(MENAFN - Arab News) A NEW STUDY by the World Health Organization suggests that Saudis are lazy people. That sounds like a general statement unsuited to such an international body. How can a judgment of laziness be made on anything other than subjective and disparaging terms?
Yet looking closer at the study, it does seem that they have approached it with some sense of scientific propriety. Taking the measure not of an overall attitude or character flaw that we might refer to as laziness, but rather, a set of quantifiable indicators, such as absenteeism among employees. While we don't rank the highest, we are pretty high on that list.
Should we be insulted? Perhaps. But the more interesting point to be made is the way in which this study suggests a cultural bias in seemingly innocent questions. For example, business practices differ in different parts of the world, from a long and regimented workday in some countries, to a seemingly more leisurely pace in others. The practice in some Mediterranean countries of taking a long break from work in the middle of the day, for example, might well be viewed as being 'lazy' by a German or American worker.
But that perception totally denies the cultural, social and personal utility of taking that long break. Can the simple quantified data possibly take into account the amount of business, or preparation for business in the form of social networking, which takes place during those leisurely lunches? And for that matter, who is to say that time spent sitting at one's desk at work is always productive time, and time away from the office always unproductive? With all the ready-made distractions that exist on any Internet-enabled computer or smart phone, the very opposite might be true.
Finally, what might show up as 'laziness' in a cross-cultural analysis may correspond in unexpected ways with issues of health. It is well known, that sufficient sleep is essential for health - but so is a schedule that allows for home-cooked food at regular intervals during the day. So, those highly driven business people who spend their break time at the gym and are statistically less lazy, may be setting themselves up for future illness or burnout. Therefore, any statistics regarding apparent laziness are very limited for multiple reasons.
There probably is no way to accurately and neutrally measure an individual's lifelong contribution to society, because it would have to include paid and unpaid, formal and informal endeavors and allow for cultural and personal variation in activity patterns. And even if it could be done, what would really be the point of such a study?
I think that the label of laziness is completely misleading. The World Health Organization study may indeed offer some insights, but to use it to characterize a nation of people according to a subjective negative judgment is simply a waste of time. If we do have a rising rate of absenteeism among workers, that doesn't point to laziness, but may indicate other issues relating to management style and job satisfaction. Let's focus on that!