblivious to the reason, all we can expect to do is to play a catching-up game but not solve the problem.  It stays on the charts as a stubborn problem, usually on the President’s table, worsening over time.  This is, despite efforts from all quarters to run ahead of the problem or get to the root of the issue.  Not to say, we hear persistent disgruntlement amongst the locals about the lack of employment opportunities for the youth or for those employed the lack of pay rises and we harbour fears of jobs being taken away by foreigners.


Sustained Growth of Supply of Labour > Sustained Growth of Demand for Labour

= Sustained Unemployment

[Insert graphic here]

These two factors are not directly related to each other, but they each

 influence unemployment, separate as they may be.

But what led things to get this far?

What causes the demand for labour to decline relative to the supply of labour?  And what causes the supply of labour to increase relative to the demand for it?

First let’s explore the supply side.

Here’s a case in example.  In the ten years to 2010, Vietnam saw its population numbers grow from 80 to 89 million.  Growth of population numbers and more typically birth and migration numbers influence the supply side of this equation.  Job creation on the other hand, did not see such levels of growth.  The result is, we see runaway unemployment in the country.

Closer to home, while, population numbers in the country do not compare anywhere close to those we see in Vietnam, still when we look beyond the overall numbers, there are interesting data that we cannot ignore.

We know the overall population numbers have grown somewhat from 1.5 to 2 million levels over a decade.  Given however, the concerns of mortality rates one may conclude that our population numbers have not really changed all that much to warrant the unemployment levels we see in the country.

But realistically … has the supply of labour declined over time?

Births rates from twenty years ago, leads to the supply of labour and therefore the unemployment numbers we see today.

When we remove population and mortality figures and see our fertility rates, we may notice that these numbers have not been all that low.  In fact, typically in most populations, each generation outnumbers the previous one.  Think of population pyramid, where the numbers of young born are in numbers greater than older persons in the population.  But also see population pyramids for more recent decades assuming wider bases than those in previous ones.

Such trends are not apparent when we gloss over overall population data.  Yes, there is migration data.  But we cannot shut our eyes to these sheer levels of increase.

Do we know by how much such numbers have grown?  In the country?  In the region?

A separate question is, when should we start noticing such increases?  Would it be when the young turn 20 years old and are now looking for a job and they complain they cannot find one?

That will be too late!

We would now instead be dealing with “a fire” in our hands.  Youth unemployment rather than employment.  Yet it really is a problem that had its embers simmering for the past 20 years.  Quietly but surely.  But we were not watching it, till the embers had blown over and we now have a fire in our hands.  At this point, we say, we have a problem.  A burning platform.  But the signs were long there.  If we push this now, the system will push back.

Ok it has not.  And … has the demand for labour increased by such levels during this period?

If it has, we should not see sustained unemployment.  This is indicative that the demand for labour has not matched such levels.

How much has it increased by?  Perhaps more importantly, how much would it need to increase by?  Two-folds?  Six-folds?  What do you see are the answers?  What is making it difficult to get there?

Interestingly, should we think carefully about both sides of the equation, that is, the jobs and the children we create are influenced by the same segment of the population.  The Adults.

While perhaps we may argue that these’ activities are carried out’ by different sub-segments of the adult population, it is still the sole prerogative of this group.  The problem may not belong to any one part of this group, i.e. government or private sector or families.  That sounds like the bad news.  That it was our fault (in any generation).  But the good news is if we created the problem, then we also have the ‘power’ in our hands and in our hearts to turn it around (yes, even as a citizen) for the nation.  Together.

So is unemployment, still the real problem?  How do you see this issue?  Go forward another twenty years from now.  What would these trends look like then?

Yes, you are right given this, the reality looks painful for our children too.  But I also know, if anyone can turn this around, it is us!

The 2nd and 3rd articles in this three part series will appear in the next edition of this column.   It will seek to explore the story of the demand and supply sides of labour respectively more deeply and what causes them to either grow or decline over time.



Countries by birth rate in 2008World map showing countries by nominal GDP per...

