Niranjan Chatterjee’s Weblog

August 2, 2014

Workers’ Participation in Corporate Governance

Filed under: Corporate Management — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:47 pm


The generally accepted principle in law is that Directors should act in the best interest of the corporation but the issue becomes a little unclear as to what exactly would be defined as the best interest of the corporation. To put it more clearly, would best interests of only the shareholders or the best interests of other stakeholders also be considered while delineating the contents of the best interest of the corporation? This thesis examines the highly debated issue of how workers’ participation in corporate governance would serve the best interests of a corporation.

In BCE Inc. v. 1976 Debenture holders and in Peoples Department Stores Inc. (Trustee of) v. Wise court was extremely ambiguous about the exact nature of what would be the best interest of the coporation and chose a somewhat middle path by harping on good coroprate citizenship. But such ambiguity creates a situation where each stakeholder feels that they have got the best but inreality none of the stakeholders get anything substantial.

The issue becomes more complicated since in a globalised world individual countries and their courts have little control or jurisdiction over companies that are spread across continents. Thus, the issue of what would constitute the best interest of a company becomes a genuine conundrum that needs serious thinking to achieve even a modicum of a solution.

Moreover, stakeholders in a corporation have diverse and often conflicting interests and how could directors serve the best interests of such a diverse group also becomes an equally serious concerns. While shareholders might wish directors take excessive risks as that would increase the possibility of earning higher rates of return, workers might be inherently averse to such risk taking as that might jeopardize their jobs if things went wrong without the prospect of any corresponding rise in wages if things moved in right direction. So, solving such diverse desires in a fair manner is surely a very difficult matter.

According to Ed Waitzer and Johnny Jaswal, courts have never maintained any specific stand on this issue and very often court judgments reflected the popular mood or notions of the time. In fact, Dickerson Committee had the opportunity of unambiguously explaining the nuances of ‘corporate responsibility and could have got it incorporated in Canada Business Corporation Act (CBCA) but they perhaps shirked the duty and preferred to leave it to the judges to explain. The Committee thus lost a golden opportunity of rectifying the imbalance that many feel is there in English laws that mainly define corporate responsibility as mainly responsibility towards increasing net worth of shareholders.

The situation does not improve by introducing the concept of good faith on the part of directors since good faith is something that is not quite specific and is open to several contextual interpretations. Such an act of good faith is obviously connected to fiduciary duty of directors where fiduciary duty is defined as self disciplined behavior on the part of actors that have access to others’ assets for some limited purpose (Flannigan 2004).

The situation becomes really complicated if workers are allowed to sit on Boards and become party to corporate decision making. It is an undeniable fact that workers are one of the most important stakeholders in any business organization and their interests will in most cases be divergent to interests of stakeholders. So, the issue at hand is whether workers should be allowed to participate in corporate decision making and if they are indeed allowed would Board decisions be in convergence and within the ambit of Canadian law and would pass the test of fairness as stated in Ebrahimi v. Westbourne Galleries Ltd.

But one thing might be said with a fair degree of certainty. Workers are more interested in long term stability of an organization and thus would be averse to taking any decision that might seem attractive in the short run but could jeopardize long term financial health of the organization they are working for. So, the possibility of decisions taken by Boards that have worker participation passing the fairness test would surely be more under normal circumstances.

The need for revision of corporate governance in Canada

There are many examples that existing laws were not enough to ensure fair treatment of stakeholders. One of the most prominent companies that failed to ensure proper corporate governance was the so-called ‘Canadian Microsoft’ which was considered one of the icons of Canadian success stories of Canadian technology. Shares of this company were traded at $120 when the company was at its peak but slumped to 5 cents when the company collapsed. Not only were shareholders left in the lurch, employees lost their jobs and even their pensions since the company lost so much money that it did not have money to pay even pensions of employees. So employees were suddenly left out in the cold without any money or safety net to protect them against this sudden catastrophe.

Irrespective of the political storm that raised the moot and far more serious question was a lacuna in Canadian corporate governance laws that allowed such a thing to happen. Top executives who made millions in salaries and perquisites when the company was going strong (or the general public was made to believe so) went scot free and none could be held liable for their lack of foresight or mismanagement of corporate funds that resulted in such widespread chaos.

The total disappearance of the guaranteed pension of $58,000 dollars per year to each employee sure generated a lot heat and dust. But, workers had only demonstrations and fiery speeches to remain contented with and nothing material evolved from all the commotion.

The main reason for the demise of the company was a determined and well planned mismanagement of funds by Directors and a diabolic cooking of books to give an impression to workers that the company was financially stable. While this criminal act was being perpetrated, executives made millions in compensation and the future of workers was ruined.

A similar situation occurred in Toronto where insider trading was the main reason for the demise of another reputed company. This insider trading continued for a decade resulting in nine million dollars benefit to the perpetrators while the corporation and all stakeholders lost money and they were left with ruined futures.

Court was very ambiguous about the extent to which Board should pay attention to the interest of employees as it was not mandatory for the Boards to do so. It was left to the management to decide on whether they would consider it or not before taking any particular decision. Actually the interest for shareholders was implicitly given more importance over interests of other stakeholders, especially workers and if workers’ interests are compromised Directors would never be held responsible for committing any illegal act and would hence be never penalized.

The issue boils down to what would be the legally defined duties of directors. If directors are found to be lacking in such well defined and legally enforceable duties, they would sure then be brought to book for their misdeeds. This again brings to the forefront the basic question as to how would the directors manage divergent interests of two most important group of stakeholders – shareholders and employees.

A common sense approach would be to allow more participative powers to the workers as that would ensure an automatic check on irresponsible and risky actions by top management but the Court did not utter a single word about it. The Court was not progressive enough to delineate a new structure of corporate governance and did not incorporate any of the European structures like work councils and supervisory boards that permit considerable participation of workers in management of a company. The Court stuck to responsibility of Directors and did not feel the need to include the voice of the workers in corporate governance. There was no progress in the power equation between labor and capital which are both equally necessary for the successful running of a company.

But considering the success of German and Japanese companies it could have more beneficial for Canadian corporations if there was a legal requirement of including employee voice in corporate decision making. At least that would have surely prevented sudden demise of corporate icons due to mismanagement and deliberate fudging of books by top management.

Board as a mediator between competing stakeholders

Margaret Blair and Lynn Stout have elevated the Board to some sort of a coordinator that is entrusted to somehow balance conflicting stakeholder interests (Blair and Stout 1999). But these authors have clearly delineated as to which shareholders would get priority if and when such balancing do takes place. They have stated that only those stakeholders that have made firm-specific investments and their continuance and support is absolutely essential for future success of the business would be considered when such balancing of diverse interests would have to be done. From this standpoint, workers are clearly one such group of shareholders that require extra care and attention and if workers are themselves members of the Board it would be that much easier for the Board to take decisions that would surely not jeopardize the interests of workers. But one thing must be made clear at this juncture.

Even if workers do become members of the Board they must be prepared to sacrifice some of their interests and adjust to a considerable extent for the long term health of the organization.

As has been already mentioned, the issue becomes complicated as immediate gains oftentimes tend to overshadow long term gains that might not be immediately tangible and the lure for immediate benefit is too strong for many people to not fall prey to it. This of course includes workers too. The lure for short term incentives often at the cost of long term stability might force workers on the Board to take unfair decisions. As the law is not that clear and prescriptive in this regard, it might be possible for the Board to get away from this misdeed.

It would be a case where stakeholders that are usually on divergent poles coming together for short term expediency and committing a team scam of sorts. It is possibly for this reason that Richard Ellsworth feels customer primacy should be the only touchstone against which all corporate decisions be judged (Ellsworth 2002).

Conflict between suppliers of capital and suppliers of labor

It is only natural that corporate governance would place more emphasis on taking care of the interests of the suppliers of capital rather than the suppliers of labor although both are vitally necessary for the continuance of a business corporation. Such a biased approach might be traced to a very deep rooted perception that labor is always cheap and easily available while capital is difficult to come by and is comparatively far more costlier than labor.

While this bias in favor of capital is commonplace among those that control business houses existing laws also protect the interests of suppliers of capital in a very big way. While the debenture holders have their capital fully secured against fixed assets of the borrowing company, shareholders have the option of airing their grievances in annual general meetings and special meetings of shareholders. But Scott is of the opinion that as shareholders offer vast amounts of capital without either any clear cut promise of a predetermined rate of return on their investments or any form of security of the capital they have lent to the corporation, they are exposed to extreme risks especially if the management is prone to mismanaging funds or take recourse to cooking up books or any other form of fraud. Hence, this class of stakeholders needs special protection and management should give first priority to enhancing the wealth of shareholders (Scott 1998).

The concept of good corporate governance also varies from country to country. In France, however, primacy of shareholder interest is ignored and a good company is considered to be one that is able to effectively reconcile stakeholder interests. Germany also feels mostly in the same manner. While managers are supposed to be market oriented they should discuss with different stakeholders their interests and take a position that would be acceptable to all. The uniqueness of this approach is twofold. Firstly, the directors must engage in some sort of discussion with stakeholders before coming to a decision and secondly they have a responsibility to ensure that no stakeholder group feels that they have been neglected or their concerns have not been addressed properly.

It would be of interest to have a brief discussion of German system of corporate governance as that system presents a unique arrangement where conflicting interests of employees and shareholders are reconciled to a very great extent.

In accordance with Codetermination Act of 1976 every organization that has more than 2000 employees is legally bound to have two tiered management system. The two tiers in that system are, supervisory board and management and executive committee (Halpern 1999).

The supervisory board cannot be involved in day-to-day management but it has certain very important powers to oversee the functioning of the management and executive committee which is involved in daily management of the organization.

The supervisory board of which half the members are from the employees of the company has the power to appoint or dismiss members of management and executive committee and also to monitor the performance of this committee. Moreover, the supervisory board is the ultimate authority to approve or dismiss any investment plan mooted by the executive committee and also determines what information should be passed on to shareholders subject to, of course, relevant provisions in the Company Law of the country.

The only concession management has in the formation of the supervisory board is that the chairperson of the board is from the management side and has two votes that could be used in case there is a tie in a voting in the board. This serves very well to create some sort of balance and equitability in management decisions in Germany where concentration of equity is extremely high compared to other developed countries of the world. Generally, the concentration of equities vests more with founding families and where such families are not that dominant, commercial banks take their place. So, some sort of veto wielding authority which consists of a sizeable number of employees also safeguards them from any reckless decision of management in quest of short term spectacular gains.

Arguments about shareholder primacy

Discussions till now have been concentrated on how to negate primacy of shareholder interest and also include voices of other stakeholders, especially that of employees, in corporate decision making. But it would be fair in the interest of a properly balanced discussion to delve a little deeper in the arguments put forward to support shareholder primacy in corporate governance and decision making process.

The first and possibly the crudest argument in favor of shareholder primacy is that according law a corporation belongs to the shareholders and therefore it is the bounden duty of management to further the interests of shareholders. This line of argument was echoed by Milton Friedman in his famous essay “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits”. But where Friedman possibly went wrong, at least legally, was that shareholders do not own the corporation; what they own is a financial asset known as stock. Legally speaking, shareholders have only limited rights as owners of corporate stocks. It might be worthwhile to mention at this juncture that shareholders do not have any right over the assets of a company; actually that right is conferred on the Board of Directors. Also, shareholders cannot decide how much dividend they would earn in particular year; Board of Directors decides on the rate of dividend.

Thus shareholders have neither any direct control nor any direct access to either a company’s assets or its earnings. It is true; however, that Directors are appointed by shareholders and any control they can exert on the management of a company is indirectly through Board of directors. But in current economic scenario shareholding is so widely dispersed such indirect control has become a myth without any tangible or practical significance.

Hence, shareholders as owners of a corporation has very little legal base and is more an economist’s notion than a lawyer’s. Some economists have even challenged the concept of shareholders being owners of a corporation from an economic perspective too. They maintain that in a corporation, even one that is closely held by one person or a family of shareholders, the concept of ownership gets significantly diluted once the firm issues debentures as debenture holders have lien on fixed assets of the corporation which even shareholders do not have (Scholes and Black 1973).

The second and oft repeated argument about shareholder supremacy maintains that all other stakeholders have some form of contractual agreement with the corporation about the return they would be entitled to during and at the end of the contracted period. But shareholders are not protected by similar contractual obligation. They are entitled to residual income after all contractual obligations have been met by the corporation. Therefore, they bear the greatest risk and thus should be protected the most and all management decisions should be made with an eye towards maximizing shareholder returns (Easterbrook and Fischel 1996).

However, from a legal perspective the assertion that shareholders are sole residual claimants do not have much strength. According to corporate law, shareholders can be considered as sole residual claimants only during bankruptcy proceedings of a corporation.

In other situations, shareholders are entitled to dividend only when the company is financially sound and is performing well and has enough reserves and surplus, and, what is most important, directors decide to declare a dividend.

Actually, shareholders would get dividend only when directors decide to give it and, frankly speaking, such decision is not that much related to the financial health of a company. It could very well be that a company is doing extremely well financially but if the directors decide that the increased revenue would be spent on employee benefits and bonuses, that extra income would be diverted towards these expenses and nothing much would show up as profit or surplus. Moreover, existence of reserves and surplus by itself does not guarantee that shareholders would most certainly get dividend. It all depends on the discretion of directors. Hence, the claim that shareholders are sole residual claimants does not have much legal or economic basis (Stout 2002).

Considering what has been discussed above it is apparent that corporate governance based on the sole objective of maximizing shareholders’ wealth is a very narrow window and would grossly undermine the efforts of a corporate entity from discharging its duties and functioning like a good corporate citizen.

Shareholder primacy might cause international convergence of corporate law

There is a dominant view that irrespective of all legal and economic logic that attempts to dilute shareholder supremacy, the overwhelming trend in corporate governance all over the world is tilted towards maximizing shareholder wealth. One of the reasons for this bias could be the failure of any other workable alternative or more likely due to the emergence of more vocal representatives of shareholders and a significant increase of importance of share markets in a market driven capitalist economy (Hansmann and Kraakman 2000).

There have been alternative models of corporate governance through nineteenth and twentieth century. These models were either manager-oriented, or, labor-oriented, or state-oriented depending on peculiarities of countries and their economies and the influence each stakeholder class had at that particular point of time.

Over time all these models lost their hour of glory and shareholder primacy has come to rule the roost. Of late stakeholder model is being touted as an alternative to shareholder primacy model but this new model is nothing but a combination and permutation of earlier manager-oriented model and labor-oriented model. So, detractors of those earlier models have come out in full force and are berating this new model with great vehemence.

 This of course does not mean that interests of other stakeholders should be sacrificed at the altar of shareholder supremacy. It only means that corporate law could and should concentrate only on ensuring shareholder supremacy is maintained and every corporate entity should strive to maximize shareholder wealth. All other stakeholders can and, possibly must, address their concern in forums that are outside the ambit of corporate law.

There are enough legal remedies available to other stakeholders and they should take recourse to such remedies instead of trying to search for remedies and protections within the ambit of corporate legal framework. Workers and employees, for example, can seek remedies in the law of labor contracting, pension law, health and safety law, and antidiscrimination law. Consumers can also seek remedies within the ambit of product safety regulation, tort law that governs product liability and law governing warranty.

But one must remember that no matter how forceful the arguments in favor of shareholder primacy are, it would not be proper to highlight only shareholder supremacy in corporate law as that would lead to irresponsible and often rash and highly risky management decisions that might ruin an otherwise flourishing company. Management would, quite obviously, be intent and over eager to maximize shareholder wealth in short term in order obtain higher bonuses and remuneration for themselves and such a short term approach and attitude will surely spell doom for not only a couple of firms but the entire economy of a country.


An examination of the current status of legal acceptance of workers’ participation in corporate governance reveals that primacy of shareholders’ interests is still the dominating trend though there are some exceptions as found in the form of work councils and supervisory boards as is prevalent in Germany. However, it would be wrong to assume that employees are taking it lying down as they find increased emphasis of shareholder supremacy in corporate laws across the world. Rather, employees have thought out a way of gaining advantage especially in United States of America. However, in Canada similar concerted activity is yet to materialize. Maybe Canadian labor will finally follow in their US brethrens’ steps someday.

Employees who are also shareholders have become increasingly active and organized labor is now playing a very important part in corporate governance in USA. These activists have already scored certain important victories for shareholders and labor and recently AFL-CIO have actively started to coordinate voting practices of union pension funds. If these newfound tools actually succeed, organized labor would become the single largest block of shareholders in entire United States. One would expect Canadian labor also to become aware of their role as shareholders and try to work around the problem as it were to wield more influence in corporate management.

It would, however, be grossly unfair to state that Canadian shareholders (among them there might be a fair number of employees) are totally inactive. Shareholders of magna International Corporation had, way back in 1984, implemented a so-called ‘Corporate Constitution’ which mandated an allocation of profits between management, shareholders and employees. Though it was targeted to reduce influence of labor unions, Magna also implemented ‘Employee’s Charter’ that promised job security and a share in profits and equity. The point that should not be missed is labor is indeed getting an increased importance whether directly or indirectly through the efforts of shareholder activists.

Casio Computer Company has also taken a leaf out of Magna’s book and incorporated a ‘Charter of Creativity for Casio’ where the company has pledged to consider the interests of all categories of stakeholders. The salient points in this charter are twofold. First, there is a marked shift from shareholder focus to stakeholder focus and the second; there is a serious attempt to balance interests of all categories of stakeholders. This is indeed a genuinely welcome step towards granting more importance to labor in Canadian corporate governance.

This debate and consequent divergence of opinions would never have occurred had Dickerson Committee which had raised this issue been more forthright and included an unambiguous definition of what constitutes ‘best interests of the corporation’ in Canada Business Corporations Act. It had the opportunity to do so but left it to the courts to define it instead.

So, we may conclude that workers have indeed found a way to exert their supremacy through the roundabout route of shareholder primacy in corporate law and their newfound tool of self defense would surely lend some form of protection against risky and often adventurous attempts by managers to increase shareholders’ wealth at any cost.


BCE Inc. v. 1976 Debentureholders. (3 S.C.R. 560 BCE, 2008).

Blair, Margaret M., and Lynn A. Stout. “A Team Production Theory of Corporate Law.” Virginia Law Review (Volume 85), 1999: 247.

Easterbrook, Frank, and Daniel R. Fischel. The Economic Structure of Corporate Law. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Ebrahimi v. Westbourne Galleries Ltd. A.C. 360 (H.L.) (1973).

Ellsworth, Richard. Leading with Purpose: The New Corporate Realities. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

Flannigan, Robert. “Fiduciary Duties of Shareholders and Directors.” J. Bus. L. 277 at 281, 2004.

Friedman, Milton. “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1970: 32–33, 122–26.

Halpern, Paul. “Systemic Perspectives on Corporate Governance Systems.” Conference and Symposium on Corporate Governance and Globalization. Toronto: Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, 1999.

Hansmann, Henry, and Reinier Kraakman. The End of History for Corporate Law. Discussion Paper Series, Cambridge MA: Harvard Law School John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Business, 2000.

Peoples Department Stores Inc. (Trustee of) v. Wise. (3 S.C.R. 461, 2004).

Scholes, Myron, and Fischer Black. “The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities.” Journal of Political Economy 81, University of Chicago, 1973: 637.

Scott, K. “The Role of Corporate Governance in South Korean Economic Reform.” Bank of America Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, 1998: Winter, 8-15.

Stout, Lynn A. “Bad and Not-So-Bad Arguments for Shareholder Primacy.” Southern California Law Review, 2002: 1189-1209.

Waitzer, Ed, and Johnny Jaswal. “Peoples, BCE, and the Good Corporate “Citizen”.” Osgoode Hall Law Journal 47, 2009: 439-496.

Women Poverty in Canada – Issues, Arguments and Possible Solutions

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:45 pm

Introduction – Anatomy of Poverty among Women in Canada

The title of the paper might raise a few eyebrows as it apparently sounds somewhat surreal that poverty can at all be an issue in such a prosperous country as Canada with its elaborate social security measures and liberal policies towards life and society. The issue is further confusing when one intends to focus on a particular sector of the population, i.e. women who are fighting the curse of poverty in such a flourishing country as Canada is.

Some may simply wish to brush the issue out of sight assuming that it is being blown out of proportions by an interested group that is out to get a few fleeting moments of spotlight by raising a bogey that does not exist in reality.

Others, though not so radical, might introspect a few moments on the issue but would, sooner rather than later, get blinded by glare of riches of the economy as a whole and would conveniently forget the plight of these unfortunate group that fights with its nose perilously close to the unforgiving grinding wheels of abysmal poverty.

Monica Townson in her seminal work published in 2000, shakes us up, rather rudely, from our willful suspension of disbelief and makes us aware of the existence and extent of poverty among Canadian women. She exposes the harsh fact that as Canada stepped into 21st century, nearly 19% of Canadian women were languishing in poverty.

Perhaps one other information would put the issue in proper perspective. While there were 1.8 million poor adult women in Canada in 1980, their numbers had increased to 2.2 million in 2000 (Townson 2000). So, the issue is not only trivial but also needs serious attention as the numbers that are afflicted by this social malady are steadily increasing.

It might, however, be argued by some that Canadian government does not have an officially accepted poverty line. So, how could one declare with such assurance that a certain number of Canadian adult women are poor? The answer to such a query can be found in statistics published by Statistics Canada. It publishes data based on LICO which is nothing but a relative estimate of incomes of families of a certain area. This estimate effectively brings into focus the number of families that are relatively poorer than their neighbors and serves as a good measure of finding out the number of people that can be termed as poor.

