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15 May, 2005

Changing Lifestyles, Shifting Societies

How the early days of global change in 2005 were impacting on lifestyles, jobs, families and corporate life in Europe, China and Australia.



Britain’s much vaunted ‘enterprise culture’ is little more than rhetoric, according to MORE TH>N Business. Research commissioned by the small business insurer, the direct arm of Royal & SunAlliance UK, found that alterpreneurs , not entrepreneurs, are the bedrock of Britain’s small business community.

MORE TH>N Business has published the Health, Wealth & Happiness Report, which assesses the factors motivating Britain’s micro business owner-managers – a sector traditionally seen as a hotbed of entrepreneurial endeavour. The report, available from www.alterpreneur.co.uk, identifies the rise of a new class of micro business owner, the alterpreneurs – lifestyle-focused business people – who are taking over from the finance and career orientated entrepreneurs.

According to MORE TH>N Business, the majority of people starting businesses should be classed as alterpreneurs, rather than entrepreneurs. It found that:

<> Less than a quarter (23%) set up their firms in order to make lots of money;

<> 60% went into business in order to get more control over their lives;

<> 54% said they went into business in order to be ‘happier’;

<> Just 3% said they wanted to emulate high profile entrepreneurs like Richard Branson.

These ‘alterpreneurs’ see quitting corporate life and starting their own firms as a lifestyle, rather than a career, choice. They want an alternative to the nine-to-five of a traditional job, and the ‘one size fits all’ lifestyle that goes with it. They have set up on their own in an attempt to take back (or retain) control over their lives. They don’t live to work – they work to live. The way they run those businesses, and their ambitions for the future, reflect this.

<> 85% say quality of life is more important than money when it comes to business planning;

<> 70% say they are happy and comfortable with their business as they are;

<> 56% never want to employ more than 10 staff.

Rachel Cotton, Manager, MORE TH>N Business, said: “This research confirms something we already suspected, that the majority of people running Britain’s smallest businesses are not interested in significant growth. Along with feedback from our own customers, this research leaves us in no doubt that we are seeing a reaction against the steadily increasing pace of modern life. Alterpreneurs are motivated by lifestyle rather than career or financial ambitions, which is reflected in a steadier, more relaxed approach to business.”

There is certainly no shortage of focus from government on identifying and nurturing the traditional entrepreneur. Interestingly, however, MORE TH>N Business’s research provides conclusive proof that alterpreneurs form a distinct and valuable sector of the small business market – around 70%. Three quarters of micro business owners say government needs to do more to support those small firms that do not have ambitious growth plans – it is clear that their needs should not be underestimated.

Stephen Alambritis, Head of Parliamentary Affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), commented: “Working for yourself can be a great lifestyle choice. Despite the hard work and long hours involved, very few people who have made the leap would consider returning to the nine-to-five world again.

“The Government is missing the target by aiming support at start-ups with big growth plans, when many businesses are happy as they are. There needs to be a greater focus on established firms, and moves to tackle the administrative headache of taking on employees to make growing a business more appealing.

MORE TH>N is the direct arm of Royal & SunAlliance UK. To read the full Health, Wealth & Happiness Report, to find out more about the alterpreneur lifestyle, visit www.alterpreneur.co.uk.



By Farman Ullah Babar


[Mr. Farman Ullah Babar holds a M.B.A qualification from Swinburne University of Technology Melbourne, Australia. He has gained several years experience in business management, during this time he conducted detailed research on Strategic Management issues related to Australian based organization. He has also completed a “Workplace Assessor Training Course” from Train Safe Melbourne, Australia. This is a recognized qualification for Australian Industry trainers.]

THERE is an enormous change in the working hours since 1970’s. The expectations of outcomes are constantly changing. This has resulted in an increase in working hours. In one corner of technology industry (USA) video game publishing- employees have been speaking out, effectively saying companies are pushing workers too far when it comes to hours on the job. According to salary com, some participants in its survey said years of working long hours during the 1990s boom, and the layoffs that followed, has dampened their desire to sacrifice personal time for money.

The employee is not only facing this issue at his workplace. He is deprived of quality time with his family. It adds to his frustration. These issues affect his health as well as productivity. A Forbes survey (USA) in 1991 highlighted the fact that nearly 80 per cent of the wealth in America is owned by women over 40. Most of the men who worked 18 to 20 hours a day to accumulate wealth did not live long enough to enjoy it.

How organizations are responding to these issues? Although not dramatic, a trend is emerging in which some organizations are trying to accommodate diverse employees’ needs by offering flexible work arrangements. Example of flexible work arrangement includes job sharing, flextime, and telecommuting.. Job sharing is a work arrangement in which two or more employees divide a job’s responsibilities, hours, and benefits among themselves.

Several steps are critical to the success of such job-sharing programmes, including identifying those jobs that can be shared, understanding employees’ individual sharing style, and matching “partners’ who have complementary needs and skills.

Flextime is another type of flexible work arrangement in which an employee can choose when to be at the office. For example, an employee may decide that instead of working five days a week for eight hours a day, he prefers to work a 4-day/10 hour per day work schedule. With this schedule, the employees do not have to be at the office on Friday.