While this is her maiden newspaper column, Ms Sheila Damodaran is an avid writer on her blogs and website.   An international consultant in the use of systemic thinking for regional or sectoral strategy development, she welcomes feedback on her column as well as requests for types of persistent issues you wish to see discussed in her column at sheila@loatwork.com.  For more information, refer to www.loatwork.com.

Regional Article 23: Unemployment, labour disputes, economic diversification and fertility


Most countries think supply of labour should drive demand.  We forget then (or choose not to admit to ourselves) that it is demand that drives supply in any situation.  Not the other way around.  It is just not realistic to believe that because we have so many ‘young ones’ here, that there should be jobs out there for them.  But we do.  The two however are not related in reality.  But we ‘force that relationship in our minds’.

When we dug for data over time, to our surprise we were noticing that unlike what the country thought, its population was not declining.  Yes, it’s overall population numbers may be dropping to attrition due to deaths (in part speeded up along by HIV/AIDs) and migration.  However, its fertility rate on the other hand had been quite high and continues to grow.

English: Total Fertility Rate vs GDP per capit...

English: Total Fertility Rate vs GDP per capita (2009, USD). Only countries with over 5 Million population were plotted to reduce outliers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what was causing its fertility rates to increase?

This was in part driven by a few reasons.

The first, and the least inconspicuous of the three was a hidden matriarchal system (the mothers and women here wield more power than it thought).  This was fuelled by fears of security they held on to as young women themselves as they watched their husbands leave them for long-term employment in mines in neighbouring countries and had to learn to cope to fend for themselves and their children very quickly.  Over time, this evolved to driving their children to produce more children in the belief that the more there are children within one’s own family, the more potential the family had in  eventually bringing in income from their lands and the economy.  It was a long-term retirement plan for the women. (Need for Security on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)

Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Diagram of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Men on the other hand, played a hand in this too, each trying to outdo the other in producing children.  The more children he had, the better a man he was going to be in the eyes of the persons around him.  It was an immediate gratification or ego trip for the men (Need for Ego / Belonging on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)

These children in turn grew up over time, seeing a world where they knew who were their friends and who were their enemies and this line was drawn up by who is within their core family and who was outside it (to a point it sometimes included the fathers who bore them).  This often meant that as they grew up they were learning not to ‘let go of the families they were born into’ enough to build long-term relationships with their spouses (someone who is ‘outside’ their families) and their in-laws to help build core family systems (husband, wife and their children) for themselves.   It was the need for maintaining or finding sense of belonging for the child or security in the familiarity or long-term childhoodness which sometimes perpetuated in older age as girlfriendhood or boyfriendhood syndrome and the need in not having to assume responsibilities for the consequences of one’s actions.  (Need for Security on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs)

The core Brodie family (L-R: Adeeb, Leyla, Con...

The core Brodie family (L-R: Adeeb, Leyla, Conor, Michael, Nicole) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hence this meant the demise of the core family system and the growth and existence of the extended family as a support system for the individuals.  Today, these numbers are rising up to 70% levels.  Less than 30% levels of the population stay married and these numbers continue to decline.

However, when core families do not develop within the system, the system (particularly the males) does not learn a key lesson of life which is “what it takes to hold, build and share perspectives outside its comfort zones needed for a more “collaborative, extended and systemic organizations and industrial relations” and therefore the birth and growth of corporations (by the locals).

This would lead locals themselves particularly as the males to learn to build (not just participate) the economy.  For men to do so, it is in part as a result of the type of relation he enjoys with his spouse (but not his mother).  The more intimate the couple is emotionally (not just physically), the greater is his sense of resilience and motivation he is able to gain to meet and overcome the challenges he would face in the world of businesses and the economy.

Sir Robert Hotung, with his 3 generations of e...

Sir Robert Hotung, with his 3 generations of extended family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so, when the economy does not grow, it is unable to create more jobs within the economy (as revenues are declining as much as costs may be rising) and therefore, unemployment continues to exist and worsens in the face of growing population numbers (fertility) which means the family in turn finds more of its people are not participating in the economy and therefore able to bring in resources into it. When this part of a man’s life is not growing, he becomes more conservative and reserved and succumbs to addictions, substance abuses and violence and a general disregard for respect for themselves and others.  The signals a death knell for the economy.   The organized economy suffers.  The subsistence economy takes over.

