Where hard work gets you ahead, charted

The sun sets on another day of hard work in Cartagena.
The sun sets on another day of hard work in Cartagena.
Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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Attention, companies seeking hard workers: Look to the Andes.

People in Colombia say hard work is the most important attribute for getting ahead in life, according to a survey of 44 nations released recently by the Pew Research Center. The survey asks people to assess what qualities they see as valued in the world (including being male, giving bribes, education, and coming from a wealthy family), rather than to express their own values. To compare your responses to those of people around the world, you can also take the survey.

Colombians rate hard work at 9.7 on a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 means very important and 0 means not important at all, the same as they appraise the value of a good education. People in Argentina (9.6), the US, the Philippines and Thailand (9.4 apiece) follow Colombia in assigning hard work a high value.

Among most nations, hard work ranks behind having a good education and ahead of knowing the right people as the key to success.

One outlier: the US, where people say that hard work matters most, even more than education. Not surprising, perhaps, in the nation that works some of the longest and strangest hours on the planet.

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People in Greece and Poland assign the lowest value to hard work as a way to get ahead (7.8 each), followed by France and Tanzania (7.9 apiece), and Bangladesh, which ties with China (8.0 apiece).

But that’s not to suggest those nations are slackers. Tanzanians, Bangladeshis and Chinese all say hard work matters but that a good education matters more.

Greeks say having a good education and connections both outrank hard work in importance. Ditto, according to the Poles, who also place a higher value on the importance of being lucky.

The French, despite a reputation for worker inefficiency, also rate hard work as the most important characteristic for getting ahead. They just rate it less highly than people in some other nations.