Though such an estimate is not uniform throughout the country as it depends on the level of the prosperity of the area that is investigated, it surely brings out the extent of poverty in Canadian society. LICO estimates the percentage of income spent by a family on necessities as food, shelter and clothing and those families that spend a high percentage of their income on these necessities are termed as low-income or poor.

Statistics Canada also provides another measure termed as ‘average income deficiency’ which defines the amount of additional income that is necessary to bring families that are in low-income group above the poverty level. This measure actually helps one to estimate the extent of poverty in Canadian society.

The anatomy of poverty among women in Canada is thrown into sharp focus by this measure when we face the disturbing fact that in 1997 while 49% of the elderly women who were on their own had an income deficiency of nearly $3,000; 56% of single mother families faced an income deficiency of $9,000 (Townson 2000). This fact makes us aware that single mother families are the worst hit and what is more consternating is that more than half such families consist of single mothers tending to children.

Finnie and Sweetman add another interesting dimension to the concept of poverty. They are of the opinion that unless a dynamic perspective is brought into consideration, the genuine impact of poverty can never be estimated. In simple terms, the extent of poverty in terms income deficiency is not enough to study the malaise. It is also necessary to estimate the duration of such poverty to get a complete picture of the hardships faced by the Canadian poor.

The authors also raise a very serious issue. Policy decisions would be substantially different when dealing with short term poverty for a large number of individuals than a long term poverty suffered by a relatively lesser number of individuals. While a temporary income support to affected individuals would be enough to weather short term poverty, much longer and more focused policy measures as equipping the affected individuals with employable skills would be a remedy for tackling long term poverty. So, the duration of poverty is a very important aspect that needs to be given serious attention. An emperical study by Finnie and Sweetman indicates lone mothers have a greater propensity to remain poor over longer periods than other groups (Finnie and Sweetman 2003).

The most obvious question that arises after perusing these details is what could be the reason for such deterioration in the state of affairs in an otherwise affluent economy that prides itself on its liberal and egalitarian outlook – one that never interferes in an individual’s freedom to pursue personal prosperity.

Apathy of Canadian government

The Canadian scenario got worse with global recession that played havoc with most economies of the world. It had become imperative for any government that prides itself on its welfare agenda should take extra precaution to protect those that have already been languishing in poverty. Thus anti-poverty policies had become all the more important as wages got reduced, jobs became scarce, pensions became more and more insufficient and at times even scarce and the all pervading and ever so reassuring social security became riddled with gaping holes (Mackenzie and Murray 2007).

However, Canadian government was caught in a dilemma of whether to incorporate poverty removal in its stimulus packages or whether to push the programs of poverty reduction in the background while concentrating on overall priming of the economy. The other issue that bothered social scientists and economists was whether these stimulus packages would help poor people or whether these would further put them in even greater depths of poverty.

A case in point was the inability of Canadian government to suitably address the issue of Employment Insurance Program which at any point anyway excludes 60% of those that deserve to be included. Reluctance to provide assistance to a program that offers to succor to even a minority among the targeted group amply demonstrates governmental apathy towards the poor.

One must also remember in this regard the unpalatable fact that women in general are less likely to get that benefit as compared to men. Thus, poor women would, it is needless to state, would be even more hamstrung by recession than their male counterparts due to governmental lack of appropriate attention towards improving their lot (TD Economics 2009).

Thus, Harper government’s palliative measure of extending the period of time unemployed could avail of the benefits of this program did not at all help those that were unable to secure an employment in the first place. Ontario did not make any pretensions and clearly stated that its policy of reduction of child poverty by 25% within five years would be postponed due to changed economic scenario.

The annual spending of $63 million for the upkeep of 22,000 child care spaces would not be continued thus adversely affecting poor women in a major way. Provincial governments, however, would pool their resources to preserve around 9,000 of such child care spaces but that effort, though commendable, would not majorly improve the lot of poor women (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

Some provincial governments had announced minor raises in minimum wage rates but there had not been even a single announcement regarding increase of welfare rates. As it is they were minimal and now with rising prices, the real value of these cosmetic increases in minimum wage rate have been negligible (Lynch 2007)

Generally Canadian government has never approached the problem of women poverty with any degree of seriousness of purpose. A case in point is child benefits that are intended to ameliorate poverty and hardship of single mothers as they toil in bringing up their children. Though the policy monitors economic status of children under assistance, it never attempts to monitor the economic status of lone mothers that actually bear the brunt of grinding poverty as they struggle in the efforts to rear their children.

This glaring lacuna in implementation and monitoring of the policy indeed casts serious doubts about the honesty of purpose of Canadian government in this regard (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

Unemployment not the sole reason of poverty among women

In this connection, it may be mentioned that the roots of women poverty in Canada are not only in their unemployment or they being unemployable but can also be traced back to situations when they are in paid employment.

The refusal of Federal Government to implement pay equity in workplace among genders has also increased the discomfort of women in workplace with regard to pay and benefits parity.

The government had also excluded unemployed women from the benefits of Employment Insurance. Though it was based on irrefutable logic the fact remains that it did in no way help the economic deprivation of poor women, especially during the trying times of global economic recession. The government also did not take any measure to alleviate the hardships of lone senior women and instead shifted its attention to family based benefits. This move is surely appreciable but there is a serious flaw in this approach. It assumes equal access to family income by both men and women which is surely not the reality in most instances.

Though some provincial governments did announce increase in minimum wages the impact is yet to be perceived in a tangible manner in improving the lot of poor women especially as women constitute 60% of the minimum wage workers (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

The issue assumes added significance when we superimpose it on the statistical evidence that in 2008, 82% of women in the age bracket 25 – 44 were in the paid workforce but they earned only 65.7% of the average wage earned by men. Ten years ago, in 1998 they earned 62.7% of the average wage earned by men at that time. Thus, there has hardly been any relative improvement in the earning potential of women over the decade. So, even if employment level for women is increased, there is a big doubt whether it would effectively reduce poverty among women.

The data quoted above includes women that are not employed full time. If we consider only those women that are employed full time then though the picture improves but only slightly. The wage gap between genders still remains equally great. As on 2007 an average women who was employed full time earned only 71.4% of the average earnings of a man in full time employment. Thus, refusal of federal government to implement wage equity has gone a long way in making women financially less strong as compared to men (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

There is another aspect to the whole scenario. When a woman loses her job generally she does not have enough savings to sustain herself and her family and more often than not does not qualify for Employment Insurance or workplace pension plans. As a result women who head a family as a lone parent are usually part of the poorest group of people in Canada and the level of welfare assistance is so inadequate that National Council of Welfare reported that in 2005 it was as low as 48% of the poverty line level for a lone woman family in Alberta (National Council of Welfare 2006).

After its installation in 2006, Harper Conservatives have taken steps that seriously undermined improvement of economic status of poor Canadian women especially withdrawal of mandate for Status of Women Canada dealt a big blow to attempts of improving the lot of poor Canadian women.

Spillover effects of poverty among women

These days two terms – ‘feminization of poverty’ and ‘juvenization of poverty’ have gained much currency. The first term was coined by Pearce in 1978 and it connoted that out of the total number of poor in Canada progressively more and more women are finding themselves in the grips of this abysmal financial condition (Pearce 1978). Later, Peterson in 1987 and Pressman in 1989 offered slightly differing versions of the term. They defined the term as an increase in the number of families which are headed by lone females and are poor (Peterson 1987); (Pressman 1989).

Though it might appear that the change in definition was merely cosmetic, but deeper analysis threw up different results based on different definitions. Thus, policy decisions, if any, taken depended heavily on how feminization was defined.

Martin D. Dooley did an elaborate study on the topic of feminization and juvenization of poverty. While family data strongly indicated feminization of poverty, individual data did not. Individual data strongly indicated the dejuvenization poverty but family data did not. In simple terms it meant that while children improved their economic lot over time, their mothers; the ones that tended to them and helped in bringing them up, remained mired in the depths of poverty without any hope of any succor (Dooley 1994).

One reason forwarded by Dooley for reduction of juvenization of poverty was not due to children from poor families managing to get out of the clutches of poverty but due to lower rates of child birth. The number of children reduced, hence juvenization of poverty reduced. It was not due to any governmental initiative or conscious poverty reduction plan. Another rather startling revelation obtained from the studies of Dooley was that taxation rates and governmental assistance did not help in reduction of overall poverty.

All that those measures could do was a redistribution of poverty from the elderly women to younger women – those that were below 34 years of age. He forwarded several reasons for such an occurrence the most important among those was the income gap among the elderly were already lesser than those among the younger women and when this coupled with the extra benefits enjoyed by the elderly, the net result was a reduction in poverty rates among the senior women. So, it was more an effect of demography rather than any governmental measures.

Government’s approach towards poverty among women

With a drastic change in Canadian social welfare policy and steady reduction of safety net, the economic position of poor women in Canada has steadily deteriorated. Many citizens are of the opinion that such a drastic cutback of welfare measures has sown the seeds of insecurity in the minds of many Canadians and now not only the poor women but also others that are reasonably secure financially have started to feel the pinch of steadily disappearing social safety network (Pulkingham and Ternowetsky 1996).

It all started with the implementation of Canada Health and Social Transfer whereby federal Government started giving a lump sum amount to provincial governments to cover education, health care and social programs. Provincial governments were provided enough autonomy in deciding the standards of social programs they would provide to their people and provincial governments started delegating their responsibilities to municipalities which decided the standard of social programs they would offer to those living within their jurisdiction. The natural corollary of such widespread decentralization and delegation was a marked variation in the quality of social programs available throughout Canada and a steady erosion of Federal government’s hitherto leadership status with regard to such social welfare programs (McMullin, Davies and Cassidy 2002).

The Ontario government introduced in 1997 the Social Reform Act that focused on restructuring the welfare system with the laudable goal of lowering the ‘cycle of dependency’ on the system and encouraging the recipients of social assistance to become self sufficient. The Ontario Works Act (OWA) and the Ontario Disability Support Program Act (ODSPA) replaced the earlier federally administered General Welfare Assistance Act (GWA), the Family Benefits Act (FBA) and the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Act.

The Ontario Works Act provided pecuniary support for shelter and other basic needs to recipients together with dental and eye care. But this ultimately resulted in a 21.6% reduction in benefits for the recipients. The reduction of benefits was aimed at coaxing the recipients from the cozy comfort of social assistance to show some initiative and find an employment. However, the ground reality was entirely different.

Lone young mothers when faced with the 21% reduction took recourse to running up debts rather than compromise on the children’s nutrition and landed into greater financial difficulty with debt collectors hounding them. Thus, instead of encouraging them to become self sufficient, the new policy made them more financially insecure. The very aim of the policy was thus utterly frustrated (McMullin, Davies and Cassidy 2002).

Those that opted to join the labor force landed into greater trouble. Due to their lack of proper education and job related experience they could manage only the lowliest of jobs that did not have any social benefits and most of them ended up earning less than what they could get through social assistance which was promptly withdrawn the moment they got a job. Thus, the new policy effectively transformed them from unemployed poor to working poor without any real change in their economic condition (Little 1994). Such a situation induces a sense of helplessness and self pity among lone mothers and instead of empowering them, this law turned them into people that lacked self esteem who felt they were inherently worthless, useless and totally unfit to become contributive members of a society.

The reduction in welfare assistance in most provinces in Canada were drastic with British Columbia leading the onslaught as between 1995 and 2003 welfare assistance in this state was truncated by as much as 54%. It must be remembered that while poverty directly influences health and well being of poor women by inhibiting them from proper nutrition, shelter or health care, stigmatization and alienation from society scars their psyche beyond any redemption (Fuchs 1988).

They lead the rest of their lives bearing the albatross around their necks of being treated as unworthy, undeserving, reprehensible and more often than not as morally deviant. Such a tremendous burden is surely a very heavy penalty for being poor. Yet quite a few of those that reached such a pitiable situation did so for no fault of theirs. A divorce often shattered their earlier sheltered existence and, devoid of any previous work experience or even an educational degree, they faced the fury of modern urban life with no wherewithal to take shelter from the unexpected onslaught (Reid and Tom 2006).

Coulter analyzed the relative inaction, rather abdication of responsibility of the Federal Government through the prism of neoliberalism which measures an individual by the quantum of his or her consumption and propounds the supremacy of marketplace (Coulter 2009). Thus all policies enacted by neoliberals almost invariably shifted their focus from groups to individuals and tended to treat each individual as an independent entity unique in itself and not having anything in common to each other. Such an approach quite conveniently releases the government from its bounden duty of providing for welfare measures to disadvantaged sections of the society and concentrate on efficient and smooth functioning of the marketplace which neoliberals consider to be the final, impersonal and equitable arbiter of utilization of the resources of a society and capital accumulation (Harvey 2006).

When the Conservative Party came to power in 1995 elections in Ontario, neoliberals like Mike Harris came out in the open with all their guns blazing against tenets of welfare state and governmental responsibilities towards economically disadvantaged and consequent spending of governmental funds for their support. They also blamed governmental regulation for the tumultuous economic scenario that plagued Canada at that time. But the real reason for such a recessionary situation was not welfare policies of the government or security net but because of a global economic downturn, however, these neoliberals took advantage of public anxiety and scrapped or drastically reduced welfare schemes and worsened the economic conditions of lone mothers. Instead of helping those that needed such assistance the most, the government pushed them further to the brink of annihilation in its mad desire to establish supremacy of marketplace and a consumption oriented economy (Coulter 2009).

Policy Priorities for Women – through the prism of racial and class differences

Erin O’Brien observes that women never think as a single group bout the burning issue of poor women in Canada; rather they analyze the issue through the lens of their individual racial and economic standings. As an example, the author draws the analogy of a woman driving a SUV and another driving a Hyundai and yet another that is forced to take a bus and tries to examine whether all three women think alike on issues of poverty and deprivation among women in Canada (O’Brien 2004).

But O’Brien is not the only scholar who has come to this conclusion. Authors have earlier also recorded their experiences and analyzed trends and events and have come to the conclusion that women tend to have divergent opinions about any political or societal issue depending upon which strata of society they come from, their nationalities and races and of course their economic status (Gordon 1994).

As their economic status improves, women tend to consider poverty as an issue that should not merit as much as attention as it did when their economic status was not so sound. Thus advent of economic prosperity tended to make women impervious to the miseries of those that have still not been able to overcome that crucial economic barrier. This situation becomes even more acute if the fruits of economic prosperity do not permeate equitable through the society. If those that have been able to take advantage of various assistances and social benefits to break away from the shackles of poverty belong predominantly to a specific ethnic group, they would almost always become callous about the trials and tribulations of the other ethnic groups that have not been able to, or were not allowed to, take advantage of social benefits or a booming economy.

Thus organizing women to fight against poverty is a double-edged sword in the sense that while all of them face the same hardships, women would stick together and fight together but once there is a discrepancy in economic improvement among individual members of the group, those that have been able to clinch the benefits would most certainly stop struggling for their less fortunate fellow members. Hence any women’s movement that attempts to tackle women’s poverty in Canada by organizing affected women to fight the battle collectively must be extra cautious that such a movement does not end up creating divides and chasms among fellow members. If women become apathetic to problems of women it would indeed be an uphill task for those that are fighting the battle for survival.


Women in Canada are still suffering from unacceptable levels of poverty and the government seems all too happy to abdicate its responsibility to protect that are most distressed in the name of rationalization and empowerment of recipients of social security assistance. Global recession has given them a convenient excuse to shrink the social security net even further. But such an approach must be vehemently opposed and the government must be pressurized to bring back the issue of women’s equality at workplace back on the active agenda. Further, the issue of Employment Insurance must be ironed out so that women get the same benefits and access as men do.

The minimum wages should be brought up to $10 and a thorough review of social assistance is absolutely urgent and imperative so as to ensure that they come up to post-tax LICO for lone parents and elderly women so that they do not remain stuck in the depths of poverty while suffering the opprobrium of useless social parasites. Recent modes of evaluation of a woman’s economic status that is linked with her relationship with a man must be removed and social assistance and tax structures should be so modified that a woman’s economic autonomy is not only respected but also actively encouraged.


Coulter, Kendra. “Women, Poverty Policy, and the Production of Neoliberal Politics in Ontario, Canada.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 30, 2009: 23-45.

Dooley, Martin D. “Women, Children and Poverty in Canada.” Canadian Public Policy, Vol. 20, No. 4, 1994: 430-443.

Finnie, Ross, and Arthur Sweetman. “Poverty dynamics: empirical evidence for Canada.” Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2003: 292-325.

Fuchs, V. Women’s Quest for Economic Equality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Gordon, Linda. Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare. New York: Free Press, 1994.

Harvey, David. Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development. London: Verso, 2006.

Little, M.H. “Manhunts and Bingo Blabs: The Moral Regulation of Ontario Single Mother.” Canadian Journal of Sociology, 19, 1994: 233-247.

Lynch, Robert G. Enriching Children, Enriching the Nation. Study, Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2007.

Mackenzie, Hugh, and Stuart Murray. Bringing Minimum Wages Above the Poverty Line. Report, Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2007.

McMullin, J. A., L. Davies, and G. Cassidy. “Welfare reform in Ontario: tough times in mothers’ lives.” Canadian Public Policy, 28 (2), 2002: 297-314.

National Council of Welfare. “Welfare Incomes: Patterns and Trends.” National Council of Welfare. 2006. (accessed March 29, 2011).

O’Brien, Erin. “The Double-Edged Sword of Women’s Organizing.” Women & Politics, 26: 3, 2004: 25-56.

Pearce, D. “The Feminization of Poverty: Women, Work and Welfare.” Urban and Social Change Review, 2, 1978: 1-2.

Peterson, J. “The Feminization of Poverty.” Journal of Economic Issues, 21, 1987: 329-337.

Pressman, S. “Comment on Peterson’s “The Feminization of Poverty”.” Journal of Economic Issues, 23, 1989: 231-238.

Pulkingham, J., and G. Ternowetsky. “The Changing Landscape of Social Policy and the Canadian Welfare State.” In Remaking Canadian Social Policy: Social Security in the Late 1990s, by J. Pulkingham and G. Ternowetsky (eds). Halifax: Fernwood Publishing Co., 1996.

Reid, Colleen, and Allison Tom. “Poor Women’s Discourses of Legitimacy, Poverty, and Health.” Gender and Society, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2006: 402-421.

TD Economics. Is Canada’s Employment Insurance Program Adequate? Special Report. April 30, 2009. (accessed March 28, 2011).

Townson, Monica. A Report Card on Women and Poverty. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2000.

Townson, Monica. Women’s Poverty and the Recession. Report, Ottawa: Canadian Center for Policy Alternaives, 2009.

The Primary Reasons Why African American Women Find it Difficult To Attract Compatible African American Men to Commit to Marriage

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:42 pm


The purpose of this project thesis was to determine the primary reasons why African American Women find it difficult to attract compatible African American Men to commit to marriage and ways to solve this problem. This issue has been around for years and it is not getting any better. The men in our society are afraid to commit to marriage for various reasons. Men not committing is causing women to feel unwanted, abused, lose trust and for some even low self-esteem, which lead to depression.

An article printed in Diverse Education African American women states that it is not only women who want marriage, family and stability. The realities take shape by gaps in labor market opportunities between men and women, and gaps in the training possibilities that men and women face.

Women stated in an extract posted by Dr. Michael Gurian, that men take longer to decide that this one bond of marital love would be the bond on which they formed their future life.  Men prove worth and base their lives on tests, challenges, and proofs of self.  They take a lot longer to commit themselves than women.  Many men would rather wait for engagement and marriage until they are sure that can keep their worth and status high enough for a sustained period to live up to their future family and social responsibilities.

Men are afraid to become responsible for woman’s happiness. Men are very smart:  They know from adolescence onward that women make men greatly responsible for their happiness.  Men, especially today, know that it can easily become a zero sum game to become responsible for not only a woman’s physical and financial safety once children come, but also her deep inner life, too.

Many men fear they will not be able to completely bond with children.  Men do not have oxytocin which women have by which they bond not only instinctually and socially to children, but also biochemically.  Men often have to work very hard to bond with mates and offspring in order to feel parallel in their bonding intensity with women.  Men biologically mature later than women, their brain development finishes later in adolescence than girls’ do and women’s.  Therefore, in some case, the woman seeking commitment might be more psychologically mature than the man she wants to marry. She may be ready.  He may not be.  Because men have no inherent biological path to worth, they often take longer than women do to feel they have proven themselves worthy of marriage. They may be just as focused on the personal journey of self-worth development as they are on marriage, whereas in case of a woman, the very fact that a man is courting may have the inherent advantage of self-worth, and she may be more focused on marriage.