Gradually, this in turn leads women to bear children outside of marital relations (most children born in this country are born to women who are not married and that trend is rising).

In the mind of the woman, bearing a child to a man (particularly if he has the means to support relative to herself) would ensure a somewhat steady source of income for their family through their children (sometimes to the point of coercing the father of the child to continue to bear expenses for it and the family) or it stops the existing male persons within the extended family to build relations outside his family in order to support the needs of the family (to children and sisters who are not married).

Have we come full circle yet?  Do you see the vicious circle?

How would we treat this vicious problem?

Can the government realistically solve this problem?

Do not expect to learn to solve the problem, if one did not create the problem!


Sectoral Article 22: Not enough manpower! Where did all the good men go?

Regional Article 20: Why do disputes by labor (with unions) and employers go up?

  1. Despite our efforts to set up judiciary courts to preside over cases involving employers and employees embroiled in disputes with each other as well as educate ‘people’ on ways to avoid disputes with each other, why do relations between employers and employees continue to sour and such disputes tend to soar year after year?  Surely, it should have made a dent to the trend by now.  If not, why so?   As this forces us to allocate even further public resources to it the following year!
  2. Think how much money we have poured (country after country) to ‘douse the flames and put out the smoke’ after thirty, forty, fifty years of working at our industrial relation efforts.  Has that been little amount of money?
  3. So why do things not change?
  4. Will it get better?  Or can it get worse?

Why do things happen that way?  Why are such trends resisting our efforts to control it (for the sake of up-liftment of our economies, we would argue)?

Regional Article 17: Is unemployment real?


In a country, where levels of unemployment stay persistent over time, then it is a sign that the rates of growth of the supply of labour (population numbers -” child creation”) each year is growing at rates faster than the rate of growth of the demand for labor  (job creation).  And we as a nation are not noticing these two trends.  Period.

When the supply consistently outstrips demand over time, we have persistent unemployment.  It is an unhealthy situation (as we would have with when supply of manufactured goods exceeds their demand we would have a drop in prices, when supply of rainfall exceeds demand for water, we have  rising water levels, when supply of migrant influx exceeds rate of city planning we have slums, and so on).  Unemployment is a function of how these two variables are behaving relative to each other.  Period.

And should the problem be led by the supply of labour, we need to be realistic to expect that the demand for labour (be they by job vacancies by the private (employment) or the government sectors (education, employment) will grow fast enough to overtake and get rid of the state unemployment in the country.  Seeing scenes of citizens walking the streets looking for jobs is here to stay.  Period.  Again.

What influences the supply of labor?

The rate of supply of labour is influenced by the rate of the population’s growth (i.e. procreation).  The only issue is the supply we see today of twenty and thirty-year olds in the labour market, was set into motion twenty or thirty years ago.  By the population.  The children born then have today become the youth and labour of today …. and therefore today’s unemployment.

In most cases, the populace do not see the relationship of the birth-rates of yesteryears (well pretty much like what happens between the sheets and the timing of births) and much less so their impacts on the labor supply for tomorrow.  It is and is likely to stay “unrelated” in our minds for as long as these inter-relationships are not raised and discussed by all.  Instead, our mind replaces that (“vacuüm in our) thought by fears of our survival or security for our future should “if “the one, two or three” dies or moves away tomorrow?” (this is the voice of the grandmother in the lesser developed  countries).  So, we multiply … mindlessly.

But there is a misconception and it is unfortunate!

Supply does not drive the demand for labour.  This  means, that ‘should there be excess labour’, it is not to say that the demand for labour should go up.  It could go up for compassionate reasons but not on economic grounds.  We forget that in reality, it is the demand for labour that drives its supply.  Period.

What influences the demand for labour?

I sometimes joke, it is often easier to “create children” than it is to “create jobs”.   But in both cases,  the “jobs” are done by the “same person” – Adults.  So well, how is it then that we do not see how we are attempting to solve a problem we have created by our own volition?

