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Individualism, long-term orientation and indulgence
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit every country on the globe. Curious to know what are the driving forces behind the difference between some of the Eastern and Western countries? You might be surprised.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit every country on the globe, however, some countries have managed to get it under control and reopen sooner than others. Curious to know what are the driving forces behind the difference between some of the Eastern and Western countries? You might be surprised.
East Asia’s success, compared to Western societies, is linked to two main things: stronger and more prompt government responses and better civic cooperation.
One of the differentiating responses of East Asia's governments was the strict implementation of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs). These measures included tight border controls; quarantining of arriving passengers; high rates of face-mask use; physical distancing; and public health surveillance systems engaged in widespread testing, contact tracing, and quarantining (or home isolation) of infected individuals. As a result, they have managed to drive infections to 0 and keep them there.
Responsible civil engagement in East Asia is also an important factor in explaining the efficiency of government actions. Based on Hofstede's national culture model three dimensions of culture are relevant: individualism versus collectivism, long-term orientations versus short term normative orientation, and indulgence versus restraint.
Probably all of the above doesn't come as a surprise with the exceptions of New Zealand and Australia, which despite high levels of individualism, low levels of long-term orientation and low levels of restraint, both countries have managed to minimize COVID-19 impact. This implies that cultural traits, though important, are not the only determinants of people's behaviors and the outcome of the pandemic control. With effective government policies, COVID-19 can be successfully contained in countries with cultures quite different from those of East Asia.
As explained in my previous article, regarding Chapter 2 of the report, countries with high social capital will show more cooperation and willingness to follow the rules. The more the society engages in prosocial behavior (intent to benefit others) the greater the success of any government intervention. A prosocial behavior includes activities such as sharing, comforting, rescuing, and helping rather than remaining a bystander to what’s happening around you. Engaging in prosocial behaviors makes a difference to the life of those around you and your own life.
Lastly, it's important to remember that the Asia-Pacific region was on the front line of the battle against SARS in 2003 and also was mobilized in the H1N1 (2009) and MERS (2012) crises. Unfortunately, the Western countries have failed to learn from the Asia-Pacific experience which is at the core of the differences in results.
We will need a while to fully recover, but our happiness and the happiness of our children depends on our immediate actions and our ability to learn and strengthen our weaknesses.
If you want to read more on the topics above head to the World Happiness Report (WHR) page and view Chapter 3: COVID-19 Prevalence and well-being: Lessons from East Asia and Chapter 4: Reasons for Asia-Pacific Success in Suppressing COVID-19.
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Change is the end result of all true learning. - Leo Buscaglia