Meanwhile, men have many reasons for not committing as quickly as women might like. Some men are simply so terrified of committing to one woman that they reflect quite well the cliché, “Men are afraid to commit.” Yet men are immensely courageous, too.  Especially in today’s social environment, in which many females are putting not only the responsibility for their financial and material needs in the hands of men (men are still required, in most households, to earn more than women when the children come), but also the responsibility for the emotional health of the marriage, men still marry at very high rates. Men are committing themselves to romantic partners and striving to adapt and adjust to those partners. Men fear women, but know they need them. The biological compulsion to marry is still very strong, as are the biological factors that drive a man’s mind and body as he passes the tests of commitment. (Gurian, 2005)


ABSTRACT                                                                                                                  3

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROBLEM                                                                       6

Purpose of the Action Research Project                                                                     6

Setting of the Problem                                                                                                6

History and Background of the Problem                                                                    7

Scope of the Action Research Project                                                                                    8

Importance of the Action Research Project                                                                9

Definition of Terms                                                                                                  10

LITERATURE REVIEW                                                                                          11

OPTION SELECTION                                                                                                          22

DESCRIPTION OF THE INTERVENTION                                                                      23

Statement of Objectives                                                                                           23

Description of the Intervention                                                                                24

       THE EVALUATION PLANS                                                                                               27

Evaluation Design                                                                                                     28

Interpretation                                                                                                            29

PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF INTERVIEWS                                                                     32

Design of Questions                                                                                                 33

CONCLUSION                                                                                                           35

       REFERENCE LIST                                                                                                   37





African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage due to fear of committing to a permanent, one on one, male/female relationship, lack of trust due to past hurts and fear of divorce. For years African American women have been getting involved in relationships with African American men to build a foundation for marriage and to have a family and as a result of various reasons, marriages have ended in divorce. This issue has been around for years and causes men and women to talk about relationships, think about them, read about them, ask about them, and even get in them, without a clue how to move forward in them. In Steve Harvey book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man he states what men really think about love, relationship, intimacy, and commitment. (Harvey, 2009)

Statement of Purpose 

The purpose of this project was to determine the primary reasons why African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage and ways to solve this problem.  It is indeed surprising that after all these years women have yet to figure out why is it so difficult to get men to commit to marriage. It is high time that the pathetic excuses that our African American men give about not being ready, not being able to get along, or not having a good enough careers are discarded in the dustbin. (Mitchell, 2006)

Year after year, men have been abusing and disrespecting women. Year after year, men have been lording over women and in the process have taken away or crushed their rights and dignity.  There are women who are driven to mental penury after their encounter with these men. (Abidde, 2005)

The purpose of committing is putting all blame aside, believing you should focus on bridging the gaps in African American relationships by exploring solutions and engaging in dialogue that is more meaningful.  In other words, take a moment and shed some light on how we got to this point in the beginning.  Purpose of defining commitment could be define our relationship ideas, communicate our desires, and look for balances that sustain us for the long haul.  These traditional roles with new millennium personalities will help both African American women and men satisfy their relationship needs and expectations.

Setting of the Problem

This problem is affecting African American women and men worldwide, who have not found their sold mate; and it is not getting any better.  If it is not thought of and evaluated in a more respectful, and loving manner it could have a devastating effect on our African American women and men globally.

The problem is an internationally known problem that African American men and women are facing emotionally and physically.  The problem of women not being able to find a compatible man to commit and marriage is ongoing all over.

History of the Problem

According to research found on the website for National Health Marriage Resource Center, “Marriage is clearly linked to psychological, social and economic benefits.”  African American is significantly less likely to marry. Only 50 percent of African Americans born between 1960 and 1969 were married by the age of 30 (compared with 78 percent of whites).

African Americans have higher rates of divorce compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Well, because of the lower marriage rates and higher divorces rates, African-American women are about half as likely to be married at any time. Marriage is no longer a moral issue; it is an economic issue. (Mary Mitchell)

Research indicates that African American men lack the education and financial sources.  They are undependable, uncommitted to marriage, prone to engage in violence, physically absent due to abandonment or incarceration.

The absence of African American fathers at home might also be a primary factor of the insidious deterioration of African American families. These missing men are at the root of family disorganization and dysfunction. Accepting this notion without taking into account the rampant inequity, racial discrimination and legal difficulties that often create insurmountable barriers to marriage and fatherhood would give the observer a wrong impression about the whole scenario.(Fiske, 2003).

A recent study by Lane, Keefe, Rubinstein, Levandowski, Freedman, Rosenthal, Cibula and Czerwinski (2004) examines the current plight of African American Families and barriers to marriage and parenthood.  Research reveals that the declining marriage rate for African American women is most likely due to the scarcity of marriageable men and the disproportionate sex ratio within the African American population. The research also brings to light the fact that the high rise in single motherhood since 1965 through 2000 is not due to personal choice, but rather the effect of structural violence. Lack of educational and /or employment opportunities inhibit marriage ability.

The African American male-female sex ratio disparity is highest between the ages of 25-29, when for every two African American men there are nearly three African American women.  Lane, et al (2004) note, heterosexual, monogamous marriage is thus an arithmetical impossibility for one third of African American women in this age group, if they want marital partners of near age and same race.  Overwhelmingly, incarceration is the largest factor that accounts for this skewed male-female sex ratio among African American men and women.

Researchers have frequently theorized that sporadic employment leads to disengaged family involvement for low-income African American men.  Low-income women often do not consider men with unstable work histories to be worth a lifetime commitment.  Successful fatherhood has hinged on men’s stable and consistent participation in both work and family life (Roy, 2005).  With limited opportunities to fulfill the provider role for their families, African American men have had few opportunities to open the door to other forms of familiar involvement as parents or partners.  Failure as providers has harmed fulfillment of other roles in the lives of African American men, such as the regular involvement with their children (Roy, 2005).  Research suggests that African American men, as with men from all ethnicities, in fact, desire marriage. (James, Tucker, Mitchell-Kernan,(1996).  Married men derive a high level of well-being, more so than never married singles or divorced males.  However, among African American women, only about 70 percent born after 1980 will marry and those who do marry will face increased chances for divorce (Besharov and West, 2001).  Considering the shortage of marriageable African American men, marriage unions between African American men and women are in serious decline; with a reversal of this trend unlikely in the near future.  If they marry, the high rates of divorce among this population are indicative of the severe stressors (poverty, high unemployment, etc.) that interfere in the lives of these families, jeopardizing the health of the marriage.

Scope of the Project

The project will focus on fear of commitment, educational differences, financial compatibility, fear of divorce with or without children, and religious differences.  There are several reasons why African American women have difficulty attracting compatible African American men to commit to marriage.

1) The fear of commitment due to economic status and feelings of inadequacy in handling family life,

2) Women are unable to attract men because of educational differences; single motherhood has forced women to further their education in order to provide adequate life, health and safety for themselves and their children. This causes men to feel intimidated by the knowledge women have and they do not.

3) Financial compatibility because of advances educational levels, which allows or contributes to job promotion and an advance in salary, again cause men to be intimidated by a woman that makes more money than he does and he fears that he will not be in control as being the family “bread winner”.

4) Fear of divorcees with or without children listening and observing family member’s marriages, I’ve learned that in previous years, husband and wives communicated more and forgave and tolerated incidents that couples today will divorce over without seeking counseling or giving the other party “another chance”.  The marriage vows are quickly forgotten when situations are not happening to their satisfaction.

5) Religious differences under which African American women attend church believing in the Lord and living according to his word.  Locating an African American man who is committed to living according to the “Word” is difficult, as some of them believe that their indiscretions are acceptable and they do not have any problems in having an affair outside marriage as long as their wives do not find out. They are comfortable sitting in church singing praise to the Lord all the while knowing they have sinned. They are willing to be in church, but not to completely adopt the ways of the Lord.

Importance of the Project

The importance of this project was to educate and inform African American women that all is not in vain in attracting an African American man to commit to marriage and that they do not have to sacrifice themselves in order to marry within their race.  It is also important to educate and inform African American men that not all women are out to trap them into a life of misery, and that communication and understanding is one of the keys to having a healthy and happy marriage.


Definition of Terms


Oxytocin – is a pituitary hormone that stimulates uterine contractions during childbirth and triggers lactation.

Use: sometimes given to assist labor


Instinctually – is a powerful motivation or impulse


Biochemically – is the study of the chemical substances and vital processes in living organisms


Immensely – is extremely large, huge, excellent


Penury – extreme poverty; destitution


Insidious – is working or spreading harmfully in a subtle or stealthy manner.  Intended to entrap, treacherous


Rampant – Growing or spreading unchecked.


Insurmountable – is impossible to surmount; insuperable


Monogamous – is marriage to only one person at a time


Sporadic – is occurring at irregular intervals; having no pattern in time


Indicative – is serving to indicate




An exploration of family origin and contextual influences; African American women’s perception of men and their experience of romantic relationships have been examined in detail. African American men also face impacts and effects that relate to educational differences, commitment, financial compatibility, divorcees with or without children and religious differences.  These are the topics that will be discussed in my paper.

Educational Differences

Nationally, a mere quarter of the 1.9-million black men between 18 and 24 attended college in 2000, the last year the American Council on Education reported such statistics.  By contrast, 35 percent of black women in the same age group and 36 percent of all 18 to 24 year olds were attending college.

According to the American Council on Education, is that the graduation rate of African American men is the lowest of any population.  Only 35 percent of the African American men who enrolled in NCAA Division I schools in 1996 graduated within six years.  Caucasian men, on the other hand, graduated at a rate of 59 percent; Hispanic men, 46 percent; American Indian men, 41 percent; and African American women, 45 percent.

According to the autumn 2003 issue of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, “In 1999 there were 757,000 African American men in federal, state and local prison”.  In the United States, in 1999 there were 604,200 African American men enrolled in advanced education.  Meanwhile, there were 25 percent more African American men in prison in the United States than were enrolled in institutions for advanced education.  In today’s society, black men make up 41 percent of the inmates in federal state, and local prison, but African American men are only 4 percent of all students in American institutions of advanced education.

Many African American and Caucasian educators at major colleges and universities, including Amherst, historically black Howard, Swarthmore and Wesleyan, are trying to help end this crisis.  Several years ago, the University of Georgia established the African-American Male Initiative, a research program with the purpose of removing the hurdles to college enrollment and graduation for black men.

The obstacles to African American males earning college degrees are several, various apparently inflexible.  They include central public education before college, the absence of black men as role models, low opportunity from teachers and other adults, low self-worth; black men’s hold low aspirations and their propensity to drop out of high school in inconsistent numbers.

Yes, these are serious obstacles to college enrollment and graduation for African-American men, but, taken together, they symbolize the least significant part of the problem.  A role model, for example, means nothing or next to nothing to a child who is ill prepared to emotionally and academically apprehend the significance of the role model’s accomplishments.

Ronald Mincy is a professor of social work and editor of “Black Males Left Behind”.  The African American population in Prince George’s County, Maryland and DeKalb County, Georgia are some of the nation’s most satisfied.  The poverty rate for African Americans has decreased from 26.5 percent in 1998 to 24.3 percent in 2006.  In addition, a study by the National Association of Realtors’ for 2006 discovered that single female homebuyers were up from 14 percent to 22.  Additionally, in the midst of single females, 46 percent are time buyers.

A staggering number of African American household continue to be headed by women; and shortage has a common way of life inherited from one generation to another.  Some seven out of every ten African American children are raised in single households.  Additional data reveals that African American households are at an economic drawback compared to white households.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2005 employed African Americans earned only 65 percent of the earnings of whites in comparables jobs.  Moreover, John Macionis, a sociologist, suggests that a soaring risk of unemployment and poverty makes maintain a constant marriage difficult.  In addition, that 27 percent of African American women in their forties have never married compare to about 9 percent of white women the same age.

Many African American women are losing faith in a man’s ability to be responsible.  Twenty of the twenty-seven (74%) women interviewed for this article agree that some African American men look forward to a woman to take care of them.  While this view is disturbing, the truth of the matter is that a growing number of African American men are out of work.  According the Erik Eckholm’s article titled “Plight of Black Men dire, Studies Says”, the share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late1990s.  In 2000, 65 percent of the black male high school dropouts in their 20’s were jobless-that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated.  By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white dropouts and 19percent of Hispanic dropouts.

Financial Capabilities

General Statistics

  • The number of working women has risen from 5, 1 million in 1990, to 18.4 million in 1950, to 65.7 million in 2005. The number of working women is projected to reach nearly 76 million by 2014.
  • Women accounted for 18% of the labor force in 1900, and 46.4% in 2005. In 2014, women will account for 46.8% of the labor force.
  • The number of women in the labor force is expected to increase by almost 10.9% between 2004 and 2014, while a smaller 9.1% increase is projected for men. This means men’s share of the labor force will decrease, from 53.6% to 53.2% between 2004 and 2014.
  • While in 1900 only 20.4% of all women worked, in 2005, almost 60% worked. The same percentage of women is expected to be in the paid labor force in 2014.
  • Almost 73% of working women had white-collar occupations in 2005, a percentage that should to increase. Women employed in professional and related occupations accounted for 24.7% of all working-women in 2005.
  • Women are the majority (56.3%) of workers in the occupational category expected to grow most rapidly: the professional and related occupations, which should increase by more than 21.2% from 2004-2014.
  • Labor force participation has increased most dramatically among married women.
  • Today most mothers-even those with the youngest children participate in the labor force.
  • Nearly half of all multiple jobholders in 2004 were women, up from 22% in 1974. Women are the majority of temporary and part-time workers.

Occupational Distribution

  • Women being the main source of professional employees, their profession distribution remains different from men:
  • In 2005, 92% of registered nurses, 82% of all elementary and middle schoolteachers, and 98% of all preschool and kindergarten teachers were women.
  • In comparison, only 13% of all civil engineers, 7% of electrical and electronics engineers, and 3% of all aircraft pilots and flight engineers were female.
  • The different distribution of men and women among specific professional occupations was less pronounced in 2005 than in 1985.
  • The percentage of technical writers who were female increased from 36% to 52% between 1985 and 2005
  • Women pharmacists increased from 30% in 1983 in 1985 to 48% in 2005
  • The percentage of female chemists increased from 11% in 1985 to 35% in 200
  • In 2005, women accounted for 30% of all lawyers, 32% of all physicians and surgeons, and 67% of all psychologists

The Wage Gap Persists

  • In 2004, women earned 80.4% as much as men when comparing median weekly earnings. Another way to measure earnings disparities is by comparing median annual earnings for full-time year-round workers; this figure includes self-employed workers and other sources of pay differences such as annual bonuses.  When measured in this manner, the wage gap appeared even more pronounced; women earned just 76.5% as much as men.
  • For most women of color, the earnings gap is even larger.
  • African American women earned just 70.8% as much as all men in 2004.
  • Hispanic and Latina women earned just 58.8% as much as all men.
  • Only Asian American women’s earnings were closer to parity with men’s: in 2004, they earned 86% that of all men. However, they earned 76.4% as much as Asian American men.
  • The wage gap is more pronounced for older women: in 2004, women over 35 earned 75% that of men in the same age group, while women aged 16-24 earned 95% as much as their peers.
  • Out of 19 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the United States has the largest gender earnings gap, save for Austria and Switzerland.

Work, Family, and Women’s Economic Responsibilities

  • In 2004, 49% of women were not married, 58% of them were in the labor force
  • The proportion of families in which the husband, but not the wife, worked outside the home declined from 66% in the 1940’s and ‘50s to only 18% in 2003.
  • The overall labor force participation rate of mothers with children under 18 was 70.7% in 2004.
  • Whereas in 1970, 12% of all children lived in one-parent families, in 2004 almost 28% lived with only one parent. Over 83% of these children lived with their mothers.
  • In 2004, single mother almost 30% of all working families headed over seven million families with children under 18. The labor-force-participation rate of single mothers was over 77% in 2004.
  • Almost 36% of families where children under 18 lived with their mother (with no father present) were below the poverty level in 2004. Among Black single mothers, over 43% were below the poverty line.

Other important critical economic realities shape the status of African American women.  While more likely to be employed than African-American men, African-American women earn lower wages than African men and White women do, with White women earning a median $663 per week in 2007, compared to $629 for African-American men and $566 for African-American women.  All three groups earn less than White men, whose 2007 weekly median earnings were $850.  Moreover, while African-American women represent two-thirds of all African –American undergraduates, and the mass of graduate students, African –American women are less likely than African-American men to reach the high point of their occupations, especially in corporate America.  Indeed, while a handful of African-American men lead Fortune 500 corporations, as do a dozen or so White women, not a single African-American woman has ever led such a corporation.


Elina Furman, author of Kiss and Run: The Single, Picky, and Indecisive Girl’s Guide to Overcoming Her Fear of Commitment, calls her commitment phobic.  The world is altering and so as society, which is giving women more options for work, family and relationships.  In result, this has made women to become more independent than ever.  At 47 million strong, in according to the U.S. Census, single women are the fastest growing segment of the American population. Moreover, with society more accepting of their single status, women are free to follow whatever choices they desire to make.  However, conflicts can arise from all this newfound freedom:  More women are living life on their own terms but discovery it harder to compromise.

This trend is especially unsettling for men, the author says, “Men don’t understand why women are roaring so much.  A lot of men are much more relationship-and family-oriented than women.”  She says women often feel that men have more to gain in a marriage and many feel as if men always win and women always lose in a relationship.  In addition, when men play the nice guy, they may not get the girl.  The author says, often it’s not his issues but hers that interfere in a relationship. She says many women are saying to men, “It’s your fault,” rather than declare that they are scared of commitment.

Married African American men are more likely to be employed than never-married or divorced men, and they work longer hours and earn superior wages than unmarried men with comparable characteristics.  These specifics have been confirmed in the vase mass of economic studies why individuals with comparable and distinctive characteristics have different earnings.  Studies focusing on black men estimate that married men work two and a half more on average and earn wages between 14 percent and 18 percent higher than never-married black men earn while controlling for other differences between individuals.

Why do men earn more when they marry?  It may be that married men change their behavior to conform to social expectations of what it takes to be good husband-expectations such as maturity, loyalty, and the ability to provide economically for a family.  On the other hand, perhaps men delay marriage until they expect to be able to conform to these expectations. To explore this question, economists Sanders Korenman and David Neumark follow the employment patterns of men from two different types of surveys:  a nationwide representative sample studied over time and a smaller group of men working in a single firm.  They find that men’s wages enlarge during each year of marriage, and that, in the long-term study, unmarried men with advanced wage growth is actually less likely subsequently to marry.  The authors also find married men in the firm-level sample have higher performance evaluations than unmarried men with comparable company experience and other characteristics, which leads the married men to be employed in higher job grades and to earn more money.  This study provides verification that married men’s behavior, rather than preferential treatment or selection into marriage, causes them to earn more.

African American men also modify their behavior after marriage in ways that are valuable to their health.  The social and emotional support that married black men obtain from their wives is influential in encouraging healthy activities and protecting men’s emotional health.

How do wives have a direct positive impact on African American husbands’ health?

Married black men gain from the social and emotional support of their wives and from their wives’ support towards healthy behavior.  Married men are more likely than single men to report that someone monitors their health and reminds them to do healthy things, such as exercising or seeing a doctor regularly.  The everyday interaction provided by marriage also protects men against solitude and social isolation, which can negatively affect physical and mental health.  Marriage can also bolster men’s belief that their lives have meaning and purpose because someone relies on them and cares for them.

Married African American men accept more sustain from their extended families and religious communities, and in return supply to the social performance of their neighborhoods and communities.  In this way, married black men are more socially incorporated into their communities than unmarried peers are.

Encouraging marriage among African Americans should be essential to anyone-including policymakers, community activists, and individuals-who are concerned in improving the well-being of African American men.  With this goal in mind, researcher Linda Malone-Colon has outlined a plan to lecture to the crisis of low marriage rates among African Americans.

Divorcees with or without children

The most important cause of rise in divorce is considered cases worldwide of individualism among people.  Everyone worldwide is giving too much significance to his or her own self.  People are more career-oriented and want to rise high in life status-wise and financially.  No one has much time o think about the other person. “I before anyone else” is the attitude.

Such individualism is very conflicting of the concept of marriage, which is a bond of two people who vow to care for each other and put the other’s importance before their own.  This is the only way a marriage can function because it demands togetherness and collectiveness thinking, not individualism.  To make a marriage work, both the partners need to be equipped for a lot of self-sacrifice and ready to show an understanding and caring attitude towards the other.

Other most important causes of divorce are financial arising out of a lack of family resources.  The constant scarcity of money soon gives to such behavior as bickering, sarcastic comments, insulting each other and lack of respect for each other. This downhill slide finally ends in divorce.

Other reasons for divorce include factors like physical and emotional abuse, sexual dissatisfaction, and unrest in relationship due to a huge disparity in educational background and life goals between the partners as well as lack of shared chemistry between them due to ego problems.

Divorce leads to numerous serious repercussions in a person’s life.  One starts to blame oneself for the completely messy situation and failure in personal affairs.  Guiltiness complex saps your energy and erodes you from within.  To get out of this unsafe rut, you have to remember the good times you have exhausted together with your partner.  “It was good while it lasted” is the correct approach to capture.

Divorce often leads to depression.  You feel lonely and discover it difficult to accept the new situation.  Divorce creates a feeling of anger and self-pity because you question yourself “why this has happened to me? Why was I so unlucky?”  Your health begins to suffer.  Divorce not only affects you but your children too.  They get a feeling of insecurity and grow to be uncertain about their future.  If not handled properly, this can cause permanent damage to the personality of the growing-up children.

After divorce, you have to start thinking of reframing your life and getting it back on track.  You should also be patient.  It will take a lot of time and effort before you can fully overcome the unconstructive effects of divorce.  To hasten up the process, try to take up a new hobby and make it a point to meet new people and start fresh relationships.  Joining Yoga and meditation is another way of dealing with stress and anxiety.  Talking about your problems with your friends is also helpful in getting the pent-up feelings out of your system.

Religious Differences

According to a latest research released today, there is a very high level of interest and involvement in spirituality and religion, there are significant differences among student subgroups, most extensively between African American and Whites, and between men and women.

A survey of 112,232 students at 236 colleges and universities found that the major differences between African American and White students was in their rank of Religious Commitment, Ethic of Caring, Religious Engagement, and Spiritual Quest. African Americans are also far more prone than White Americans to believe in God, pray, and attend religious services frequently.

While gender differences are not always outsized, women score higher on 11 of 12 “scales” that measure various aspects of students’ spirituality and religiousness.  The most marked differences are in women’s higher levels of Charitable Involvement and Religious Commitment.

These results are base on the most recent investigation of statistics from a major national study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at UCLA.  The study was administered last fall to entering college freshmen who attend a representative sample of colleges and universities.  HERI researchers reported earlier that four in five students have an interest in spirituality, three-fourths say are “searching for meaning or reason in life,” and more than three-quarters believe in God.