Also the mind that ‘looks for a job’ for oneself to feed my children, is not the mind that learns to ‘create jobs’ for others, including for our children.

So it is the fault of the ‘bosses’ for not creating jobs, or the ‘fault of the rest of us’ for not thinking about creating jobs for others (while we are busy trying to find one for ourselves)?

What influences our ability to create  jobs?

It is dependent on the propensity by the same adults of the country to grow the economy, i.e. the private sector.  It includes us defining the ability of the country (and sector / industries) to see :

  1. Capital, flow into the economy (and not the family only)
  2. Increase of the economy’s revenue and
  3. Reduction in the costs of running the economy
  4. Diversification of the economy (systemic growth)
As the margin between the two widens, so to does the country’s / industry’s capacity to see:
  1. Creation of further posts for existing employees to progress into
  2. With progression of existing employees in moving to higher level jobs, it leaves the posts vacant for younger entrants (youths) to more easily enter the labour market
  3. More likelihood of higher wages increase across the board for all

This is dependent on the systemic development (what diversification could look like) of the economy, e.g. the story of the dairy milk production.

So, is this just a case of “not enough jobs”?  Yes? Given what?  We would need to complete the sentence … for everyone!

  1. What should we be doing today to solve the problem of  unemployment?  Who is the ‘we’?  The government?  The private sector?  The public sector?  The citizens?  The male or the man (the demand for labour?)?  The female or the woman (the supply of labour?)?
  2. What, in your view, would  citizens need to understand about these realities before they begin ‘discussions about unemployment’ in the country and to figure their own ways to turn the situation around?
  3. When should we be thinking about the solution to the problem?  When we create the problem or when the problem leads us to another problem?

What are the roles of the wife, mother and the man in turning these situations around?

Which role as a woman does she have an impact on the growing the demand for labour?

Which role does she have an impact on growing the supply of labour?  What is motivating her?

What roles are the men play in each of their relationships with these women?  As the son or the man?

Which role of the man helps grow the demand for labour (job creation) in the economy?

As the son or the man?

But this reasoning almost also begs the question, what were we doing when ‘the spark’ sparked the problem?

Sleeping, you say?

Ahh ….. SURE!

World map showing countries by nominal GDP per...

unemployment rate

English: unemployement rates in OECD countries...

Image via Wikipedia

English: Unemployment rate in Europe (UE) and ...

Image via Wikipedia

English: selfmade image of U.S. Unemployment r...

Population, Landscape, and Climate Estimates, ...

Population, Landscape, and Climate Estimates, v3: Population Density 1990, Africa (Photo credit: SEDACMaps)

Global: Settlement Points

Global: Settlement Points (Photo credit: SEDACMaps)

National Article 16: So, who is the (real) criminal?

Stressed so I took my boss hostage (thesun.co.uk)

I found this part interesting:

Thompson then tied his victim to a chair and subjected him to a 20-minute ordeal that left Mr Grady suffering depression and post-traumatic stress. He remains off work five months later.

The court heard the worker (Thomson) told his boss: “This is the only way people will listen to me. I told them I was dangerous.

It is painful to be the victim.  So we go after the criminal.

Yet there is no criminal until there is an act of crime.

But, who or what is the cause of the act of crime?

Do our Penal Codes deal with the reasons for the act or the acts themselves?

But if we wish to bring crime down, would it suffice to focus on the acts?

Do you think ‘crime’ and ‘the quality of our listening to each other’ are inter-related?

So can crime necessarily be linked by race, nationality or tribal or is there something deeper veiled by those words that we are not watching (or listening to)?  What is that?

Are the ways we listen to men (or boys), the same as it would be as listening to women (girls)?

By the way, does anyone have data on the overall budget we spend globally to fight crime?

Should we map the budget spent (including for the judicial systems and then incarcerations) against the crime rates over time (see below for a sample), what would the behaviour suggest to us?

Are we winning?

Do you think it is a battle we can win from the police stations?  Then if not, where?

crime trends

crime trends

National Article 15: Is one choosing to work because one needs to eat?

Or does one choose to work because one wants to carve a career (to advance the public or private good) for oneself and for others?