To avoid peak rush hour, other employees might use their flextime to arrive at and leave from work one hour later Monday through Friday. One research study concluded that flexible workweek schedule had a positive influence on employee performance, job satisfaction, and absenteeism.

The key of flextime programmes should not be too unstructured and that they lose some of their effectiveness over time. Telecommuting refers to the work arrangements that allow employees to work in their homes part- or full-time, maintaining their connection and communication with office through phone, fax, and computer.

It is believed that by allowing employees more control over their work lives, they will be not only better able to balance their work-home demands but higher recruitment and retention rates, improved morale, lower absenteeism and tardiness, and higher levels of employee productivity.

Family-friendly firms are moving forward to attract, motivate, and retain employees with diverse non-work needs. Organizations need to consider three important issues when developing and implementing such flexible work arrangements option. First every attempt should be made to open these programmes to all employees. The risk here is that if only certain groups are offered these options, then excluded groups may feel discriminated against.

Second, having the CEO of an organization announce these programmes is not enough to effect change. Many career-minded employees do not take advantage of flextime, or telecommuting for fear of being derailed enough to effect change. These individuals will continue to experience stress as they attempt to balance career and family priorities.

While most of the companies have long working hours, there are people who really care for their employees’ benefit and are finding ways to satisfy them. For example, an American bank encourages all its employees to spend two hours each week visiting their children’s school or volunteering at any school on company’s time.

It may seem inconsistent that we are asking employees to work harder, but the need to pinch pennies and reduce head count plays to the short term, while flexibility is important to our long–term health. Now the trend is catching up in France where the government has changed the length of the work week from 39 to 35 hours. A software company encourages its employees to stick to a 35-hour workweek. If you do more “by the end of the day you are just producing total garbage’.

Another well-established trend is for employees to define success in terms of personal self-expression and fulfilment of potential on the job. They are frequently less obsessed with the acquisition of wealth and now view life satisfaction as more likely to result from balancing the challenges and rewards of work with those in their personal lives.

Two important factors that affect individual productivity are ability and motivation. Now they need to ensure that work and family programmes are designed and implemented in a way that recognizes employees have “outside lives” and different values and needs.

Ignoring backlash may affect the working relationships of employees with and without family responsibilities. Managements now in the 21st century need to realize that employees are people with certain desires and needs.



A substantial number of Australian parents have indicated that they would like to work fewer hours than they do now, even after taking into account the impact on their income, according to the results of a research study designed to examines the impact of Australia’s social and cultural environment on the next generation. Says the study, “This (finding) is consistent with the fact that working parents were more likely to indicate that they felt rushed (47 per cent of working parents stated that they felt rushed always or often, as compared to 36 per cent of non-working parents).”

The findings are contained in the first data from “Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, released by the Minister for Family and Community Services Kay Patterson at the Melbourne Museum on May 16. The Study’s first annual report was also released: http://www.aifs.gov.au/growingup/pubs/ar/annualreport2004.pdf

The study explores family and social issues relevant to children’s development, and address a range of research questions about family functioning, health, non-parental child-care, and education. A team of some 130 interviewers interviewed parents and sent questionnaires to teachers and child carers. More than 10,000 families contributed their time, information and thoughts.

Among some of the key conclusions:

Most of the mothers who were in employment at the time of interview were working part-time. Among mothers of infants who were in paid employment:

<> 38 per cent were working 15 hours or less per week;

<> 35 per cent were working 16-34 hours per week; and

<> 27 per cent were working 35 or more hours per week (that is, full-time).

Mothers of 4-5 year olds who worked part-time tended to work for more hours than mothers of infants; the percentage working full-time hours, however, was the same. Among mothers of 4-5 year olds who were in paid employment:

<> 33 per cent were working 15 hours or less per week;

<> 40 per cent were working 16-34 hours per week; and

<> 27 per cent were working 35 or more hours per week.

In contrast, more than nine-in-ten working fathers were working 35 or more hours per week.

On the whole, parents had quite a positive view of work, both in terms of its impact on them (around 70 per cent of parents agreed that working made them feel more competent) and their children (49 per cent felt that their working had a positive effect on their children, while a further 37 per cent felt the effect was neither positive nor negative). Most parents disagreed with the statement that family time was less enjoyable due to work.

According to Prof Alan Hayes, Director, Australian Institute of Family Studies, “By tracking children over time, Growing Up in Australia will be able to determine the individual, family, and broader social and environmental factors that are associated with consistency and change in children’s developmental trajectories. Thus, the outcomes from the study will be able to be used to inform the development of effective social and family policy in Australia.”

Many Western nations have established longitudinal studies that track the development of young people from birth to early adulthood. The value of these studies for addressing key policy issues is being increasingly recognised, and is reflected in calls by national and international experts for future studies to be designed with the policy focus foremost.




www.chinaview.cn 2005-05-11 15:54:00

BEIJING, May 11 (Xinhuanet) — Work, personal relationships and emotional problems are the major causes of stress for Chinese young people, according to a survey released Wednesday by China Youth Daily, one of the country’s leading newspapers.