“African Americans are far busier with religion and spirituality than other students,” said Alexander W. Astin, the Co-Principal Investigator for the project.  “And while women’s advanced levels of spirituality and religiousness might be expected, we were astonished that some of these differences aren’t more pronounced.

Racial Differences

African Americans registered as the maximum scorers on seven of the 12 overall measures of spirituality and religiousness studied – Religious Commitment, Compassionate Self-Concept, Spiritual Quest, Equanimity, Religious Engagement, Ethic of Caring, and Religious/Social Conservatism – compared to Whites, Latinos, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders.  Whites had the lowest scores on five of the 12 scales:  Ethic of Caring, Ecumenical Worldview, Charitable Involvement, Spiritual Quest, and Compassionate Self-Concept.

Latinos were the least likely overall to display elevated levels of Religious Engagement and, along with Asian Americans, Religious/Social Conservatism.  Asian Americans were the maximum scorers on Religious Skepticism and the lowest on Spirituality, Equanimity, and Religious Commitment.  Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders were the uppermost scorers on Charitable Involvement, Spirituality, Ecumenical Worldview, and Religious Struggle.

Of the 112,232 students that did surveys, 76% are White, 8% African American, 7% Asian American, 5% Latino, 2% American Indian/Alaska Native, and 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

Additional findings include:

  • 95% of African Americans believe in God, compared to 84% of Latinos,

78% of Whites and 65% of Asian Americans.

  • 91% of African American pray, compared to 75% of Latinos and 67% of
  • 53% of African Americans attend religious services frequently, compared to 42% of Whites, 39% of Latinos, and 35% of Asian Americans.
  • 47% of African Americans have a high level of Religious Commitment, compared to 25% of Whites and 22% of Asian Americans.
  • 32% of African Americans have high levels of Religious Engagement, compared to 16% of Latinos and 19% of Whites.

About one-third of African Americans think it important to seek opportunities to grow spiritually and say that it is critical for them to follow religious teachings in their everyday life, while less than one-fifth of Whites and Asian Americans say the same.

Gender Differences

Men score higher than women do on only one of 12 major dimensions:  Religious Skepticism (21% of men versus 14% of women are high scorers). On each of the other 11 scales, women score higher than men do.

The largest gender differences are on Charitable Involvement-a 10-point difference in high scorers (20% of women and 10% of men), Religious Commitment-a 9-point spread (30% of women and 21% of men), and Religious Engagement-a 6-point gap (22% of women and 16% of men).  Six-point gender differences are also evident on Equanimity (25% of women versus 19% of men) and Ecumenical Worldview (16% of women and 10% of men).

Women are also more likely to pray than men (75% versus 62%) and to score high on Religious/Social Conservatism (18% versus 13%) and being on a Spiritual Quest (27% versus 22%).

When it comes to gender differences in high scorers within racial groups, the largest gap is evident for African Americans on Religious Commitment-an 18-point difference (53% of women vs. 35% of men).  The 13-point gender difference in the percentage of African Americans who are high scorers on Religious Engagement (36% of women vs. 23% of men) is also nearly double that found in any other racial/ethnic group.

The Study

These result on racial and gender differences are part of HERI’s multi-year study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which examines how college students reflect of spirituality and its function in their lives, as well as how postsecondary institutions can better facilitate students’ spiritual improvement.




This thesis needs a selected option to determine the primary reasons why African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage.  You could choose from three options. One can choose only one option for this thesis.  However, the three options are Applied Design Intervention, a Grant Proposal Submission, and Alternative Policy Decision. Applied Design Intervention, was the only option that best fitted this thesis, because of the intervention and evaluations in the process and procedures.

In this process option, one expresses the interventions and evaluations without the suggestions of a grant or proposals.  Meanwhile, Option One can best help African American men and women understand and to help them communicate with ways to try to face this problem.  It may also, help them come together and discuss ways to make changes.

Option two, Grant Proposal Submission was not an option for this project thesis, because it was not in search for a grant proposal, and it would not alleviate the problem.  This is the reason why option two was not the selection for this project.

Option three, Alternative Policy Decision, was not the appropriate choice, because this topic does not call for an Alternative Policy Decision.  The topic is based on the primary reasons why African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage.  There are many alternatives already in progress, today.

Option one appeared to be the best possible solution for this thesis project resolution.  Interventions and evaluations are necessary to correct some of the past decisions that inadvertently affected African American men and women decisions, can be discussed and improvised.  This would release some of the burdens placed on African American women and would help in future decision that they face in relationships.








It has been observed through the second half of twentieth century that African American women are finding it increasingly hard to find men from their own race whom they could marry. The situation is gradually worsening, and some observers feel that unless some positive intervention is not initiated on an urgent basis, the entire race might be staring at a genuine demographic catastrophe.

But before any intervention is selected it would be better to recall in brief the salient features of this unusual situation in the African American society. The primary difference in status between African American men and women lie in their levels of education. There are 10% more college graduates among women than men and this imbalance gives rise to both, an inferiority complex and a sense of subordination in the minds of the African American men, and, a situation where women get better jobs and earn more than men. This also leads to a scenario where higher qualified women find lesser qualified men having lesser earning capacity unattractive and unworthy of getting into a lifelong commitment with.

Lack of college education and inability of finding a proper and stable job has the domino effect of many marriages ending in divorces and national statistics has some really disturbing set of data in this regard. In 2004, almost half (49% to be precise) of the African American women were unmarried and within a span of 15 years (1990 to 2005), the number of working women has increased 13 times. By 2003 there were only 18% households where only the husband worked outside and the wife did not. But that did not substantially improve the financial lot of the African American families as they have traditionally been paid only 60% of the wages their White American counterparts earned. So, we are faced with downward spiral where poor education leads to unstable jobs which in turn lead to divorces and lesser marriages.


Objective One

From the above it is apparent that the best way to try and ease the situation is to attack the problem at its root. That is, an intervention that aims at providing quality school education (which is a prerequisite for college education) might be the best way to tackle the crisis. It might take a little more time for the results to be seen, but the achievement will not only be permanent but will be self sustaining too. A child with good school education will be self motivated and might even get financial assistance in the form of scholarships to pursue college education. Once a young African American male is armed with a good college degree the first step of rectifying the current imbalance in the society is taken; the rest of the problems will start dissolving on their own.

Objective Two

Some would prefer to call this an extension of Objective One, but I would prefer to consider it as a separate objective.

It would not be enough to provide good school education to African American males; it is equally essential to prevent dropouts to a minimum because a study mentioned earlier in this project report has found that out of the African American males unable to find a job in 2004, 72% were school dropouts. So, it will be in the fitness of things to ensure that dropouts are kept at a minimum to ensure that the African American society gets the full benefit of proper and high quality school education.

As is the case with the previous objective, these interventions are of a social nature and try to tackle imbalances that have grown roots over decades. So, the results will take at least ten years to show initial indications (when the first batch of children complete their school education and prepare to enter college) and it would not be before fifteen years (when this batch leaves college and get decent employment) that one can say with a fair degree of certainty that these social interventions have indeed borne fruit.

It might seem like an eternity for some, but any far reaching and intervention that attempts to drastically alter the existing social structure cannot be expected to yield results any earlier.


Education of African American males has always been a hot topic for national discussion and irrespective of the quantum of energy and enthusiasm spent towards making the syllabus of public schools more interesting and attractive to the students, the general feeling that is gaining ground is the African American children are severely shortchanged. In fact it has been observed that as they progress from first to fourth grades, the African American children gradually become more and more disinterested about the school curriculum as they perceive a great disconnect between what they are taught and what they need to learn to survive in later life. So, there is an alarming negative correlation between the time these children stay in school and their educational progress and achievement. (Kunjufu, 2002)

It has also been found in certain studies that in every seven seconds of a school working day, an African American student is suspended and in every forty nine seconds of a school working day an African American student drops out of school. (Obiakor, Ford, & Patton, 1995)

So the situation is rather critical and something drastic and immediate needs to be done to attempt to restrict the downslide and the remedial action should start from sensitizing the teachers about the specialties of African American culture and their impact on learning process of children coming from this particular ethnic group.

The first step towards the proper direction that the teacher must take is to be free from any sort of bias against this ethnic class and be receptive and respectful towards the vast wealth of experience and cultural diversity that each African American child bring along while coming to school and try to find out how best the child can be taught without agitating his cultural sensibilities. The teacher should also be wide awake to the possibility of disparaging comments or behavior by fellow students and should immediately intervene should the colored student be subjected to any sort of denigrating behavior. In fact, the teacher should actively try to prevent any sort of segregation either real or perceived on ethnic lines in the classroom. The other issue that the teacher must always bear in mind is that the dialect used by African American children is mostly Ebonics and it should be considered as simply another dialect and not an inherent drawback or a sign of inferior upbringing. (Rodgers, 2009)

As far as classroom strategies are concerned, a teacher must make it a point to answer to queries and comments of all the students while being extra enthusiastic about any questions asked by the colored students and also make conscious efforts to engage these African American students in all discussions that take place in class. It has been observed that colored students are generally not that enthusiastic about science as a subject of study. So, the teacher should make sustained well measured attempts to stoke interest in these students about science. Initially there might be no positive response, but even a removal of negativity should be considered as a positive sign and a step forward. Special courses on computers and special discussions about how science helps in solving our everyday problems and how it makes our daily life that much smoother must be discussed in class and contributions by minority scientists towards the cause of science must be highlighted on a regular basis so as to make the minority students interested in science and technical subjects. (Rutherford, 2002)

It has another interesting side benefit too. Generally people who are technically qualified get jobs easily, so if the minority students can become technically qualified, it would very much be possible for them to make a jump start in life. The faster these students get established, more would be the enthusiasm among others that are skeptical about the benefits of school and college education. (Steele, 1992)

Should there be some minority students in the class that are not that much adept at picking up the details of what is being taught in class, the teacher must put in place alternative testing techniques and schemes so that the minority students never start feeling inferior or begin to lose interest in what is being done in school. (Sanchez, 2009)

It would perhaps be an unnecessary repetition to state that the teacher must be especially proactive to create a sense of fellow feeling among all the students so that the minority students never feel the urge to drop out of school. This would perhaps be the most important part of the entire intervention and it should steadfastly aim at reducing dropout rates as dropouts not only fail to lift the minority youngsters up from the social and psychological mess that they normally are in but also such cases discourage others to enroll and pursue good school education as a means of uplifting their social status. (Barbarin & McCandies, 2003)

Thus, with more and more African American males getting interested in technical subjects and getting technically qualified and successfully completing school level education it would be an automatic corollary that colleges will very soon more colored students thronging the classrooms. Once this trend sets in, it will just be a matter of time before African American women start finding more and more eligible men from their society who could be depended upon and who could be married to start a family. It is, however, a time consuming process but a sure way of rectifying the social malady that has infested the African American society.



One needs to have a proper evaluation plan to assess the effectiveness or otherwise of the intervention that is being described in this report. The choice of the evaluation plan also has a considerable impact on the analysis of the available data and information and can actually dictate to a large extent the result and conclusions that are drawn from the entire exercise. But irrespective of the approach taken by a researcher, it must above all be a scientific approach.


There are two basic approaches in knowledge creation, and they are hermeneutic approach and the positivist approach. The positivist approach is generally related to that school of thought that believes that truth is always evident and can be accurately measure through the use of proper methods. This approach also believes that truth is pristine and purely objective in nature and is unaffected by the point of view of the observer. (Bryman, 2002) The other basic approach to knowledge creation is hermeneutic approach that bears very close reflection of the idea of Verstehen as propounded by Webers. This approach in its most rudimentary form deals with interpretation of the text where the researcher gets to the underlying subtext of an existing text to unravel the context and the interplay of various forces that has given rise to the text and the final form in which it has been presented to the researcher. Philips and Brown (Phillips & Brown, 1993) feels that the researcher should interpret the available text from the point of view of the author’s and while analyzing the underlying subtext must surely take into consideration the socio-cultural context and the interplay of various related vectors while the text was actually written. Once such a perspective is obtained, a close examination of the structure of the text is undertaken and, if necessary, in the light of intensive examination of the structure of the text, the earlier interpretation of the text and the conclusions drawn from it are altered. This approach very closely approximates the qualitative approach adopted while adopting the interview and questionnaire method of data collection and interpretation because in this method the researcher needs to evaluate and analyze the responses against the backdrop of prevailing socio-cultural context and interpret them accordingly keeping these socio-cultural parameters in mind and place them in proper categories. Any error in properly evaluating the impact of the all pervasive socio-cultural backdrop will most surely throw up wrong conclusions from the research.

In the research undertaken in the present instance, the results, as has been repeatedly emphasized, will only be visible after a long period of at least a decade. So, there is no scope of adopting the positivist approach as there is no truth as such that needs to be uncovered and dispassionately observed and analyzed; all that is available is a series of impressions and expectations from interested groups and experts in this field of human endeavor. The approach would be to collect these impressions and expectations in as unbiased manner as possible and attempt to analyze the responses from various respondents keeping in mind the socio-cultural milieu to which the particular respondent belongs. Thus, hermeneutic approach would be the most suitable approach in the present context where available responses will be critically analyzed to arrive at concrete logical conclusions.


  1. William Emory had laid down certain basic prerequisites for an effective research design and it would be worthwhile to recall those details at this juncture. (Emory, 1985) Design is basically a three tier structure and at the very lowest (or, first stage) tier a clear description should be available regarding the nature of information that is relevant to the research question and the desirable sources from where such information can be obtained. The second tier should mention the strategies and techniques that need to be adopted and applied for collecting the relevant information and in the final tier an approximation should be provided regarding the time required and the cost that has to be borne in conducting the research.

The design of the research is, in my opinion, very important as it is in this stage that a crucial decision is being taken to determine the appropriate method of collecting data and, though all methods have their respective advantages and disadvantages; it is the choice of the data collecting method that gives a research either sufficient depth or gives it a generalized and superficial nature. If the data collection method is inappropriate, the reliability and validity of the entire research work might be open to questioning from various quarters.

It is quite obvious that the design of the research has to be scientific to ensure credibility and relevance of the entire research work and there a five well established criteria that must be fulfilled for a research to be called a genuinely scientific study. (Denzin & Yvonna, 1994) They are:

  • The researcher should be in a position to assess what is the truth and must always be in a position to assess and reassess both the data and the methods by which the said data has been collected.
  • The person who has asked the questions must be identified so as to identify whether there can be a possibility of a latent bias while the questions are being asked by that particular person. This is a double check to ensure there is no personal bias while collecting data as this happens to be one of the biggest drawbacks of any qualitative research study.
  • The conclusions arrived from the available data must be presented in a way that it can be cross checked and reworked, if necessary or desired by any other person.
  • All hypothesis and conclusions must be falsifiable.
  • There must be total transparency in the entire process with the methods adopted in conducting the research, the available data and the conclusions drawn from them laid open and threadbare to all those that are interested in the entire exercise.

There is an inherent problem with these five demands. Replication of a specific set of responses is usually very difficult, practically impossible, even if the questioner and the respondent remain identical if the set of questions are repeated at two different time intervals. This surely does not put the validity of the questionnaire in doubt as a lot of parameters keep changing in volatile scenarios and responses also vary in tune with the altering backdrop. Thus the practical approach would be to slightly alter the questions keeping in tune with parameters that might have changed over time but being very particular that the basic nature, tone and tenor of the questionnaire remains intact.


While collection of data is surely a very daunting task, analysis and interpretation of collected data is no less an important activity since the final outcome and conclusion of the research process completely depends upon how the available data is interpreted. There is an inherent risk in interpretation in that there may be multiple interpretations that might be equally valid (at least from the point of view of dry logic if not from the practicable or feasible angle) since there is always the danger semantic confusion arising in questions asked and answers provided as same words indeed carry different connotations and denotations when used by different social groups, especially a group which has intrinsically remained in the minority and been subjected to severe social strictures and discrimination. This problem of semantic confusion is very hard, almost impossible, to solve and one has to try and remain as unaffected as possible while carrying out the research project. (Reichardt, Ghauri, Gronhanug, & Kristianslund, 1995)

However, there is one way out of this problem and that is by being completely transparent throughout this research process and allowing the respondent to know how the response is being interpreted and allowing the respondent to alter the response if, in the opinion of the respondent, the responses have not been properly interpreted. Such a confirmatory detour before the responses are officially published has been found to remove a majority of so-called misinterpretations.

Since we will base our research process entirely on qualitative approach, it is perhaps necessary that we clarify what exactly a qualitative approach signifies. Though it is difficult to give a technically accurate meaning of qualitative approach, all that can be said about this approach is that it concentrates on processes and meanings that cannot be concretely quantified in terms of amount, quantity or frequency. However, such an approach provides a deeper understanding of the researched variable in the larger context of interrelated social forces that combine together to continually influence the researched phenomenon. (Hamel, 1993)

There are a sizeable number of experts that believe although qualitative approach might not be that sound statistically or mathematically, it indeed provides a far greater understanding of a phenomenon in its socio-cultural milieu which helps the researchers to formulate logical theories about why and how a phenomenon occurs under certain specific circumstances. (Markus & Robey, 1988)


According to historians, primary sources involve written records left by people who have actually lived in an era or have personally witnessed an incident. Primary sources, with respect to research process refer to the basic and original material that formed the evidence that the researcher examines analyses and interprets. (Finnegan, 1996)

Researchers can, as Cooper and Schindler state, (Cooper & Schindler, 1998) collect primary data either through direct or indirect (i.e. over telephone or email or by sending a questionnaire) interviews. The primary data used in this research process was obtained through four face-to-face interviews, four telephonic interviews and two responses received against questionnaires sent.


Secondary sources are data that have already been collected, analyzed and results presented by some earlier research process conducted in the related field and for the purposes of the current research process secondary data consists essentially of relevant information published in journals, magazines and websites. (Zikmund, 2000)

There are certain advantages and disadvantages of basing a research on secondary sources. The main advantage of secondary data is its ready availability in huge quantity and at negligible cost whereas collection of primary data is a very costly and time consuming exercise which is not always possible for every researcher to undertake on a large scale. Simultaneously, the inherent disadvantages of secondary data can also not be denied as the data available in the websites have been compiled by someone other than the researcher and the credibility and relevance of the data can very well be questioned. So, in the current research process, the researcher has exercised considerable precaution and judgment before incorporating any secondary data in the research material and can claim with a reasonable degree of confidence that the secondary data is authentic and entirely credible.



There are basically two types of interviews – structured and unstructured. While the structured interview runs along a predetermined script and is mainly controlled by the interviewer, the unstructured type generally begins with the interviewer having some loose structure in mind and letting the interview proceed along as the interviewee responds and modifying, skipping or even creating new questions along the way. The researcher might adopt both the methods and is the best judge in the given situation as to which method is best suited for the purpose of the research process.

The other issue that needs to be settled is whether the interview is to be recorded or a transcript of it would be prepared or whether the interviewer will simply rely on memory while incorporating the data in the main database. While recordings and transcripts have their obvious advantages, the time and cost involved in these options and the usual reluctance observed in most interviewees of being recorded during an interview had forced the current researcher to rely on memory but sufficient care has been taken to ensure that the collected data faithfully reflected what the interviewees had to convey. (Kvale, 1996)

The following seven criteria were strictly followed while conducting the interviews to make them as unbiased as possible:

  • Consideration – The interviewer showed enough consideration and refrained from occupying a high ground while conducting the interview
  • Empathy – The interviewer expressed sufficient empathy with the interviewee
  • Transparency and flexibility – The interviewer never shied away from expressing opinions when the situation demanded so and was always willing to rephrase questions for better comprehension of the interviewees
  • Critical – The interviewer, however, never hesitated to point out inconsistencies or prima facie contradictions in responses of the interviewees
  • Attentiveness – The interviewer was sufficiently attentive throughout every interview session so that inconsistencies and self contradictions could be pointed out the moment they occurred
  • Interpret – The interviewer was always ready to help in interpreting a question or properly framing a response so that the interviewee felt satisfied that the final response actually conveyed what the respondent meant it to be
  • Ethical – The interviewer always remained within ethical limits while conducting the interview

The interviews that have been conducted during the research process were unstructured with some guiding questions and broad topics that ensured the interview progressed more like an informed free flowing interaction rather than a question answer session that happens in most structured interviews. However, being unstructured in nature, the questions and their answers were obviously not identical in every instance but the guiding questions ensured that the interviews progressed along broadly the same line in each occasion. The unstructured nature of the interviews also helped the respondents feel relaxed and they were more forthcoming with information and suggestions than they would have probably been had the interview been strictly structured.

The interviews were conducted with persons that are directly involved and affected by the researched phenomenon and they included African American parents and students and teachers who are working in schools that have African American students. Attempts were made to interview some university professors who have specialization in this area, but the interviews turned out to be more of a pedagogic monologue without throwing up any personal opinions or sharing any personal experiences. Since such theoretical discussions are freely available in websites and magazines, the current researcher failed to discover any specific merit in those and decided against incorporating them in the final database.

The interviews were done without any electronic recording but copious notes were taken and these were elaborated into properly formed sentences and paragraphs and transferred to laptop. The interviewees were given printouts of such notes and their responses were incorporated in the main research data only after they agreed about the content.

The interviewees were informed at least three days in advance about the nature and purpose of the interview and this was repeated at the beginning of the interview so that respondents understood why and how they could be most helpful in the entire process. The issue of anonymity and publication of names was also discussed threadbare as it involved an important ethical factor and in all the instances it was resolved to the full satisfaction of all the parties involved in the process. (Calder, 1977)

The choice of appropriate language was also an issue that needed some attention and the researcher upheld the principle of transparency by not hesitating to use Ebonics when it was felt that its use will add to the transparency and comprehensibility of the ongoing interview process. The response was very positive and the researcher was invited in more than one instance to return with further queries if any. At times, direct and pointed questions were asked when routine questions failed to elicit desired response.