National Article 12: Maybe the name ‘football’ is misleading

Striker Ilja Venäläinen (#10, in yellow) of Ku...

Image via Wikipedia

Because one foot really cannot make a difference to the game till the team is willing to work as a team but more importantly works to defend for its nation.  Yet we all relish that one foot that kicks “the dream goal” to reality!  It is what glues us all to the set and the field, is it not? It is what inspires the “next Pele”.  It is because of that special moment that football clubs around the world hope to attract millions of dollar to its doors: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_missing_graph/4606501458/lightbox/

Heads of States are no exceptions either.  They play into the notion too.  They load promises of pomp and glory to the boys that bring the cup back home or scores the most hits into the opponent’s net.  We even have special awards just for the best player.  More often than not, it goes to the striker!  For that magic foot – ball.

Yet football cannot be won by strikers alone.  This is especially so when the defence is weak.  And it is not difficult to see that the quality of the defence can bring the best striker and even the team down.

Association football (soccer), Bloomington, In...

Image via Wikipedia

What makes a team strong in its defence?  Is it the promise of rewards of winning?  That’s for the striker!  It is easy for a striker to connect a reward with a strike into the net.  The more strikes that are in the more are the rewards.  That’s easy to figure.

But what about the defence?  The defence does not strike in.  It defends or strikes a ball  out!  What moves one to fight for that?  What do you think?

What stops the defence from leaving the defence wide open?  Without  a strategy?  We can’t use rewards to motivate something we do not want.

So then what else will?

National Article 11: A Case of Productivity! Really?

It is classic!

Perhaps we are working longer number of hours but we are also not the most productive.

How is that possible?

