Wednesday, June 14, 2006

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Fewer Americans are going postal

Frances Williams reports in the Financial Times about some interesting trends in workplace violence in the developed world:

Physical and psychological violence in the workplace is on the rise worldwide and has reached “epidemic levels” in many industrialised countries, according to a study published on Wednesday by the International Labour Organisation.

The study says violence at work, including bullying, sexual harassment and physical assault, may be costing anywhere between 0.5 and 3.5 per cent of countries’ gross national products in absenteeism, sick leave and lower productivity....

The study says available data, though patchy, show a clear upward trend in bullying, harassment and intimidation of workers, affecting more than 10 per cent of the European workforce, for example.

In developing countries, women, migrants and children are most vulnerable, with sexual harassment and abuse reported as a big problem in places as varied as South Africa, Malaysia and Kuwait.

At the same time, the study notes that physical violence declined in the US and UK in recent years. In the US, the number of workplace homicides has fallen from more than 1,000 a year a decade ago to about 630 in 2003.

In England and Wales, incidents of workplace violence dropped from 1.3m in 1995 to about 850,000 in 2002-03, according to the British Crime Survey.

Here's a link to the ILO press release, as well as the introductory chapter. I wouldn't describe the data cited in the report as "patchy" so much as "completely incommensurate between countries."

Putting that caveat aside for a moment, would any readers like to posit why workplace violence appears to be on the decline in the Anglosphere but on the rise elsewhere?

posted by Dan on 06.14.06 at 03:42 PM


Because English-speaking countries are, on average, wealthier than non-English speaking countries.

posted by: Dave on 06.14.06 at 03:42 PM [permalink]

Because we don't believe in the existence of "psychological violence" (seriously, who thinks this up?).

posted by: John Jenkins on 06.14.06 at 03:42 PM [permalink]

...would any readers like to posit why workplace violence appears to be on the decline in the Anglosphere but on the rise elsewhere?

The rise of telecommuting? ;-)

posted by: rosignol on 06.14.06 at 03:42 PM [permalink]

Please note that the article quotes "homicides" in the US and UK, but general workplace violence elsewhere. To be really informative, it ought to give the comparative level of both in actual figures. This excerpt could be pretty misleading.

posted by: mira on 06.14.06 at 03:42 PM [permalink]

would any readers like to posit why workplace violence appears to be on the decline in the Anglosphere but on the rise elsewhere?

They're behind on the fashion curve. Many of these outlanders also are still listening to Britney Spears. Going postal is *so* 20th century.

posted by: Anderson on 06.14.06 at 03:42 PM [permalink]

I agree with mira. There's a big difference between "bullying, sexual harrassment and physical assault" and homicide rates. A dead body is a dead body (though whether it was murdered can be a more difficult problem), but the rates of things like "bullying" and "sexual harrassment" and "physical assault" can be very dependent on how the questions are worded.

posted by: Tracy W on 06.14.06 at 03:42 PM [permalink]

Well, one should never underestimate the influence on potential malefactors of the knowledge that the learned lupines of the American Tort Bar stand ever-ready to shred them financially for life at the drop of a writ - something a good bit less true of our Continental cousins.

But I think it also has to do with the fact that this country still produces jobs and - compared to Continental Europe - so does the U.K. When there ARE no new jobs to escape to, the victims don't have a lot of choice about sticking around and taking it - as the bad guys know full well. Cradle-to-grave social welfare states impose exactions upon their inhabitants that are not always reckonable strictly in coin.

posted by: Dick Eagleson on 06.14.06 at 03:42 PM [permalink]

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