Though there were no predetermined questions as such, all questions that were asked observed the basic six criteria (Payne, 1980) of a properly worded interview question:

  • Is the question asked in a language known to both the interviewer and respondent?
  • Is the question unambiguous?
  • Are there any unstated assumptions in mind of the interviewer?
  • Is the wording neutral or tries to indirectly influence the respondent?
  • Is the question too impersonal to elicit a proper response, or, has the question the right amount of personal touch to make the respondent involved?
  • Are there sufficient alternatives available to make the answer meaningful?



The current research project tried to find out remedies that would make it easier for African American women to locate marriageable men from their society. A detailed analysis of the reasons for such an imbalance between marriageable men and women in this society revealed substantial discrepancy in levels of education and earning capacity between women and men with women being in the lead in both these counts. Thus, men in this society suffer from an inferiority complex and are also not sufficiently secure financially to opt for marriage. Women also do not feel sufficiently enthusiastic to enter into wedlock with men whom they consider not only qualitatively inferior but also undependable and this has led to an unnatural imbalance in the society where almost half of the women in marriageable age remaining either unmarried or divorced.

The current researcher felt that the only way to solve the problem would be to attack it at its root and try to increase the level of education among African American boys by making going to school an enjoyable experience where not only will these boys take an interest in learning and getting educated (especially in science and technical subjects) but also act as role models to those that had either dropped out earlier or are making plans to drop out from school. The current researcher also believes that if the African American boys get a sound schooling, they would automatically opt for higher college education and some of them might even get scholarships for their college education. Thus, by improving the attendance of African American boys in classes and by decreasing their dropout rate from school, the first and surest steps in creating a society where future African American women would not find it difficult to find a desirable husband from their society would be taken.

The researcher admits that it is indeed a very elaborate and long drawn out intervention but in the studied opinion of the current researcher this happens to be the only surest way to rid the society of this malady. Other options of providing subsidized training opportunities to African American men or providing them loans on easy terms so that they can start some form of business are but one-off solutions without any lasting or self sustaining impact.

The current researcher has laid down certain instructions that all teachers teaching in such schools should scrupulously follow and the researcher has also conducted elaborate interviews among African American parents and children and also teachers teaching in schools where there are a substantial percentage of minority students, and have observed a renewed sense of enthusiasm towards education and a faith that this is the only route to economic prosperity and social success.

Education, most African American parents and single mothers admitted, is the only sure shot remedy that can improve their lot and raise their economic status to a much higher level. This renewed hope and vigor has been injected in this society as they saw how one of their fellow members climbed to the highest office of the land through sheer diligence, honesty and, of course, rock solid university education.




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Barbarin, O., & McCandies, T. (2003). Family Practices and School Performance of African American Children. Retrieved from FPG Child Development Institute:

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Denzin, N. K., & Yvonna, S. L. (1994). Intorduction: Entering the Field of Qualitative Research. In N. K. Denzin, & S. L. Yvonna, Handbook of Qualitative Research. California: Sage.

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Eckholm, E. (2006, March 26). Plight of Black Men Dire, Studies Say. Atlanta Juournal – Constitution , p. A8.

Emory, C. W. (1985). Business Research Methods. Richard D. Irwin Inc.

Finnegan, R. (1996). Data Collection and Analysis. SAGE Publications.

Fiske, H. (2003, February). Saving our Boys. Recovering our men. Social Work Today .

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Hamel, J. (1993). Case Study Methods, Qualitative Research Methods. SAGE Publications.

Harvey, S. (2009). Act like a Lady, Think like a Man. What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment. New York.

Johnston, L. (2007, August 12). Women Aren’t Waiting to Buy. Atlanta Journal – Constitution , p. 16.

Kunjufu, J. (2002). Black Students / Middle Calss Teachers. African American Images.

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Lane, S. D., Keefe, R., Rubinstein, R., Levandowski, B., Freidman, M., Rosenthal, A., et al. (2004). Marriage promotion and missing men: African American Women in a demographic double bind. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Vol 18(4) , pp. 405-428.

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Surrealist Humor

Filed under: American Literature — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:38 pm

Long before Andre Breton was anywhere around, and the term “Surrealism” was coined, Mr. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a shy, quiet lecturer of Logic and Mathematics at Oxford was one day rowing on a river from Oxford to Godstowe with a friend, Canon Robinson Duckworth, also an Oxford lecturer. They were taking three little girls of the Liddell family for a picnic. The weather was “dreamy”, and the three little girls, as usual, demanded a story. Dodgson, who was very fond of children, usually told and retold old favorites over and over again. But this time, he suddenly started on a new line of fairy lore, all new and completely his own. Alice, the middle sister, aged eleven, had asked of the story and suggested there should be some “nonsense” in it.


A stream of fascinating, absurd happenings belonging to the Kingdom of Nowhere, wild and wonderful, followed one another floating over Duckworth’s shoulder from Dodgson to the three eager children.

“Dodgson, are you extemporizing?” asked Duckworth.

“Yes, I am inventing as I go along,” was the famous reply.

This was “automatism” at its height!


In the green grassy meadows past which they were rowing, there must have been rabbits. Perhaps it suggested the thought of a rabbit. Anyway, to begin with, Dodgson sent his heroine Alice, named after Alice Liddell, down a rabbit-hole after a rabbit without thinking what was to happen next. Then one absurd, unexpected, wildly impossible happening was followed by another equally as absurd and impossible, but altogether different one. And all was told so smoothly, so vividly, that the children were fascinated into complete silence. When these uncensored outpourings finally came out in the form of a book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, under Dodgson’s pen-name, Lewis Carroll, it took the world by storm, and, till date it remains a classic example of Surrealist humor.


Another creation of Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass” and several nonsense poems and stories by Edward Lear, specially, “The Story of the Four Little Children Who Went Round the World” was decidedly surreal in nature.


However, the term “Surrealist Humor” began to be ascribed more specifically to the creations of the group led by Andre Breton and the first example of such humor can be traced to Marcel Duchamp who displayed a urinal, placed upside down and signed, as a work of art. It created a furore, and, that was the basic intention of the surrealists who wanted to poke fun at the self-satisfied solemnity of the artistic establishment of the day.


The “dark comedy” of Kafka or the writings of the stream-of-consciousness school of writers like Joyce, Jack Kerouac, or, William S. Burroughs or the whimsical poetry of e.e.cummings (written in small letters) are very good examples of surrealist humor. We find “dark humor” in Brecht’s  famous play “Waiting for the Godot” too. We laugh and we introspect, both at the same time!


More modern day artists like Yoko Ono (possibly more famous as the widow of John Lennon), Andy Warhol and Italo Calvino have liberally sprinkled their creations with surrealist humor. Film makers like Federico Fellini, David Lynch and Fernando Arrabal have used funny surrealist imagery in their films time and again to deliver the killer punch.


However, the most famous influence of surrealist humor on popular psyche is “Monty Python”. Originally devised as a sketch show consisting of 45 episodes, and first aired on BBC in 1969, it pushed the frontiers of what is acceptable and has led to a spin-off of numerous stage shows, albums, books and at least five films. Monty Python’s “Flying Circus” has been a defining moment in modern concept of humor and used all possible surrealist techniques like “collage”, “breaking the fourth wall” etc., and shocked and tickled the audiences in many ways one never thought would ever be possible!


Sometimes the Pythons would attempt to fool the viewers by rolling the closing credits halfway through the show, usually continuing the joke by fading to the familiar globe logo used for BBC continuity, over which Idle (one of the famous six who formed the fabulous team) would parody the clipped accents of a BBC announcer. On one occasion the credits ran directly after the opening titles! They also experimented with ending segments by cutting abruptly to another scene or animation, walking offstage, addressing the camera (breaking the fourth wall), or introducing a totally unrelated event or character. A classic example of this approach was the use of Chapman’s “Colonel” character, who walked into several sketches and ordered them to be stopped because things were becoming “far too silly.”


It would be unfair if a mention is not made of other hit televisioon shows which primarily depended on surrealist humor. The names that immediately come to mind are “Family Guy”, “Futurama” and “Bobobobo Bo-bobo” though many more are also equally good.


Surrealist humor has been the cornerstone of quite a few websites too. “Something Awful”, “Buttercup Festival”, “Homestar Runner” and “” are some of the websites worth visiting if you want your daily dose of humor of the surrealist kind.

Strategic Human Resource Management

Filed under: Corporate Management — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:34 pm

Table of Contents


Strategic human resource management can be explained as an attempt by human resource management practitioners to align policies and processes of human resource management with strategic aims and objectives of an organization. Thus, if we view the issue at the ground level, strategic human resource management finally boils down to a process that aims to markedly improve performance of an organization through the human resource at the disposal of the organization while improving the lot of that human resource. That is, strategic human resource management aims at improving the economic performance of an organization while improving the lot of employees of that particular organization. It intends to create a win-win scenario for both the organization and its employees by ensuring a people working in an organization provide a competitive advantage that no competing organization can easily achieve (Hendry & Pettigrew, 1990).

Basis of strategic human resource management

The entire concept or practice of strategic human resource management is based on a couple of assumptions that form the foundation of this branch of management.

The first assumption is human resource of an organization is the basic source of competitive advantage and thus should be handled strategically to remain ahead in fiercely competitive environments.

There should be a vertical alignment of business strategy and human resource strategy for success and prosperity of an organization (Allen & White, 2007).

There should be horizontal integration between individual human resource strategies so that they are all focused towards a common goal. This is of course not applicable only in case of strategic human resource management as it is true for all kinds of strategic planning. Unless individual strategies and processes are horizontally aligned and are collateral with one another it is impossible to achieve the desired objective.

Thus, strategic human resource management might be described as an approach or a process rather than a set of well documented techniques where there is a continuous review of existing HR practices in the broader context of organizational objectives which result in choosing and modifying human resource strategies and planning. However, it would be wrong to define strategic human resource management as only strategic planning; it also includes implementation of such strategic plans as well as the attitude and approach of Human Resource Managers towards line managers with regard to successful implementation of those plans.

Aims of strategic human resource management

The basic aim of strategic human resource management is to make sure that an organization has sufficient volume of skilled, dedicated and motivated employees so that it enjoys a sustained competitive advantage in the marketplace. Thus, the aim of strategic human resource management would be to develop and successfully implement policies of managing people that incorporate ever changing external and internal environment parameters and long term goals of an organization (Digman, 1990).

There are certain ethical issues involved that should be discussed while elaborating on the aims of strategic human resource management. The basic areas where there must be a fine balancing act and those involve the interests of employees and other stakeholders on the one hand and the owners and management of an organization. There is also the equally important issue of discharging social responsibilities of an organization as a conscientious corporate citizen. Other than ethics, it might also be considered as a purely commercial decision where an organization must also repay the society for the resources it draws from the society for its sustenance. Unless it is very prompt and particular in repaying the society it might soon face a situation where the society might be unwilling to provide resources that an organization so urgently needs for survival and prosperity. Corporate social responsibility should go beyond the mandatory obligations of an organization; it should extend in delivering some social benefit that is not determined only by the profit motive of the organization (McWilliams, et al., 2006). Employees of an organization also reside in the society where an organization operates. Therefore, in a sense, discharging corporate social responsibility also comes under the purview of strategic human resource management as it is a significant window through which an organization interacts with general members of the society. If society in general has a good impression of an organization, it definitely has a positive impact in the mindset of employees.  

Approaches to strategic human resource management

Soft strategic HRM

Soft strategic HRM (Storey, 1989) is an approach that places greater emphasis on human relations angle of managing people and places more emphasis on quality of employee experience and satisfaction. It thus concentrates more on continuous development and involvement of employees through smoother and hassle free two-way communication and increased security of employment. In these turbulent times when downsizing has almost become a norm for most organizations, employment security would most certainly work as a huge morale booster for employees. The situation would become even more ambient if there is noise free two-way communication through the entire managerial hierarchy. This approach also emphasizes on achieving an optimum work-life balance of employees. With such a employee oriented approach there is a very big possibility that an organization will able to develop and retain a dedicated and highly motivated workforce that would not mind to walk that extra mile for the benefit of the organization.

Hard strategic HRM

Hard strategic HRM, as the name implies insists on a more commercial approach to the entire process of managing people and insists on deriving a positive return on investment at every step. Though this approach could not be faulted as the primary objective of every organization is maximization of shareholders’ wealth, it must be remembered that human resource is inherently different from all other types of resources and should be dealt with more sensitively than the manner in which inanimate raw materials or machines are evaluated. It needs no elaboration that there should be an optimum balance between the hard and soft approaches but the unfortunate fact is in most organizations hard approach almost invariably takes precedence over soft approach. But an organization should not overlook the fact that for long term survival and prosperity, it should keep people at the center of each and every strategy (Quinn Mills, 1983).

Concepts of strategic human resource management

There are three basic concept of strategic human resource management:

  1. Resource-based approach
  2. Strategic fit
  3. Strategic flexibility

Resource-based Approach

This is the most predominant approach towards strategic human resource management. This is based on the basic premise that resources available with an organization, especially, human resource provides unique character to an organization and a unique competitive advantage. Competitive advantage arises when firms within an industry do not have homogenous control over resources, that is, resources are not uniformly spread across firms within an industry, and also when these resources do not have the ability to freely move across firms within that industry. In such situations, competitive advantage on account of ownership of resources can last for long time. Therefore, in order to create sustainable competitive advantage a firm should have ownership of unique resources and capabilities as compared to other firms in the same industry (Barney, 1991). In order to create sustainable competitive advantage, a resource should primarily be rare and secondarily neither be easily imitable nor be easily substitutable and, it is but obvious, that such resource must have high value and importance in the production process. The resource that has the highest possibility of fulfilling all these attributes would be human resource as knowledge, experience, risk taking propensity and judgmental capability of individuals are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to replicate within a short span of time. Resource based approach to strategic human resource management can provide such sustainable competitive advantage to a firm by properly nurturing employees in a company through implementation of optimally designed training and development programs and opting for a predominantly soft HRM approach. Such investment in human capital endows an organization with sustainable competitive advantage over a considerable period of time (Boxall & Purcell, 2003).

Strategic Fit

This is related to the two fold balancing of strategic human resource management in an organization. Firstly, human resources policies and programs should be vertically aligned with overall strategy of an organization and, secondly, various HRM policies should be streamlined and be unidirectional in the sense that all policies should be oriented towards strengthening overall corporate strategy without any policy generating any confusion or disruption of overall corporate strategy. That is, human resource policies should also be horizontally aligned or collateral to prevent any cross current of wasted efforts that might wrong signals to employees (Wright & McMahan, 1992).

Strategic Flexibility

It refers to the ability of a firm to respond to changes in external business environment which are beyond the control of that firm. However, such flexibility is in its turn largely determined by the environment in which a particular firm operates. In case the external environment is relatively stable, a firm would opt for developing specific set of skills for its employees and would not choose the more costly option of imparting multiple skills as it might not be necessary given the relatively stable external environment. The job descriptions in such scenarios would also tend to be more tightly and narrowly defined. However, if the external environment is unstable and dynamic, an organization would opt to impart multiple skills to its people and job descriptions will also have more latitude and flexibility. It might be argued that the concepts of strategic fit and strategic flexibility are contradictory but it must be understood that while fit is a short term concept, flexibility is a relatively longer term concept (Wright & Snell, 1998).

The best practice approach

This approach assumes that there is a list of best practices which, if implemented, would most certainly lead to a superior organization irrespective of the business environment in which a firm is operating. Thus, this approach implicitly assumes that these best practices are universally applicable to all organizations across the board.

List of best practices

One of the commonest lists of best practices runs as follows (Guest, 1999):

  • Recruitment should be done through a very well designed testing system that would identify only those potential employees that have the capability of contributing the maximum
  • Training and development should be a continuous activity in the organization
  • Jobs should be designed in such a manner that employees have full scope of putting to use their skills and enjoy considerable autonomy at workplace which is adequately tempered by having to bear full responsibility of their autonomous actions
  • There must be uncluttered two-way communication to ensure free flow of information throughout the organization
  • Distributing ownership of the organization among employees to make them fully aware of financial implications of their actions

High performance organizations as US Department of Labor might enjoy considerable advantage through implementation of these best practices (Appelbaum, et al., 2000).

Drawbacks of best practice approach

Contingency theory postulates responses of and practices adopted by an organization are almost totally dependent on the business environment in which that particular organization operates. As environment varies widely between countries, regions and cultures, it would be nearly impossible to lay down a cut and dried list of best practices that would be universally applicable to all organizations. Therefore what might work miracles in an organization might usher total chaos in another organization because of their differing working practices, corporate culture, technology, or management styles (Armstrong, 2008).

However, it is always helpful to know of some sort of best practices as that allows a firm to pick and choose from among these best practices and modify those according to prevailing situations. This list acts as sort of primary resource for an organization searching for human resource practices that could be gainfully implemented.

The best fit approach

From the name itself it is apparent that this approach prefers a version that would be best suited for an organization thereby implicitly admitting that organizations vary so widely that it would be quite impossible to find a one-size-fits-all universally applicable approach.

Life cycle model

Human resource strategy that best fits an organization depends on the stage of life cycle it is residing (Baird & Meshoulam, 1988). An organization, just like a product, passes through the following stages during its life cycle:

  • Start-up
  • Growth
  • Maturity
  • Decline

In the initial stages, human resource management is generally informal with the owner/founder performing most of human resource management activities themselves. As the organization starts growing both in size and activities, more formal structures are introduced and professional human resource managers are employed as the owner/founder finds it beyond their capacity to handle this facet in an efficient manner. This is the period when recruiting right people for right jobs and innovations in reward and remuneration structure takes place at a rapid rate. Also, introduction and implementation of innovative and often radical training and development programs are being carried out in right earnest. As the organization becomes more mature, human resource managers gradually become less and less innovative and prefer to consolidate existing practices rather than implementing newer and more innovative ideas. When an organization starts declining human resource managers have very little time in implementing schemes and programs for the benefit of employees; the department becomes more involved in unpalatable activities as restructuring and downsizing (Buller & Napier, 1993).

Competitive strategies and best fit approach

There are three basic strategies adopted by firms to attain and sustain competitive advantage (Porter, 1985):

  • Becoming a unique producer, the uniqueness attained through innovation
  • Providing high quality goods to customers that cannot be matched by competitors
  • By managing to produce at a lower cost as compared to competitors

A firm would be able to be much more effective if it manages to modify its human resource practices so that they suit the approach the firm has adopted to retain competitive advantage (Schuler & Jackson, 1987).

Drawbacks of the best fit approach

There is no doubt that best fit approach is better than best practices approach since the former incorporates the reality that organizational culture, management practices and business environments vary widely between organizations. There is, however, a very real danger of falling into the trap of blindly aligning human resource strategies with overall corporate strategies and ending up being on the wrong side of the law of the land. Moreover, such tendency to align often results in trying to search for models that would factor in all variables of change without analyzing the interconnection and cause and effect relations between those. Such attempts might lead to half baked and confusing policy decisions that harm the organization more than benefitting it (Boxall, et al., 2007).


This concept refers to development and implementation of several human resource practices and policies that work on different planes but are coherent and complement and reinforce each other in a synergic manner. It is an established fact that employee performance is as much dependent on proper training and skill as it is on proper remuneration and incentive schemes. Thus, for effective implementation and tangible results adequate human resource practices would be necessary in both aspects (MacDuffie, 1995).


Strategic human resource management has developed through rigorous academic analysis and equally rigorous field research and if one is able to peel off the jargon one will be able to admire the solid common sense approach that this field of knowledge possesses. This branch of knowledge effectively tackles major issues related to employees that often erupt on account of overall business strategies and objectives. It also provides a solid academic base for developing and implementing methods of approaching employee related human issues especially in current day dynamic external and internal environments that every firm has to endure and attempt to successfully negotiate.


Allen, M. R. & White, P., 2007. Strategic management and HRM. In: P. Boxall, J. Purcell & P. Wright, eds. Oxford handbook of Human Resource Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 67-89.

Appelbaum, E., Bailey, T., Berg, P. & Kalleberg, A. L., 2000. Manufacturing Advantage: Why high performance work systems pay off. 1st ed. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press.

Armstrong, M., 2008. Strategic human resource management a guide to action. 4th ed. London and Philadelphia: Kogan Page.

Baird, L. & Meshoulam, I., 1988. Managing two fits of stratgeic human resource management. Academy of Management Review, 13(1), pp. 116-128.

Barney, J. B., 1991. Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management Studies, 17(1), pp. 99-120.

Boxall, P. F. & Purcell, J., 2003. Strategy and Human Resource Management. 1st ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Boxall, P. F., Purcell, J. & Wright, P., 2007. Human resource management: scope, analysis and significance. In: P. F. Boxall, J. Purcell & P. Wright, eds. Oxford Handbook of Human Resource Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 12-21.

Buller, P. F. & Napier, N. K., 1993. Strategy and human resource management: integration in fast growth versus other mid-sized firms. British Journal of Management, 4(1), pp. 77-90.

Digman, L. A., 1990. Strategic Management: Concepts, decisions, cases. 1st ed. Georgetown, Ontario: Irwin.

Guest, D. E., 1999. Human ressource management: the workers’ verdict. Human Resource Management Journal, 9(2), pp. 5-25.

Hendry, C. & Pettigrew, A., 1990. Human resource management: an agenda for 1990s. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 1(3), pp. 17-43.