Data extracted on 25 Feb 2012 16:34 UTC (GMT) from OECD.Stat
Data from 1979: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/34/42/35205504.pdf
Frequency Annual
Time 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Sort ascendingSort descending Sort ascendingSort descending Sort ascendingSort descending Sort ascendingSort descending Sort ascendingSort descending Sort ascendingSort descending Sort ascendingSort descending Sort ascendingSort descending Sort ascendingSort descending Sort ascendingSort descending Sort ascendingSort descending
AustraliaInformation on item 1 780 1 739 1 732 1 737 1 732 1 727 1 719 1 712 1 717 1 690 1 686
AustriaInformation on item 1 658 1 657 1 652 1 658 1 663 1 652 1 642 1 632 1 620 1 581 1 587
BelgiumInformation on item 1 545 1 577 1 580 1 575 1 549 1 565 1 566 1 560 1 568 1 550 1 551
CanadaInformation on item 1 775 1 768 1 747 1 736 1 754 1 739 1 738 1 738 1 728 1 700 1 702
ChileInformation on item 2 263 2 242 2 250 2 235 2 232 2 157 2 165 2 128 2 095 2 074 2 068
Czech RepublicInformation on item Information on cell 2 092 2 000 1 980 1 972 1 986 2 002 1 997 1 985 1 992 1 942 1 947
DenmarkInformation on item Information on row 1 581 1 587 1 579 1 577 1 579 1 579 1 586 1 570 1 570 1 559 ..
Estonia 1 987 1 978 1 983 1 985 1 996 2 010 2 001 1 999 1 969 1 831 1 879
FinlandInformation on item Information on cell 1 751 1 733 1 726 1 719 1 723 1 716 1 709 1 706 1 704 1 673 1 697
FranceInformation on item Information on row 1 591 1 579 1 537 1 533 1 561 1 557 1 536 1 556 1 560 1 554 ..
GermanyInformation on item 1 473 1 458 1 445 1 439 1 442 1 434 1 430 1 430 1 426 1 390 1 419
GreeceInformation on item Information on row 2 121 2 121 2 109 2 103 2 082 2 086 2 148 2 115 2 116 2 119 2 109
HungaryInformation on item Information on row 2 057 2 011 2 019 1 990 1 993 1 993 1 989 1 985 1 986 1 968 1 961
IcelandInformation on item Information on row 1 885 1 847 1 812 1 807 1 810 1 794 1 795 1 807 1 807 1 716 1 697
IrelandInformation on item 1 719 1 713 1 698 1 671 1 668 1 654 1 645 1 634 1 601 1 549 1 664
IsraelInformation on item .. .. .. .. 1 905 1 989 1 887 1 921 1 898 1 889 ..
ItalyInformation on item 1 861 1 843 1 831 1 826 1 826 1 819 1 815 1 816 1 803 1 772 1 778
JapanInformation on item 1 821 1 809 1 798 1 799 1 787 1 775 1 784 1 785 1 771 1 714 1 733
KoreaInformation on item 2 512 2 499 2 464 2 424 2 392 2 351 2 346 2 306 2 246 2 232 2 193
LuxembourgInformation on item 1 662 1 646 1 635 1 630 1 586 1 570 1 580 1 515 1 555 1 601 1 616
MexicoInformation on item 1 888 1 864 1 888 1 857 1 849 1 909 1 883 1 871 1 893 1 857 1 866
NetherlandsInformation on item 1 435 1 424 1 408 1 401 1 399 1 393 1 392 1 388 1 379 1 378 1 377
New ZealandInformation on item 1 828 1 817 1 817 1 813 1 828 1 811 1 788 1 766 1 750 1 738 1 758
NorwayInformation on item 1 455 1 429 1 414 1 399 1 417 1 420 1 414 1 419 1 423 1 407 1 414
PolandInformation on item 1 988 1 974 1 979 1 984 1 983 1 994 1 985 1 976 1 969 1 948 1 939
PortugalInformation on item 1 765 1 769 1 767 1 742 1 763 1 752 1 757 1 727 1 745 1 719 1 714
Slovak RepublicInformation on item 1 844 Information on cell 1 833 1 780 1 734 1 774 1 785 1 779 1 793 1 790 1 738 1 786
SpainInformation on item Information on row 1 731 1 727 1 721 1 706 1 690 1 668 1 656 1 636 1 647 1 653 1 663
SwedenInformation on item 1 642 1 618 1 595 1 582 1 605 1 605 1 599 1 618 1 617 1 602 1 624
SwitzerlandInformation on item 1 688 1 650 1 630 1 643 1 673 1 667 1 652 1 643 1 640 .. ..
TurkeyInformation on item 1 937 1 942 1 943 1 943 1 918 1 936 1 944 1 911 1 900 1 881 1 877
United KingdomInformation on item 1 700 1 705 1 684 1 674 1 674 Information on cell 1 673 1 668 1 670 1 665 1 643 1 647
West GermanyInformation on item 1 451 1 439 1 428 1 422 1 426 1 419 1 416 1 420 1 417 1 379 1 409
United StatesInformation on item 1 836 1 814 1 810 1 800 1 802 1 799 1 800 1 798 1 792 1 768 1 778
Russian FederationInformation on item 1 982 1 980 1 982 1 994 1 994 1 990 1 999 2 000 1 997 1 973 1 976
OECD countriesInformation on item 1 818 1 802 1 794 1 785 1 783 1 782 1 779 1 773 1 767 1 741 1 749

But wait!  Read between the lines.  It tells us something more that is not obvious immediately!

Pascal Marianna, who is a labour markets statistician at the OECD says: “The Greek labour market is  composed of a large number of people who are self-employed, meaning farmers and shop-keepers who are working long hours.” Self-employed workers tend to work more than those who have specified hours in an employment contract.

The second reason Mr Marianna points to is the different number of part-time workers in each country. “In Germany, the share of employees working part-time is quite high. This represents something like one in four,” he says.  As these annual hours figures are for all workers, the large proportion who work part-time in Germany is bringing down the overall average.

In Greece, far fewer people work part-time. If you account for these factors by stripping away part-time and self-employed people and look only at full-time salaried workers, the Greeks are still working almost 10% more hours than the Germans.