The newspaper’s survey center interviewed 1,129 people aged between 19 and 35 across the country in April 2005. The survey found 52.3 percent thought their jobs gave them the most stress in life. Interpersonal relations and affection-related problems ranked second and third with 40.4 percent and 35.3 percent.

Of the men interviewed, 66.5 percent said they felt heavy pressure while only 3.7 percent said the pressure was small. Merely 0.3 percent reported feeling no pressure at all. The survey also found that students were under more pressure than other groups. To let release the pressure, they often resort to music, conversation, sports, diary-writing.

Psychological counseling were recognized as “a sound way for relaxation” by 37.1 percent of the surveyed. But 24.7 percent responded that they worried about the clinics’ service and 7.8 percent said they would be seen as “weird in others’ eyes.” Moreover, 41.1 percent said they could not find a clinic or they did not know where to find one.


www.chinaview.cn 2005-05-15 17:07:01

BEIJING, May 15 (Xinhuanet) — Twenty-three Chinese radio and television stations signed a proposal here Sunday, committing to turning down any advertisement that is against law or moral standards.

The 23 stations, including national ones like Central People’s Broadcasting Station, and China Central Television as well as local stations, agreed that radio and TV stations should “refuse to broadcast any advertisement that are not in line with laws or social moral,” on the proposal, which is drawn up the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, the broadcast authority.

The broadcast watchdog urged radio and TV stations to reject all sham or illegal advertisement, improve censorship over the qualification of advertisement producer and content and stick to the principle of “one-vote veto by censor”.

It called on stricter self-discipline in the industries and checkup over the content, orientation and style of advertisement, those on food, drug, cosmetics and medical services in particular. The 23 radio and TV stations also promised to expose typical cases of commercial cheating to help create a credibility-valued society.


www.chinaview.cn 2005-05-16 08:17:19

BEIJING, May 16 — China’s 25 million disabled job seekers had cause for celebration yesterday on the National Day of the Disabled as Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu said the country would “redouble its efforts” in creating a better work environment for them.

The theme of this year’s day, which falls on the third Sunday of May every year, was “promoting employment for the disabled.” Of the country’s disabled job seekers, 1 million live in urban areas with Beijing home to over half of their number, according to the China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF).

The employment rate of the disabled in Beijing, who are of working age and capable of employment, is around 85 per cent. By the end of 2008, the municipal government expects this figure to rise to 87 per cent.

In his remarks, Hui urged local governments and all circles of society to keep improving the employment environment of the handicapped and safeguard their labour rights. “Employment is fundamental to livelihoods and an effective way and important basis for improving disabled people’s life, social status and helping them participate in social and economic undertakings,” he was quoted by Xinhua as saying yesterday.

Although many disabled people have jobs, their general employment situation remains grave and they are facing increasing pressure and difficulty in finding a job, he said.

Jin Yi, president of Beijing Runsheng Foods Co Ltd and physically impaired himself, said the disabled should make their own efforts to create better lives. “Despite the physical incon-veniences, the old idea of relying on society’s assistance rather than tapping their own potential has prevented some from getting jobs,” said Jin.

Although fluent in English, Jin was turned down for tertiary education after graduating from high school. But he managed to teach himself college courses and opened his own business 10 years ago. State legislators are considering drafting a regulation on employment for the handicapped, which is expected to include the collection and use of employment insurance.

Early this year, Premier Wen Jiabao said in his government work report delivered on March 5 at the opening of the parliament’s annual session: “We will show our concern for the disabled and support programmes that benefit them.”

As early as 2003, CDPF Chairman Deng Pufang said at the Fourth Congress of the CDPF that people should not forget that there were 60 million people with disabilities in the country, and they have over 200 million family members. He said the Chinese Government was working hard to help the coun-try’s handicapped population achieve a goal of “equality, participation and sharing” and enjoy as affluent a life as others.

Legal Assistance

Over the past year, more than 600 of Beijing’s disabled citizens have received legal assistance. In one of the more landmark cases, Chen Xiang, a 17-year-old girl who was knocked down on her newspaper route in 2003 and subsequently handicapped, was compensated by the newspaper-delivery company even though she had signed no workplace injury insurance contract with her employer.

The driver of the vehicle that hit her refused to pay further medical fees after shelling out 13,000 yuan (US$1,600) even after a local court in the city ruled that he must. The ruling was not enforced due to the driver’s poor financial condition. The family of four, which gets by on Chen’s father’s monthly salary of 2,000 yuan (US$240) had to borrow 30,000 yuan (US$3,600) for Chen’s treatment.

The father eventually turned to the Legal Assistance Centre of Beijing Xicheng District for help in January this year. “The only way he could help his girl in a legal way was to force the newspaper delivery company to pay for workplace-injury insurance,” Peng Xinggang, the centre’s director, said.

But since Chen had not signed anything on taking the job, this proved difficult. After negotiation, the company agreed to compensate Chen 7,000 yuan (US$850). “I am grateful for the result although the money could not cover all of our debts,” Chen’s father said.

(Source: China Daily)

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