MacDuffie, J. P., 1995. Human resource bundles and manufacturing performance. Industrial Relations Review, 48(2), pp. 199-221.

McWilliams, A., Siegel, D. S. & Wright, P. M., 2006. Corporate social responsibility: strategic implications. Journal of Management Studies, 43(1), pp. 1-12.

Porter, M. E., 1985. Competitive Advantage: Creating and sustaining superior performance. 1st ed. New York: Free Press.

Quinn Mills, D., 1983. Planning with people in mind. Harvard Business Review, Issue November-December, pp. 97-105.

Schuler, R. S. & Jackson, S. E., 1987. Linking competitive strategies with human resource management practices. Academy of Management Executive, 9(3), pp. 207-219.

Storey, J., 1989. From personnel management to human resource management. In: J. Storey, ed. New perspectives on Human Resource Management. London: Routledge, pp. 12-21.

Wright, P. M. & McMahan, G. C., 1992. Theoretical perspectives for SHRM. Journal of Management, 18(2), pp. 295-320.

Wright, P. M. & Snell, S. A., 1998. Towards a unifying framework for exploring fit and flexibility in strategic human resource management. Academy of Management Review, 23(4), pp. 756-772.

Legalizing Polygamy in Canada – Would it do more harm than good?

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:32 pm


Canada is home to people belonging to diverse cultures and religion. The country is not embarrassed by the fact that it does not have a monolithic culture or religion; rather it is proud that it can shelter in its folds multiple strains of thought and ways of life. It considers itself to be liberal and broad minded enough to rank as a multicultural nation where all groups, sects and factions can co-exist together without any friction or tension among each other. There is of course nothing wrong in such a situation but an accompanying legal problem almost invariably crops up in such multihued scenarios.

To appreciate the inherent problem in such scenarios there is a need to appreciate and admit that there are two legal aspects to any situation in a society.

The first is the civil constituent of a specific scenario. It deals with specific rights and privileges of a specific minority group. It is concerned with whether or not rights, privileges and customs consistent with those adhered to by a specific cultural minority are being honored by the legal system of a country.

One need not have to worry much about these civil aspects as relevant legal provisions about religious freedom can very easily be weaved into the civil jurisprudence of a particular country whereby every religious and cultural minority would have the freedom to practice their cultural and religious customs without any legal or societal interference. Canada does have in place such provisions of allowing cultural or religious minorities to freely practice their religious and social customs as long such practice does not cause any discord in the society as a whole.

The second aspect of a specific social scenario is however rather disconcerting. It deals with the criminal jurisprudence prevailing in a country. It is a commonly held notion that nobody should be above law and a criminal is a criminal irrespective of what religion, sect or community that criminal hails from. The problem arises precisely here as customs that are considered quite common in a particular society might be considered abhorrent in another.

So, if, for example, a person steals and claims immunity from consequent legal penalties since it happens to be the prevalent custom in their society, that person cannot be allowed to go unpunished as the commonly held concept in the society is stealing is a crime. Here we face a situation where the commonly held or majority sentiments must be honored to maintain order in a civil society. This, quite obviously, curtails the religious or cultural freedom the affected minority but criminal jurisprudence cannot and should not be modified for each different sections or subsections of a society.

While stealing is a rather extreme example as no religious or ethnic minority would ever condone or promote such a criminal act (though Gypsies were blamed by Nazis as being a society of thieves), there are issues that indeed cause concern in the minds of social leaders as to whether such customs be incorporated in criminal jurisprudence to honor the religious and ethnic customs of minorities.

Polygamy is such a thorny issue. While it is considered illegal in Canada, there are ethnic and religious minorities that consider practice of polygamy as an integral part of their religious custom. Practice of polygamy also runs counter to Canada’s many international commitments and grossly violates the notion of gender equality that is an integral and fundamental tenet of Canadian society.  Thus it becomes a delicate balancing of religious freedom and individual rights, especially rights of women to obtain immunity and protection from abusive relationships that come into existence from following some religious practice that is not commonly followed by other sections of the society.

There is another contrarian stream of thought that gives more weight to the aspect of religious freedom and espouses legalization of polygamy. Reprehensible and totally abhorrent at first sight such stream of thought also have certain inherent merits.

The proponents of this stream of thought base their argument on the premise that polygamy as such has been completely abolished from civilized society and this practice, if it still exists, is followed by miniscule and very often secretive religious societies that are almost fanatical in their belief that what they are doing is not only right but also the only available path to salvation. They practice such a system not to fulfill their lust but as a method of reaching the next higher stage of human existence.

It is well known fact that fanatics, by definition, are extremely zealous of protecting their religious beliefs and would go to any extent to protect those from any outside interference which in their opinion is aimed at decimating the religious purity and divinity of their beliefs. It is thus natural that no amount of legal enactments would be able to prevent them from doing what they feel is their bounden religious duty.

One also must remember that women of these fundamental sects have been brought up in this atmosphere where they have been taught and indoctrinated to accept polygamy as the only way for salvation and reaching God. Hence, they have been conditioned to accept polygamy as the holy and religious way to lead life however much other members of the civilized society might abhor it.

Therefore the whole perception of equality, dignity and freedom of women takes on a wholly new hue in their minds as they ready themselves to lead a life of remaining as a co-wife of a polygamous man. Hence, any attempt to make them aware of their rights and making them alert about the plights they might have to face if the entered into a polygamous wedlock would have little or no effect on these women.

Would it not then be a case of trying to save women from a calamity which they consider as perfectly normal, indeed pious way of leading life? It would hardly have any impact on these women; rather they would scrupulously avoid any attempt by state machinery to release them from oppressive polygamous wedlock and would flock more determinedly to the comforting arms of the fundamentalists who would only be too eager to brainwash these hapless women into believing what they are doing would actually make them dearer to God.

Thus, instead of trying to stamp out polygamy, the authorities should instead legalize this custom that is followed in any case by only a miniscule minority. By legalizing this custom, all those that follow it would no longer be obliged to lead secretive lives and become a part of the mainstream. In such a way, women of these secretive fundamental religious groups could gradually be made aware of the ill effects of polygamy and might have a change of attitude after freely interacting with other members of the society over a long period of time.

Moreover, by bringing these fringe groups in the mainstream, wives and children born out of polygamous wedlock would be able to avail of social benefits and security net that is available in Canada. In such a manner, these persons can actually be helped to lead a better and more productive life.

This line of argument indeed has its merits but it also admits abject defeat of progressive Western thoughts and philosophy at the hands of obscurantism and medieval tyranny.  By accepting within the folds of civil society these fundamentalists with all their warts and moles the authorities would be opening a Pandora’s Box, or should we call it a can of worms, when all hues of religious fringe elements would want to share a part of the social pie without bothering to adhere to the norms of a civilized society.

Hence, the issue of polygamy becomes more of a debate between two fundamental freedoms – religious and gender equality.

Polygamy in Canada

In Colorado, a desert city straddling Arizona-Utah border, reside a small band of Mormon Fundamentalists. This ultra-conservative religious group was founded by Joseph Smith. Mormon Fundamentalists firmly believe that saints have a divine right, rather obligation, to take multiple wives and practice polygamy as a matter religious duty. Polygamy is illegal not only Canada but also In United States and in almost all the countries in the world except perhaps a few obscure and remote countries in the heartland of African continent.

Here lies the fundamental question that has been referred to in the previous section. What should get precedence; criminal jurisprudence or, religious faiths and beliefs?

 The modern and mainstream brethren of Mormon Fundamentalists, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) quite rightly feels very embarrassed by the proud proclamation of this quaint custom by a handful of ultra-conservatives and has gone to great lengths to declare this as an ancient and quirky custom that was followed by a handful eons ago and is no longer followed or espoused by LDS. Handouts and promotional literature published by LDS generally glosses out this issue and keeps stoically silent about the fact that the founding father of Mormon movement had married anywhere between thirty three and forty eight women and was the biological father of numerous children. He also espoused that taking at least three wives was absolutely essential for a man to attain religious glory and eternal peace in afterlife (Berkowitz, 2007).

Despite vehement protests and denials by LDS protagonists, actual events suggested this criminal practice of polygamy is still being practiced by some members of this minority group and they consider it to be an integral part of their religious obligation. This ritualistic custom is still thriving and rigorously practiced in remote locations in United States and Canada by an estimated 30,000 to 100,000 Fundamentalists within the Church of Latter-day Saints (FLDS).

However, in spite of such a comparatively significant presence in United States and Canada, maybe because of their secretive nature, practice of polygamy by this religious sect was largely undetected by law enforcing agencies till the arrest of Warren Jeffs, a prominent religious leader of this community, from Colorado City on 28th August, 2006 (Johnson, 2006).

Jeffs was suspected of committing rape, of being an accessory to rape and being accused of having sex with minors and engaging in unlawful flight to avoid legal prosecution by law enforcing agencies of the state. This stunning arrest blew the lid off an unpleasant reality of continuance of a criminal and highly reprehensible practice that grossly undermines female dignity and freedom from persecution and oppression by members of the civil society that otherwise have all the credentials of becoming genuinely productive and valued members of the social fabric.

Had this practice being followed or espoused by some obscure non-Christian religious group that had its origins in some remote and dark corner of an unexplored continent, it would not have created that much consternation. But the fact that it is being practiced by members of progressive societies of the Western world, creates a genuine sense of alarm as one realizes that the ancient mindset that should have been abandoned long time ago is throbbing hideously and very incongruously in the midst of all the development and progress that modern societies are so very proud of.

It was not unknown to the authorities in Utah that some of its citizens do practice polygamy as a part of religious ritual but as the legislature has been dominated by Mormons, the authorities were somewhat reluctant to initiate legal proceedings against fellow practitioners. Moreover, there was always a lurking fear that any attempt to crackdown on this reprehensible custom would immediately be misrepresented as a wholly unwelcome interference by the authorities in matters of religious freedom that have been enshrined in the constitution. The authorities, it seemed, were caught in two minds and preferred to turn a blind eye on the happenings within the society (Brooke, 1998).

After sensing trouble in Colorado, Fundamentalist Mormons have shifted northwards to the more ‘peaceful’ climes of Canada. They have founded a new colony called Bountiful a few miles out of Creston in British Columbia.

Though there are only seven hundred to one thousand members of this sect in this newly established colony, which has Prophet Rulon Jeffs as its leader, it simply can neither be denied nor wished away that the scourge of polygamy has firmly struck roots  in Canadian soil and unless something drastic is done to check this menace, sooner rather than later, Canadian society will have to face embarrassment in front of the world community as being the protector and fosterer of such a shame as polygamy (The Economist, 2004).

Problems of women in a polygamous wedlock

The first and foremost problem with the reprehensible custom of polygamy is that it severely affects women’s status as individual citizens in a civil society. Their rights to freedom and equality are totally compromised by this practice. And, it is perhaps needless to add that such a restrictive practice has serious adverse affects on the economic position and health and well being of women. No civilized society should and could accept a practice that denigrates nearly half of its population.

Authors that have investigated in detail about the status of women living in polygamous societies have viewed the issue from several perspectives. They have a general opinion that it would be improper to brand polygamy as grossly ‘bad’ or ‘good’ as there are several layers of interaction that permeate a polygamous relationship.

The women that stay together as co-wives often tend to develop some sort of sisterhood and a support system among themselves as they have the common cause of staying together as wives of the same man.

However, there might also be an extreme sense of competition (perhaps much more than the cutthroat competition that we so often refer to while describing happenings in the commercial world) between co-wives in their attempts to attract more attention and also material benefits from the husband. Research reveals that jealousy can reach such extreme levels that it might lead physical confrontation between women resulting in grievous bodily injury and harm to combating wives (Al-Krenawi, Family Therapy with a Multiparental/Multispousal Family, 1998).

A case in point is the state of affairs in polygamous families that have shifted to France. As cost of living is decidedly higher than what they are in their country of origin, it is often impossible for the head of the family to maintain separate households for each of his wives. Hence, the entire family lives cramped together I restrictive conditions and this often leads to bitter confrontations between co-wives. There have been damning reports of women being treated in Paris hospitals with serious injuries that have resulted from fights between family members and co-wives (Al-Krenawi, Women from Polygamous and Monogamous Marriages in an Out-Patient Psychiatric Clinic, 2001).

There is also the issue of insecurity among co-wives in a polygamous family. It is no wonder that all these women compete with each other for attention from their common husband and it is also no surprise that the man favors company of his younger wives. Hence, senior wives tend to have access to lesser economic resources and lesser conjugal support and generally lead a comparatively more miserable life than their younger ‘sisters’.

This differential treatment meted out to senior wives does not result merely from the fact that younger women quite naturally are more sexually attractive than their senior counterparts, and men, if given opportunity and social sanction, would quite obviously tend to share their time and resources with younger wives than senior ones. A case study of Palestinian polygamous families reveals that while the men initially got married through socially arranged match making that rested on a host of delicate social, economic, ethnic and tribal equations, subsequent marriages were mostly result of love matches. Thus, men preferred to spend more time with wives they love rather than with those they were married to as a result of social dynamics (Wing, 2001).

There is also a contrarian view to the position of senior wives in polygamous families. In some cultures, a senior wife enjoys a more exalted position among all the wives. In the absence of the husband, the senior wife manages the household and has near complete control over the junior wives. She also at times plays a vital part in the act of choosing another wife if that becomes necessary to deal with child care and other domestic responsibilities. However, if another wife is independently chosen by the husband because of love or attraction towards the new woman, it sure causes a great amount of strain, tension and strife within a polygamous marriage (Bissuel, 2002).

While women felt insecure and were jealous of new entrant in the family, these harsh feelings generally tended to dissipate as family and societal environment encouraged women to accept the new entrant as an integral part of the family and as a new member of their ‘sisterhood’. Such a feeling is often promoted by equitable treatment of wives by the husband and often prompts existing wives to encourage the husband to take on more wives (Forbes, 2003).

It surely does not need further elaboration that when a group of women share domestic and child care responsibilities the burden on each member gets substantially reduced irrespective of the size of the family. Thus, co-wives in a polygamous household indeed enjoy some of the benefits that a wife in a monogamous can only dream of. Moreover, these co-wives form a closed and private society of their own where they share their personal issues and get help and assistance as long as such help and assistance does not jeopardize the assistants’ relation vis-à-vis the husband (Al-Krenawi, Family Therapy with a Multiparental/Multispousal Family, 1998).

There is one other benefit that arises from this ‘sisterhood’ among co-wives in a polygamous family. If there are instances of abuse or harassment within the family by the male members, the co-wives usually get together to protest such ill treatment and abuse and, faced with such a concerted protest, the perpetrators of such domestic abuse and violence usually desist from precipitating further such incidents (Levine & Silk, 1997).

Sometimes the social environment in which a polygamous family resides plays a decisive role in the importance accorded to the senior wife. As for example, in polygamous Muslim families residing in United Kingdom, the senior wife is always accorded the highest importance and social status. As domestic polygamy is illegal in that country, a second or subsequent wife is not considered legal and hence cannot be openly held out as a legal spouse in social get-togethers. Hence, second and subsequent wives generally live in inferior housings and have lesser interactions with their husbands and enjoyed lesser economic amenities. The irony of the whole situation is while second wives bitterly resented their pitiable economic and social status and did not get any legal recognition of their marital status, they still felt that they are leading the life of a genuine and dutiful wife (Yanca & Low, 2003).

This issue is highlighted by those that support the cause that polygamy should be legalized in Canada. Though married under religious norms, these subsequent wives are denied of societal benefits and recognition and are destined to permanently live their lives in the shadows of social periphery. If polygamous wedlock is legalized, these subsequent wives would not be forced to lead such ignominious lives.

So, it is indeed a very complex relationship between women in a polygamous household. While they stick to each other as comrades in arms when confronted by a common enemy, mostly an outsider, they bitterly squabble with each other between themselves.

There is also that obvious inequality between a man and woman in this type of wedlock. While a man has the choice of deciding who would share his bed on a particular night the women have to contend with sharing a single man between themselves. So, it can be said without any sense of ambiguity that one of the basic tenets of civilized society that of equality of status between men and women in wedlock is definitely not maintained in a polygamous marriage.

This, quite naturally, tends to be one of the most serious hindrances in legalizing polygamous wedlock and seriously scuttle claims by a section of thinkers of legalizing this system. But, it must also be remembered that any legislation that is forced down the throat of a community and acts against their perceived religious tenets has seldom ever succeeded anywhere in the world. All that such legislations have managed to achieve was increased levels of isolation of affected communities and their near total rejection of mainstream social norms. Almost as a reaction to state policies these fundamentalist groups have gone deeper into their shells and become even more fanatically associated with their cause and world views (Berkowitz, 2007).

Problem of children in polygamous families

The other aspect that needs attention is the impact of polygamous relationship has on children born out of it. In this regard an observation about the Mormon community at Bountiful deserves special attention. Bountiful has been chosen simply because all other polygamous communities are so secretive about it that it becomes near impossible to get any worthwhile data in this regard. A mutual sense of distrust between researchers and subjects has made the situation even more complex.

There are clear indications that boys and girls are treated separately in this community. While the boys are encouraged to go out in the open society, the girls are encouraged, or, should we say brainwashed, to remain within the community and enter into polygamous wedlock as soon as they step into their adolescence. They are made to believe that is the only way to lead a pious and honorable life. The boys are, in fact, not only encouraged to go out but those that refuse to do so are actually hounded out of the precincts of the community. This practice has reached such a stage that in 2005 a survey found that nearly 400 had been banished from the community rendering them genuinely homeless and making them easy victims of substance abuse or male prostitution (Tresniowski, 2005).

Treading on into more generalized domain, one should also inspect the other serious problems related to academic and intellectual development of children in polygamous families. There are, of course, some factors that would affect the academic and intellectual development of a child irrespective of whether they brought up in a polygamous or a monogamous household but here we would try and concentrate on only those factors which are peculiar to a polygamous household.

An empirical study of Israeli Bedouin-Arab communities revealed that polygamous families engendered lower levels of intelligence and scholastic achievement among their children. The most obvious reason for such a conclusion lies more in the social and economic status of these families rather than in the institution of polygamy itself. Reduced per capita resources for each child automatically reduced their access to books and education and limited their chances of scholastic and intellectual success (Gage-Brandon, 1992).

The other more serious impact of polygamous households on intellectual and academic development of children arose from rivalry between co-wives where children of one wife were not always treated equally as own children. Being bred in such an intensely hostile environment since childhood often tended to lead the children astray from sedate and constructive endeavors as academic and scholastic pursuits. Moreover, being subject to latent and often apparent hostility from mother like figures tended to skew the attitudes of these children who grew up to believe that the only way to survive in this world is to deny others from their rightful dues by any means available. The moral fabric of these children got horribly distorted and prevented them from developing their intellectual abilities as their entire efforts were concentrated since childhood in a perpetual struggle to beat others by hook or by crook to achieve what is desired (Ward, 2004).

The other more mundane reason for lack of academic and scholastic development among children from polygamous families is more children meant lesser attention from parents, especially fathers, and as these children grew up in a relative environment of unsupervised independence their interests were more diverted towards gross sources of enjoyment rather than more disciplined spheres of academic and scholastic activities.

The other equally harmful effect of polygamous wedlock in countries where it is illegal is the near complete isolation of such families from the social mainstream. This prevents children from these families to develop their own network of support and sustenance they so very desperately need to overcome the ill effects of tension and strife at home. Trapped with nowhere to go, these children get engulfed by the abnormalities of relationships at home and get drawn deeper and deeper into the vortex of ignorance and scholastic incompetence.


From what has been discussed above, one seems to remain undecided as to whether it would be proper to legalize polygamous marriages in Canada. While one passionately feels for the women who are often bound by their societal pressures to enter into a polygamous wedlock, they and their families are permanently barred from any form of social recognition and legal rights as legally married spouses in countries where polygamy is forbidden.

But at the same time one also argues with oneself as to what would be the benefits if such marriages are legalized. Would they finally lead to a situation where these women would one day realize that the institution is harmful to not only them and their children but also to the society as a whole? The chances of such a realization, if it at all happens, appear extremely slim at the current juncture. Rather, their community and spiritual heads would jump up in glee and convince their followers that they were right all along; it only took the degenerated Western authorities so long to realize the benefits and religious requirement of polygamous wedlock. Hence, instead of educating the womenfolk and their children about the pernicious impact of polygamy it would reinforce their faith and trust in their community leaders and might lead to spreading of this malaise in other hitherto unaffected areas of the society. This would undoubtedly lead to complete disaster and cause irreparable damage to the social fabric and long held widely respected perceptions of good and evil.


Al-Krenawi, A. (1998). Family Therapy with a Multiparental/Multispousal Family. Family Process 37 , 65-81.

Al-Krenawi, A. (2001). Women from Polygamous and Monogamous Marriages in an Out-Patient Psychiatric Clinic. Transcultural Psychiatry. 38(2) , 187-199.

Berkowitz, J. D. (2007). Beneath the Veil of Mormonism: Uncovering the Truth about Polygamy in the United States in Canada. The University of Miami Inter-American Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 3 , 615-640.

Bissuel, B. (2002, February 11). Divorce, or Else…. Le Monde .

Brooke, J. (1998, August 23). Utah Struggles With a Revival of Polygamy. New York Times , p. A1.

Forbes, S. (2003). Why Just Have One?’ An Evaluation of the Anti-Polygamy Laws Under the Establishment Clause. Houston Law Review. 39 , 1517-1547.

Gage-Brandon, A. (1992). The Polygyny-Divorce Relationship: A Case Study of Nigeria. Journal of Marriage and the Family. 54(2) , 285-292.

Johnson, K. (2006, August 30). Leader of Polygamist Mormon Sect is Arrested in Nevada. New York Times , p. A12.