What do you notice?
  1. Which of the two countries do you notice has people who are willing to work for and with others.  Which one is not as willing to do so?  Would that be Germany or would it be Greece?
  2. Which country do you think is more likely to go into debts.  Those whose people could work with each other or those who prefer to work alone?
  3. So, is the story of debts in Greece a surprise or had it all along been ‘a bomb waiting to go off!’?  But the world did not know better?
  4. Which countries in your view would see their revenues far exceeding their costs?  Which ones would not?
  5. What is the price we are paying as a nation?  As the world with the Greece bailouts!

26 February 2012 Last updated at 01:05 GMT Are Greeks the hardest workers in Europe?

By  Charlotte McDonaldBBC News

Europe’s top 10 and bottom 10

Most hours worked Most productive Least hours worked Least productive
1 Greece Luxembourg Netherlands Poland
2 Hungary Norway Germany Hungary
3 Poland Ireland Norway Turkey
4 Estonia Belgium France Estonia
5 Turkey Netherlands Denmark Czech Rep
6 Czech Rep France Ireland Portugal
7 Italy Germany Belgium Slovakia
8 Slovakia Denmark Austria Greece
9 Portugal Sweden Luxembourg Slovenia
10 Iceland Austria Sweden Iceland
The UK ranks 14th both in terms of hours worked and in terms of productivity
Source: OECD

English: OECD member states. Founding member s...

Image via Wikipedia

National Article 10: Do we have “systems” to measure performance because we have lost beliefs in ourselves and others and we cannot talk about the loss?

Without  a belief in oneself and others can we really expect to see performance by oneself, the organization and the country (what about the region, the world) improve over time?

Should, let us say for the sake of argument, that we do not believe in ourselves and others, is there a price that we would end up paying?  What is that?

Should we first :

  1. Setup a system to measure performance?
  2. Wonder what is eroding the beliefs in ourselves and others, what caused it and then work on recovering those beliefs?

Let’s assume we do share  those beliefs with each other.  Would it then become easier for us to set up performance management systems for ourselves and others?  What would they look like then?

Which should come first?

Measurement C

What do you think?

National Article 8: Do we demand pay increments based on what we need to spend on or ….

… what we did to give in generating the revenue or increasing it and more importantly sustaining the increase (so we know we got it right!) so that it would allow the country (or organizations) to pay us increments?

What contributes to the  revenue rising?

More sales (not increased prices – that is not real) and reduced costs, you say?  Sure.

So, let’s go back again.  When should we demand pay increments?

So should the revenue of the country decline, can we prove an increase in pay?

Yet why do such behaviours happen (or why do we let it happen) over and over again?

National Article 7: Is Job Descriptions a cover-up for hiding otherwise our fears or our aspirations at the workplace?

And bound by a belief that our views of the world and our aspirations cannot be ‘brought out into the world for others to see’?

Job descriptions, yes they describe the job we do or that someone should do.  But it is that ubiquitous clause at the end that always says, ‘To carry and obey all lawful orders of persons who have authority either over or within …. or sometimes put more simply: ‘And any other jobs as delineated by the supervisor’ that really nails the deal.

It defines who is the boss, I mean the real parent / master, and who is the child (might I say ‘slave’).

Yes, on a day-to-day basis it lays out clearly the tasks that the supervisee will carry out for the supervisor and serves as a document that makes it clear why payment should either be or not be made out depending on the services carried out as per the document.

There is no dispute to use of that document and its validity for doing so.

It is the effects they have in placing someone ‘in his place’ that we would need to watch out for in the long-term.

[More …. soon.]

National Article 6: When things go wrong, should we “go after” the supply or the demand?

Remember, without demand there will be no supply.  At the marketplace it is the demand (overt or otherwise) that drives supply!

Take anything:

  • Peddling of fake sex drugs
  • Peddling of counterfeit cigarettes
  • Peddling by  prostitutes
  • Addiction to gambling
  • Addiction to alcohol consumption
  • Addiction to smoking
  • Rise of HIV/AIDs epidemic
  • Rise of inflation
  • Price wars
  • Availability of food
  • Availability of water

Can you think of more?

Is going after supply ever going to solve the problem, or do we really do it to help boost the country’s government revenue (charge the one who charges!)?  Or do we do it because it is just easier than going after demand?

When would we solve (once and for all) the problem?

Chasing the supply?  Or the demand?