Levine, N. E., & Silk, J. B. (1997). Why Polyandry Fails. Current Anthropology. 38(3) , 375-398.

The Economist. (2004). Hunting Bountiful; Polygamy in Canada. The Economist .

Tresniowski, A. (2005, July 25). Castaways: In Utah and Arizona Hundreds of Teenage Boys Are Being Torn from Their Families and Expelled from an Extreme Mormon Sect. Is It Because They Compete for Teen Girls that the Sect’s Grown Men Want to Marry? People Weekly .

Ward, C. M. (2004). I Now Pronounce You Husband and Wives: Lawrence v. Texas and the Practice of Polygamy in Modern America. William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law, 11 , 131-151.

Wing, A. K. (2001). Polygamy from Southern Africa to Black Britannia to Black America: Global Critical Race Feminism as Legal Reform for the Twenty-First Century. Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues. 11 , 811-880.

Yanca, C., & Low, B. S. (2003). Female Allies and Female Power: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. Evolution and Human Behavior. 25 , 9-23.

August 1, 2014

Periodization of History Diverse perspectives

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:19 pm


It has been a consistent issue with historians on how they would identify various stages of history. Eviatar Zerubavel feels that by delineating two periods as if they are situated in two discreet compartments, the elite tend to, perhaps intentionally; negate the importance of all achievements that have taken place before they assumed power.[1] As a proof of his thesis, Zerubavel cites the incident of Columbus’ “discovery” of America. By relegating everything that was there before Columbus had set foot on Bahamas in 1492 to the monolithic darkness of pre-Columbian era, Europeans have tried to propagate an idea that everything worthwhile started happening in America only after they came on to the scene.[2] The other issue is the subtle use of language by these historians by labeling periods in such a way as to automatically make them sound less important or not worth a serious study. Use of words as “dark” or “exile” or for that matter “pre-Columbian” tends to render these periods, irrespective how eventful they were, unimportant and hence eminently forgettable. Zerubavel sees politics of the powerful in such periodizations of history which in his opinion is nothing but a chronicle of uninterrupted flow of time without any fissures or cracks. Jerry H. Bentley, however, feels periodization is indeed necessary as it provides appropriate frames of reference while analyzing various eras and epochs.[3] He has categorized history in six clearly identifiable eras based on the degree and intensity of cross-cultural interactions among communities across the world. The nature of such cross-cultural interactions according to him took the form of mass migrations, imperial expansions and foreign trade.[4] Such mingling of diverse cultures inevitably led to two-way exchanges that facilitated spreading of technological innovations (related to war as well as peace time activities as agriculture) and caused repeated cultural and religious diffusions that not only shaped world history but also vastly affected individual communities. Such interactions had their downsides as well as epidemics traversed continents to wipe out millions across the globe. The six broad stages identified by Bentley bear considerable intra-period similarity among participating civilizations while exhibiting broad inter-period contrasts and do serve as convenient mileposts in story of world civilization.


Zerubavel’s contention that history is a chronicle of uninterrupted flow of time surely cannot be contested and his thesis that history is nothing but the story of the conquerors where the vanquished are consigned to the dustbin of oblivion is also partially correct, but if one has to concentrate on a specific part of history one needs to isolate it from the flow. This is somewhat analogous to the ceteris paribus concept in microeconomics which though unrealistic is absolutely necessary for academic enquiry. Bentley, on the other hand, tends to provide too sweeping an account of world history where specifics and local issues are ignored almost to the point of making the whole endeavor somewhat irrelevant when one attempts to trace the history of a particular community or region.


In a sense, neither Zerubavel nor Bentley provides a composite approach to history. A student of history being a member of society is irrefutably bound to chronological, cultural and geographic parameters and there is nothing wrong in it par se. So, there is bound to be different perspectives and consequently different interpretations of a particular incident and a historian’s job would be to acknowledge and document all such diversities as faithfully and honestly as possible. Bentley, by dwelling excessively on cross-cultural interactions, seems to have missed the finer interplay of indigenous forces that so often determined the fate of dynasties and kingdoms and affected the lives of numerous people.



[1] Zerubavel, Eviatar. “Language and memory: ‘pre-Columbian’ America and the sound logic of periodization.” Social Research 65(2), 1998: 315-330.


[2] Elliot, West. “A Longer, Grimmer, but More Interesting Story.” In Trails Toward a New Western History, by Patricia Nelson Limerick, 103-111. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.


[3] Bentley, Jerry H. “Cross-Cultural Interaction and Periodization in World History.” The American Historical Review, Volume 101, no. 3, June 1996: 749-770.


[4] Casson, Lionel. The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1991.



Filed under: International Economics,Political Musings,social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:17 pm


Table of Contents

Abstract 3

History and Origin of the Crisis. 5

Overview of geography of Nigeria and its social set-up. 5

The Civil War of 1967-1970. 7

Communal Violence. 8

  1. Economy. 9

Nigeria and Poverty. 10

The impact Oil Industry in Niger Delta. 14

Brief recount of the history of oil exploration in Nigeria. 14

Environmental hazards related to oil exploration.. 16

Bonny – a fishing community in Niger Delta. 18

Geographic and Demographic Overview of Bonny Island. 18

History of Bonny. 19

Discovery of Oil: Revival of Bonny. 21

Adverse impact of oil industry on Bonny. 22

Damage by Sea Trucks. 23

Spillage of oil and resultant pollution.. 24

Gas Flaring and Pollution.. 28

Land Filling. 29

  1. Erosion.. 30
  2. Dredging. 31

Oloma and Social Change. 31

Unrest in Niger Delta. 32

Is Federal Government a party to the nexus?. 33

Non-recognition of Minorities and Indigenous People. 34

Militancy in Niger Delta. 35

Legal resistance against environmental pollution.. 48

How unsafe it is to reside in Niger Delta. 52

Oil and Health.. 57

Key aspects of the right to health.. 57

Misconceptions about right to health.. 59

Link between right to health and other human rights. 60

Right to health as enshrined in International Human Rights Law and Constitutions of several countries. 61

Right to health: how far it is honoured in Niger Delta. 64

Is there a way forward?. 65

  1. References. 68
  2. Glossary. 73






The crisis at Niger Delta has been analysed and evaluated from the perspective of health and human rights and while doing do, the responsibility of multinational oil corporations that operate in this region extracting crude petroleum from the oil rich delta have been minutely examined to evaluate whether they promote and protect public health and bolster human rights through robust social and corporate responsibility and governance strategy.[1] The paper also examines the relevance of international law in the realms of public health and whether the current laws have enough teeth to actually bolster and ensure genuine implementation of the right to health by multinational companies that often tend to disrupt fragile ecological balances of areas where they operate. While admitting there is a need to promote debates also regarding the relevance or otherwise of national and supranational institutions as United Nations and World Health Organisation in promoting public health and forcing multinational corporations to take adequate steps in protecting environment and promoting public health especially in their operational zones, this project takes a comprehensive view of the pronouncement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health as a fundamental right. This project also attempts to promote the right to health as a fundamental human right, to clarify the contours and content of the right to health, and to identify good corporate practices for implementation of the right to health at community, national, and international levels.

Niger Delta is an especially delicate case where in addition to international and supranational leadership and governance, there is a need for political leadership and political will at the national and local level for the crisis to be stemmed. The paper adopts the stance that human rights based approach to public health issues might be the most suitable option for improving levels of public health and lowering the alarming levels of environmental pollution that has gripped this region through years of systematic neglect.[2]

Although this region is endowed with an abundance of natural riches, the people of this region live in the midst of abject poverty, disease and hunger. Malnutrition, illiteracy and unemployment characterize the region and the local population remain marginalised and isolated from the riches that lie under the ground. There have been efforts at community mobilization against this marginalisation and these efforts have often taken the form of mass protests that have frequently turned violent. The reactions of government and oil multinationals to such violence have frequently been disproportionately severe and have queered the pitch of the entire scenario even further.[3] So, any solution to such a complicated issue where the lives and livelihoods of numerous people, not only those who are directly affected by the pollution and consequent degradation of public health in Niger Delta but also those who are thousands of miles away from the point of crude oil extraction, working in various related activities, can only be possible through a delicately nuanced policy that views the whole issue through a humanitarian angle and the legal compulsion associated with right to health.

History and Origin of the Crisis

Overview of geography of Nigeria and its social set-up

Nigeria is a densely populated country in Western Africa that borders the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, Niger in the north, and the Gulf of Guinea in the south. The name “Nigeria” is derived from a combination of the words “Niger” (the country’s longest river) and “Area.” Nigeria boasts of rich ethnic diversity, it has about 374 ethnic sub-groups, but these are largely consolidated under three umbrella ethnic groups of Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo.[4] (Peterside 2004)

Though Nigeria has a history that dates back hundreds of years, it was not until October 1, 1960 that it became an independent Nation within the Commonwealth of Nations under a constitution that provided for a Parliamentary system of government and a substantial measure of self-government for the country’s three regions. It became a Federal Republic in October, 1963 and the former Governor-General, Nnamdi Azikwe, became the country’s first President. Right from the beginning, Nigeria’s ethnic and religious tensions were exacerbated by disparities in economic and educational development between the south and the north. This was possibly a harbinger of things that were to come in subsequent years. (Olusakin 2006)

Nigeria is considered the fifth largest world exporter of crude oil to the United States based on the oil which is concentrated in the Niger Delta. The nine oil-producing states that made up the Niger Delta (Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers) account for over 90 percent of oil and gas export earnings and up to 70 percent of revenues accruing to the Federation Accounts. The Niger Delta is one of the largest wetlands in the world. It covers an area of about 70,000 square kilometres. The Niger Delta terrain is made up of dry land, seasonal flooded land, swamp, shallow waters, and offshore. The coastline receives the tides of the Atlantic Ocean throughout the year, while the mainland is subjected to a series of floods by the various rivers, particularly the Niger. (Gambo 2005)

The Civil War of 1967-1970

A civil war broke out in 1967 when the Eastern part of the country tried to establish an independent country (Biafra), in which over 300,000 Nigerians lost their lives. (Trend 1996) After three years of bloody conflict, Lieutenant General Yakubu Gowon became the Nigerian Head of State in 1970 and focussed his attention on the oil sector which resulted in a period of reasonable economic growth that was due to an increase in the revenues from crude oil and the nationalization of the various oil companies.[5] Military rule continued for a period of twenty nine years (except for a brief four year period of the short-lived second republic between 1979 to 1983) and was marked by recurring coups and ethnic conflicts till the adoption of a new constitution and a relatively peaceful transition in 1999 to civilian rule of which Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected as the President. (Cooper 2003)

President Obasanjo was re-elected in 2003 to continue with the daunting task of rebuilding a petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement. Most of the times there have been one problem or the other in the Niger Delta over the environmental destruction caused by oil drilling and the ongoing poverty in the oil-rich region. (Benhabib 1996)

Communal Violence

There has also been a spate of communal violence ever since Obasanjo took office in 1999.[6] In May 1999 violence erupted in Kaduna State over the succession of an Emir resulting in more than 100 deaths. In November 1999, the army destroyed the town of Odi in Bayelsa State and killed scores of civilians in retaliation for the murder of 12 policemen by a local gang. In 2000, right from February through to May, over 1,000 people died in Kaduna in rioting over the introduction of criminal Sharia[7] law in the State. Hundreds of ethnic Hausa were killed in reprisal attacks in south-eastern Nigeria. In September 2001, over 2,000 people were killed in inter-religious rioting in Jos. In October 2001, hundreds were killed and thousands displaced in communal violence that spread across the states of Benue, Taraba, and Nasarawa. On October 1, 2001, President Obasanjo announced the formation of a National Security Commission to address the issue of communal violence to make a last ditch attempt to adhere to the official motto of Nigerian Government which is “Unity, and Faith, Peace and Progress.” (Sachs 2005)

It might perhaps be something of a redundancy to mention that the two major religions in Nigeria are Christianity and Islam, and, they engage in religious clashes especially in the northern part of the country, while some people practice the traditional African religions.[8]


Nigerian economy is heavily dependent on natural oil and gas right from the time vast deposits of this extremely valuable natural resource was discovered in Niger delta. However, prior to this discovery almost 70 percent of the population was employed in the agricultural sector producing cocoa, maize, rice, yams, peanuts, bananas, sugar cane, cotton, rubber, and dairy products. But with the advent of oil sector, agriculture was given a short shrift and as a result of this a country that was once self sufficient became an importer of food. Agriculture and other non-oil sector, which at 1962 contributed 78.2 percent of the nation’s revenue, dropped drastically to 1.1 percent in 1977, while crude oil contribution rose from 13.3 percent to 98.9 percent over the same period. Currently, Nigeria’s economy predominantly depends on the production of crude oil which accounts for about 95 percent of the nation’s export earnings while agricultural products and other non-oil commodities shared the remaining five percent among them. (Africa Report N°113 2006)[9]

Nigeria and Poverty

There is no doubt Nigeria earns huge amounts of foreign exchange through export of oil but the state of a majority of Nigerians suffering from poverty is particularly ironic as its rich oil resources do not warrant such a situation. The situation is made more complicated as there is no universal definition of poverty. It is a complex and multi-dimensional concept, and has various perceptions. It is experienced differently by men and by women and can differ according to geographical area, social group, and political or economic context. [10]

Poverty is experienced not only in economic deprivation but also in terms of an individual’s inability to have adequate daily nutritional intake, safe drinking water, basic sanitation, a livelihood that can support survival, that can give a chance for a child to make his or her way through school, access to essential health services in a health emergency, and also have access to basic social amenities like good roads, stable electricity and water supply. Poverty is also linked to a shortage of vital resources and the endurance of harsh and inhospitable environments, including the breakdown of economic, demographic, ecological, cultural, and social systems, and bad governance, which sustains systemic poverty in developing countries. (Onibokun and Kumuyi 1996)

The time has not yet gone; Nigeria can still learn from Asia and China. Much of the coastal Asia that is enjoying the fruits of economic development now wallowed in dire poverty in the not too distant past. China has doubled its living standards in less than ten years. India is now on the same course. If a country like India that was viewed as a hopeless case of suffering and extreme poverty is now a competitive threat in the IT sector, then Nigeria has a lot to learn from it.[11]

Poverty in Nigeria becomes more evident when the distortion becomes so pronounced that people, groups and countries lose their capacity to adapt, change and survive peacefully. This is evident in case of many Nigerians who risk their lives to tap gas pipelines that pass through their communities and steal fuel for money.[12] Not only do they risk arrest, but many have died in explosions they caused while trying to puncture pipelines transporting volatile gas. A list of such pathetic incidents might bring the issue to sharper focus:

  • In October 1998, more than 1,000 people died and hundreds were injured at Jesse, in south-eastern state of Delta;
  • In June 1999, at least 15 people were burnt to death in a pipeline explosion at Akute-Odo in southern Ogun state;
  • In February 2000, at least 17 people died in a fire started at a pipeline near Ogwe in the eastern part of Abia state;
  • In March 2000, at least 50 people were burnt alive when a pipeline caught fire near Isioma in Abia south-western state;
  • In June 2000, at least 28 people died in a fire caused by a pipeline explosion at Okuedjeba, near the southern Warri oilfield;
  • In July 2000, about 300 people died at Warri, Delta state, in a fire caused by a pipeline explosion;
  • Again in the same month of July, 2000, at least 40 people were killed when a pipeline burst and caught fire in Afrokpe in the Warri area and about 15 more were killed the next day in a second blast in the same area;
  • In November 2000, about 60 people lost their lives when a damaged pipeline exploded near the port of Lagos;
  • In November of 2001, another 15 people died and several others and seriously burned in a pipeline blow-up at Umudike in the south-eastern state of Imo;
  • In September 2002, several people died and many were injured at Akute-Odo in southern Ogun state as a pipeline caught fire after they had vandalized it;
  • In June 2003, about 125 people were killed in a pipeline explosion in the village of Ovim in Abia state;
  • In September 2004, at least 60 people burnt to death as a result of pipeline busting in Lagos;[13]
  • In December 2004, at least 20 other people died in Lagos from the same cause;
  • In May 2006, about 200 people lost their lives at Ilado near Lagos when gasoline from a ruptured pipeline caught fire. (BBC News 2006)

The impact Oil Industry in Niger Delta

Brief recount of the history of oil exploration in Nigeria

The earliest known incidence of search for hydrocarbons was more than a hundred years ago in 1906 when Nigerian Bitumen Company had drilled, though unsuccessfully for bitumen northeast of Lagos. Nothing much happened during the next thirty odd years till Shell D’Arcy Company was given exclusive rights in 1937 for oil exploration throughout the length and breadth of the country. It took another twenty years for Shell-BO to discover commercially exploitable oil deposits in Niger Delta and with the first oil shipment in 1958 (at a rate of 6,000 barrels per day); the oil sector began to assume an increasing importance in the nation’s economic life.[14] In 1961, the first export terminal was constructed by Shell-BP at Bonny, Rivers State. This was followed by the commissioning of the Trans-Niger pipeline in 1965 that increased manifold the evacuation of crude oil from the oilfields situated in what was known at that time as the Bendel State. However, these rapid strides in the field of oil exploration were drastically cut short by the Civil War that halted all efforts till 1970 when the flames of the war finally subsided. The end of the civil war saw massive investment in oil extraction related activities that saw a huge surge in oil production that reached a level of 1.5 million barrels per day in that year and by 1971 Shell’s second Export Terminal at Forcados was commissioned to further enhance crude export. It might be of academic interest to note that the price of crude oil at this time was about $2.00 per barrel.

Though initial forays were made by made by Shell, other oil companies as Mobil, Gulf (now Chevron) Texaco, Elf and Agip entered the scene from 1956 onwards with Gulf bringing its first field on stream in 1965. The production levels continued to increase unabated and in 1974, immediately after the first world oil price increase, and with intensified drilling and production activities, Nigeria reached its peak oil production of 2.2 million barrels per day, of which Shell produced 1.4 million barrels.[15] This high level of production was more or less sustained until 1980 when the world oil price reached $35 per barrel, though the number of barrels sold was much reduced.

Nigerian oil and gas industry has now reached a stage where it can play a key role in the world energy supply for several decades to come as the country has an abundance of both proven and undiscovered reserves of high quality oil which can be exploited at relatively low cost compared with other major oil producing countries. (Omene 2002)

Environmental hazards related to oil exploration

There are certain some hazards and risks to the people and the environment that are intimately associated with oil and gas exploration and production activities.[16] Such risks to the environment usually take the form of:

  • Seismic Operations: It is claimed that seismic activities generate vibrations that can adversely affect buildings. The seismic waves generated and the chemicals used can also deplete aquatic life in the rivers and streams.
  • Well Blow-outs: Sometimes due to overpressure of the reservoir or due to human error, a blowout can occur despite wellhead pressure control systems. During such incidents, soil and water can be contaminated.
  • Fire: The emission of flammable hydrocarbon during production can result in fire outbreaks.
  • Flaring: The flare scorches the surrounding lands and this can render them infertile, while light from flares retard photosynthesis with the resultant reduction in farm crop productivity. Increase in temperature of the surrounding river waters can impact the aquatic life and ecosystem. Global warming from gas flaring can result in saltwater incursion into fresh waters. Also, the health implications of gas flaring for human beings include sleeplessness, and breathing problems.
  • Pollution: Pollution can occur due to human error, sudden rupture of pipelines, or instrumentation failures.
  • Sabotage: Spillages due to sabotage sometimes occur. Apart from compensation expectation, the resultant spills create a lot of environmental problems and pollution.
  • Noise: Noise effects even during drilling can scare and displace wildlife. Most of the oil industry plants and operations can be noisy.[17]

Bonny – a fishing community in Niger Delta

The havoc environmental pollution has been wrecking in the entire Niger Delta can be properly understood if attention is turned on the rural fishing community on the Island of Bonny in the Eastern Niger Delta.[18] The author feels that a detailed descriptive study of one community would help to put the basic problems that affect almost all the local inhabitants of the Niger Delta in proper perspective and draws heavily from the seminal work done in this regard by Alicia Fentiman. (Fentiman 1996)

Geographic and Demographic Overview of Bonny Island

Bonny island is situated within the within the tidal mangrove swamps of the Eastern Niger Delta. Tributaries of the Bonny River dissect the flat surface of the island, creating swamps and creeks that are bordered by mangrove trees. Much of the land is uninhabitable; fresh water resources are scarce.[19] The population is clustered mainly in Bonny town and a number of adjoining villages and several fishing ports that are safely nestled in numerous meandering creeks and waterways that crisscross this region. Oloma is one such village around Bonny town. This town is approximately 50 kilometres southeast of the industrial and commercial centre of Port Harcourt.

Oloma is populated almost entirely by Ibani-Ijo community while there is a settlement of Elem Kalabari to the west, the Okrikans to the north, and the Andoni, Opobo, and Ogoni to the east. (Jewett 1988)

History of Bonny

Fishing has traditionally been the main source of livelihood of the Ibani community that lives in the village of Oloma. Over and above the fish that was abundantly available in the numerous creeks salt was evaporated from the sea water trapped in the roots of the mangrove tree. Ibani community traded their merchandise of fish and salt with the hinterland agriculturists and this internal trade network was well established and fully functional decades before European contact and provided the mercantile infrastructure on which the success of Bonny’s European trade was founded. Being crucially located[20] surely helped Bonny to gradually develop into a fulcrum of a two-way trade between the Ibo hinterland and the Ibani, on the one hand, and the Ibani and European traders on the other. Food, livestock, and, most importantly, slaves that came from the hinterland markets were brought to Bonny to be traded. The growing European demand for slaves assured the role of Bonny traders as middlemen in the West African-European trade. This lasted until the 19th century. (Alagoa, Long Distance Trade and States in the Niger Delta 1970)

With the abolition of slave trade in the 19th century merchants turned their attention to palm oil which found a huge market in Europe due to Industrial Revolution that was taking place there. Palm oil was a very effective and convenient lubricant for machinery as well as for making soap and candles. Bonny did not let this opportunity go by and prospered as one of the main centres of palm oil trade and such was its success that Bonny and Kalabari areas became known as the “Oil Rivers.”

20th century however saw a gradual decline of Bonny as coal was discovered in commercially viable quantities further inland and a new mainland port was constructed by the British colonialists to exploit better the new coal fields. Port Harcourt, a new industrial city 50 kilometres up Bonny River, was founded in 1913. In 1916 there was great exodus from Bonny and by 1930 the town was said to be in a state of decay and utter stagnation (Webber 1931) and by 1938 moves were made to abolish the third-class township that was accorded to Bonny.[21]

Discovery of Oil: Revival of Bonny

Initially the oil companies had built a temporary export terminal at Port Harcourt[22] but only small tankers could visit that terminal and even then they could load only half their capacity because of the low draft that was available at the port. Bonny thus became the ideal alternative because of its strategic location[23] and its unique capability of being able to cater to both inshore and offshore loading facilities. Shell Petroleum Development Company realised the unique geographical advantage of Bonny and by 1961 had completed the first phase of the Bonny Terminal and kept on adding more terminals throughout the sixties.

The establishment of the oil terminal had a tremendous impact on the infrastructure of Bonny Town.[24] New buildings were constructed and Bonny had a new post office, a divisional office, a branch of the Pan African Bank, a police station, and maritime clearing and forwarding houses. A new hospital was also built and communication between Bonny town and Port Harcourt improved dramatically. Though intermittent, Shell also started supplying electricity to the town. But the most unexpected sector to gain from the new found prosperity on account of oil was education and in 1966, Shell helped to fund new departments in Bonny secondary school. In 1977, the Finima Girl’s Secondary School was opened, which provided further education for females. In addition, a teacher training college was re-established, and it at once became an important educational centre. (Green 1982) Though Bonny remained indebted to oil industry for its phenomenal improvement, the lives of average inhabitants of Bonny, especially those who resided in the coastal fishing villages, deteriorated sharply due to extraction of crude oil. (Prins [ed.] 2001)

Adverse impact of oil industry on Bonny

Oil has an overwhelming presence in and around Oloma; the canalization and dredging of creeks by oil companies have significantly altered the landscape and pipes meander throughout the swamps, with signboards scattered throughout the area alerting villagers of “danger.” [25] To add to the already all pervading presence of oil, sea trucks pass daily to and from the flow station located at the end of the creek; and gas flares emit light 24 hours every day. But it was not so, at least not before Shell started dredging the creek. Rampant soil erosion swallowed the beautiful sandy beach and now houses and playgrounds are also gradually becoming prey to this silent killer. But the most important issue is fishing as a way of life is becoming more and more difficult for this predominantly fishing community as it is very fast becoming an uneconomic activity with each passing day. Some of the problems these fishermen encounter are:

Damage by Sea Trucks

Sea trucks continuously ply along the creek to and from the flow station located at the end of this waterway. The pilots of these sea trucks, it seems, have no concern about the fishermen or the oil multinationals have not paid sufficient attention in sensitising these pilots towards the needs and requirements of the poor fishing folk for whom this creek and its fishes are the only source of livelihood. Rapidly plying sea trucks do not bother to adhere to the speed restrictions and very often tear fishing lines, nets, and traps laid by the fishermen and the wake left behind by these trucks often cause the light and flimsy canoes of these fishermen to capsize.[26] In addition to these irritants, noise created by these sea trucks scare away whatever little quantities of fish that still might have remained in these creeks. (Wilcox and Powell 1985)

Spillage of oil and resultant pollution

Oil multinationals have consistently tried to make everybody believe that the main reason for low fish yields are over-fishing and overpopulation but the fishing community strongly believes that oil pollution has damaged their fishing economy beyond redemption. Fewer people reside in the community than in the past and fewer people take to fishing as the only means of livelihood. These oil companies dump all their waste products into the rivers thus polluting the waters and killing the fish and making lives of fishermen even bleaker and forcing them out of their traditional dwellings to urban centres in search of livelihood. (Alagoa and Tamuno, Land and People of Nigeria: Rivers State 1989) This has created another rather unusual problem. A greater burden has been placed upon the women because of the massive outward migration of men and each day, women spend hours in the mangrove swamps gathering shellfish such as winkles and mangrove oysters and other forms of shellfish to quench their hunger.[27]

It must however be admitted that there is not much scientific data examining the impact of oil pollution on the aquatic life. At the same time one should not lose sight of the symposium, “The Mangrove Ecosystem of the Niger Delta”, held in Port Harcourt in 1980, where several scholars researching in different disciplines discussed and shared information on the changes in the environment on account of oil exploration and broadly agreed that oil was a major factor contributing to the destruction of marine life. It was demonstrated by several scholars that crude oil contains compounds that are toxic to marine organisms and contribute to extensive mortality in finfish, shellfish, oysters, and birds. This was observed in the Apoi and Ojobo areas. (Odu and Imevbore 1985)

A study in Bonny River examined oil pollution and the brackish environment.[28] An experiment that examined the effect of crude petroleum oil and refined oils on aquatic organisms confirmed that crude oil and refined petroleum products in high concentrations were toxic to marine life. By comparing different types of fish and shellfish, it showed that some species were more resilient than others. Data revealed that shrimps were more susceptible to pollutants, followed by oysters and fish. Periwinkles were the most tolerant. Tainting of the flesh confirmed that the effect of oil spillage was lingering. Even small, though continual, spills affected the productivity of the water. It also showed that pollutants had a pronounced effect on the growth and reproductive capacity of organisms. (Onuoba 1985)

An oil spillage in Nembe in 1995 illustrates the problems with which oil producing communities must contend when there is a spillage. It was reported that an oil spill had occurred from an Agip oil pipeline. For several days, the oil flowed freely into the creeks and mangrove forest. The area went up in flames one night when a woman on a late-night fishing trip mistakenly set off the fire with her lantern. The fire destroyed much of the aquatic life in the area. In addition, farm crops were destroyed. (Agbese 1995)

A problem that many communities face during oil spillages is that many of the oil companies are unwilling to pay compensation during spillages because they believe that they are caused by sabotage. The communities, however, stress that many of the spillages are “legitimate” – not caused by sabotage, but instead by poorly maintained and faulty equipment. It is therefore necessary to monitor the areas regularly and to act immediately during spillages.[29]

It might be of interest to recollect that Shell Oil Company was compelled to shut down its operations in Ogoni in 1996 as a result of a high-profile protest campaign against it. The Nigerian government again ordered Shell in mid-2006 to resume oil production in Ogoni within one year or lose its concession. This necessitated a visit by a team of oil spill experts from the United Nations Environment Program to assess the impact of oil pollution on the region. A report compiled by World Wildlife Fund-UK (WWF UK), the World Conservation Union and the Nigeria Conservation Foundation, concluded that pollution is destroying the livelihood of 20 million people in the region and about 1.5 million tons of oil has been spilt in the Niger Delta over the past 50 years. The report says oil spills have done colossal damage to the fragile mangrove forests and wiped out rare species, including primates, fish, turtles and birds. The delta is now considered one of the five most polluted spots in the world.[30] The report concluded that the damage done by oil and gas production was one of the factors responsible for the instability and violence in the region, including the sabotage of oil facilities. (Costa 2006)

Gas Flaring and Pollution

Large quantities of methane gas are associated with oil. During oil production, this gas is burned off at flow stations above the oil wells. This introduces sulphur dioxide and oxides of carbon and nitrogen into the atmosphere. The impact of this on the environment has not yet been substantiated. However, it is said that this could contribute to global warming. (Waribor 1976)

Nigerian authorities also admit that the country loses about $2.5 billion annually to gas flaring, while thousands of people in and around the oil-rich Delta region live in grinding poverty. The authorities have promised to set a deadline for oil firms operating in the area to stop the practice. Environmental watchdog groups say the flaring of gas has further polluted the region’s water, air and farmlands. They also report a significant increase in birth defects. Mike Karikpo, programs manager with the group Environmental Rights Action, however is rather sceptical about promises made by Nigerian authorities.

He recalls several instances of setting deadlines for gas flare-out in Nigeria right since 1965 and none of them had been met and he feels that the government and the oil companies are busy playing the blame game, pointing at each other for not doing what they are supposed to be doing.[31]

He is rather scathing in his remarks about the government and the oil companies and suspects both the parties benefit from flaring and it is basically a symbiotic relationship that benefits the government and oil companies. (Offor 2008)

Land Filling

Quite a few creeks and waterways have been filled up by the oil companies for laying pipelines and this has severely disturbed accessibility of numerous hutments and small villages and most of these villagers have been denied an alternative route to reach Bonny Town. The alternative route provided a safer option to reach Bonny town during monsoon when Bonny River becomes very rough and dangerous.[32]

Canalization also damages the environment. Oil companies create canals to either drain out an area for drilling and lying of pipes or create channels to transport drilling and other oil production equipment to the site. The channels alter the ecology of the area; they can also alter the flood pattern of the delta by resulting in perennial flooding of the otherwise well-drained plains as was observed in many areas in the Niger Delta. (Ekoriko 1996)


The local inhabitants are of the firm opinion that the continual to and from movement of sea trucks along the creek and dredging of the land and waterways have significantly contributed to the erosion of the land. In Oloma, several households lost their fertile farmlands due to erosion and the sandy beach that used to be in front of the village has eroded away even after a sand-bank was designed to prevent further erosion. The embankment was promised for several years and finally in 1984 it was indeed built by a contractor who bagged the government contract. But like many other public constructions in corruption infested Nigeria, this embankment also did not last.[33] It got washed away during the rainy season and instead of benefiting the community and improving the situation, it worsened the scenario. Gaps in the embankment became dangerous for children and adults walking on the sandbags and several of them ended with broken legs or twisted ankles. (Fentiman 1996)


Local fishermen of this area drag a net along the creek bottom as the most effective Indigenous fishing method. But after oil companies have emerged on the scene it is difficult, rather impossible for fishermen to catch fish in such a manner because the creeks have been dredged as a part of oil exploration and the water is now too deep to stand in, making this form of fishing obsolete. Dredging also destroys valuable freshwater and mangrove vegetation, which can cause an imbalance in the ecosystem because aquatic organisms depend on them for food and shelter during part or all of their life cycles (Wilcox and Powell 1985). Also, during the dredging process, oil is spilled into the water and burning of fuel releases carbon, sulphur, and nitrogen oxides into the aquatic environment thus causing severe water and air pollution. (Odu and Imevbore 1985)

Oloma and Social Change

The Land Decree Act of 1978 caused many communities throughout the Niger Delta to lose their valuable farmland. On top of that, oil production contributed to the contamination of whatever land that still remained with them. Though there is no doubting the fact that inhabitants of Oloma suffered in many ways when parts of their land were taken away, they have suffered more by losing the access and rights of way to their creeks and waterways. Further, the destruction and contamination of their productive resources have contributed to vast changes within the economic, political, and social structure of the community. As members of the community are forced to migrate because their resources are destroyed, various changes are taking place within these institutions.[34]

Unrest in Niger Delta

Many analysts feel that ownership of land is the main reason for the continuing political unrest in this region.  The Land Decree Act of 1978 automatically transfers title to any land where oil is found to the federal government without adequate compensation to the landowners. This gives the federal government the right to enter into an unholy alliance with multinational oil companies in the name of joint venture operations at the exclusion of the people.

Is Federal Government a party to the nexus?

The result is that the federal government and the multinational oil corporations share the resulting revenue on a ratio of 60:40 percent with nothing left for the original landowners.[35] This fraudulent and complex economic arrangement is based on much deeper and extremely sinister issues of ethnicity and tribalism. There are 250 ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, with the Yorubas, Igbos and the Hausa/Fulani of the west, southeast and the north comprising the majority tribes. The minorities of the Ijaws, Itsekiris and other nationalities inhabit the oil rich Niger Delta region. However, most members of the government are from majority tribes that do not populate the Niger Delta and these people have created a formula for sharing the revenues from oil production that favours other regions, further increasing the poverty in the delta and creating anger and conflict between the delta tribes themselves. Trust amongst the tribes has been eroded, while hatred and suspicion have grown, as they are made to believe that they are enemies to one and another by the divide and rule and the divide and exploit attitude of an insincere national government and its dubious multinational collaborators. (Bisina 2005)

Non-recognition of Minorities and Indigenous People

The situation is made more volatile since Nigerian constitution does not recognise minority and indigenous rights though Chapter 2 of the constitution purports to confer equality on all citizens of the country irrespective of ethnic origin, sex, religion, and political opinion. The Nigerian constitution only deals with general question of non-discrimination but does not deal with the problem of vulnerable group like the nation’s minorities. There is no mention of minority and indigenous peoples’ rights in the constitution.[36]

A direct result of this lack of protection is Nigeria’s human rights crisis   that has arisen from the treatment meted to the mosaic of distinct minority and indigenous nationalities that straddle the length and breadth of the Niger Delta River where the nation’s exploration and exploitation of crude oil takes place.

Right from its onset, the oil industry in Nigeria had operated under the protection of certain security arrangements requiring the Nigeria Police to send officers to the oil companies as supernumerary police or spy police. These security officers had been implicated in abuses against local community members where they operate involving crimes like torture, arbitrary arrests and detention and rape.[37]

However, the response of the government took a new dimension in the wake of the decade long upsurge in agitations by the Niger Delta peoples. The standard response of the government had been the militarization of the area in order to crush community protests so as to ensure the protection of oil facilities and the continued flow of crude oil. This militarization has resulted in indiscriminate arrests, torture, rape and the extrajudicial execution of peoples in the Niger Delta. This is contrary to the principles of increasing the wellbeing of the people of Niger Delta and avoidance of adverse impacts. (The Niger Delta Civil Society Forum 2008)

Militancy in Niger Delta

Such a backdrop of corruption, nepotism, forgery and blatant show of force by governmental agencies had made Niger Delta into a lawless zone where militant youths disrupted oil production activities at will and communities frequently engaged, with little provocation, in destructive inter and intra community clashes[38]. Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other activists called for the Nigerian federal government to regulate the oil exploration, drilling, and processing activities of Shell Oil and other oil manufacturers in the oil-producing regions of Nigeria. This included enforcing standards on the location of oil drills, proper disposal of oil wastes, and appropriate clean-up procedures in the event of spills. The activists also asked that a larger share of the profits from the oil industry be directed to the oil-producing regions of the country. They also wanted local government leaders to be included to a larger extent in the planning and decision-making of future oil explorations and expanded activities related to current oil drilling and processing. They usually threaten oil companies and their employees to leave their region. At times, they hold foreign oil workers hostage and have sabotaged major oilfields. These militants also provide security for the oil-smugglers who are believed to exchange oil for weapons from Eastern Europe. They claim that they have had enough of the exploitation of their resources and wanted to take total control of the area to get their fair share of the wealth. (M. Olusakin 2005)

The Niger Delta crisis is a serious matter that requires serious policy and committed and courageous leadership to resolve. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta threatened some rocket attacks. (The Guardian 2006) But there was no tangible, realistic and genuine efforts made by the government of the country to untangle that crisis.[39]

As mentioned earlier, the people of Niger Delta have been suffering from environmental degradation and pollution through oil spillage and gas flaring. The Commissions established by the government (Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) in 1992, replaced by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000) have not made any noticeable socioeconomic impacts in the region. (ANEEJ 2004)


However, before passing a blanket judgement on governmental efforts, it would be fair to quickly browse through the details of the brief of NDDC and what it could achieve. This of course is not an attempt to whitewash the role played by Nigerian Government in tackling the crisis in the Delta region. Rather it is an attempt to remain fair and not be swayed by the high voltage rhetoric employed by all the concerned parties.[40]

Niger Delta Development Commission was charged with the responsibility of promoting sustainable development of the Niger Delta. Specifically, the functions of the NDDC included the following:

  • Formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area;
  • Conceive, plan and implement in accordance with set rules and regulations, projects and programs for sustainable development of the Niger Delta area, in the fields of transportation, including roads, jetties and waterways, health, education, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications;
  • Cause the Niger Delta area to be surveyed in order to ascertain measures which are necessary to promote its physical and socioeconomic development;
  • Prepare master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger Delta area.[41]
  • Implement all the measures approved for the development of the Niger Delta area by the Federal Government and the member States of the Commission;
  • Identify factors inhibiting the Development of the Niger Delta area and assist the member states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger Delta area;
  • Assess and report on any project being funded or carried out in the Niger Delta area by oil and gas producing companies and any other company including non-governmental organizations, and ensure that funds released for such projects are properly utilized;
  • Tackle ecological and environmental problems that arise from the exploration of oil mineral in the Niger Delta area and advise the Federal Government and the member States on the prevention and control of oil spillages, gas flaring and environmental pollution;
  • Liaise with the various oil mineral and gas prospecting and producing companies on all matters of pollution, prevention and control; and
  • Execute such other works and perform such other functions which, in the opinion of the Commission, are required for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta area and its people.(Niger-Delta Development Commission (Establishment etc.) Act: 2000 Act No. 6: Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2000)

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) placed great emphasis on human development based on the conviction that any development must begin with the human being who otherwise could become opposed to the development process[42]. It had developed various programs to facilitate this. Some of the achievements of NDDC are: Over 100,000 treated for various illnesses; 5,000 enrolled in computer training classes; 417 classrooms built; desks and tables provided for those classrooms; science equipment provided for local schools; 50 health centres constructed and many similar projects. Though these were mere drops in the ocean when compared to the yawning requirements of the area and NDDC was superseded by Consolidated Council on Social and Economic Development of Coastal States of the Niger Delta (COSEND) — a new development institution recently established by the Government of Nigeria to drive the development of the Niger Delta region — one has to admit that NDDC was not a mere spectator in the ongoing happenings in the Delta region. (Ebeku 2008)

It might seem a misnomer if it is said that the crisis in the Niger Delta is not complex by itself. But the actual fact is the approach to resolving it has made it complex and dangerous. The people are not asking for anything out of the ordinary. The region that is home to Nigeria’s oil wealth remains the most impoverished community in the nation. Reports note that they lack basic infrastructure – good network of roads, health care facilities, good schools and portable water. The spate of sad images of the poor quality of life in the creeks that are periodically shown to the world on CNN (and in the newspapers) highlight that the oil wealth is not being used to develop the area.[43] The successive governments have collected billions of dollars from the land over the decades, but little (if any) has been invested in the area to improve the people’s living conditions. Is there anything wrong in investing some money that is realized from the oil extracted from the region to improve the people’s living conditions? [44]

The main causes of Niger Delta crisis include greed and selfishness, deprivation and poverty and social injustice. (Oyadongha 2006) The simple meaning of social justice, according to experts, is that the same contribution equals the same benefit. A person’s “benefit” equals his or her “contribution” and no community should be given more when it contributes less or be given less when it contributes more. The Niger Delta, however, is contributing a lot to the economic well being of Nigeria and it is getting nothing, but destruction, in return. Without social justice there will be no peace in the Niger Delta and socioeconomic development will continue to elude the region. Social justice, as experts say, is an important ingredient for “socioeconomic development.” It creates a healthy, harmonious, and reliable social psychological atmosphere that stimulates economic development. And because of social injustice the entire nation is slowly becoming politically and economically very unstable. (Boothroyd and Nam 2000)

But this crisis has not shown any signs over the years that it would be resolved. Some thought it would end with the executions of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight fellow Ogonis on November 10, 1995. But what followed was a worldwide condemnation of the Nigerian authorities and a genuine concern for human rights abuses in that country.

The condemnations notwithstanding ground reality has changed very little over the years and as the situation stands, the country is, losing several billions of dollars to the massive destruction being credited to the activities of saboteurs, or militants (depending on which side of the divide you are) in the region, by blowing up oil installations belonging to major multinational oil companies.[45] As a result, Nigeria is having a daily shortfall of almost a million barrels crude oil production from its quota to OPEC. This will have a massive implication on the annual budget of the country as the government will be forced to undertake a huge amount of deficit financing in order to keep up to the budgeted expenditure.

The situation is compounded by the fact that Labour Unions, under the aegis of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), led Nigerian workers to draw the attention of the federal government to the deplorable plights of workers in the face of the current global economic meltdown and made several demands on the government, some of which are, an increase in workers’ salaries, a reversal of the deregulation of the downstream sector and the adoption of the Justice Uwais’ recommendations on electoral reforms. But as long as the crisis in Niger Delta continues the demands and expectations of Nigerian workers and the rest of the populace can hardly be met. Nigerian economy has become too lopsided with over 95% of foreign exchange earnings coming from the crude oil produce of Niger Delta.[46]

But in all probabilities it has not been a correct (at least economically) decision to order a military invasion of the creeks in Niger-Delta by the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), in the quest to flush out militants operating within the bowels of the oil rich region of the country. It is true that military officers were massacred, and those responsible for it must not be allowed to go free, but the process of apprehending the criminal elements responsible for this wicked act should follow an intelligent, systematic and calculated procedure. Had this been an American issue, on US soil, the FBI and CIA would surely have played predominant roles in thwarting the efforts of these militants, while ensuring that minimum “collateral damages” are incurred. Nigerian lives, whether they are of Niger-Deltan’s, Fulani or Yoruba are just too sacred and valuable to be lost and neglected in a struggle that truly centres on them. (Eseku 2009)

Pat Utomi in his article has clearly demonstrated there is a fair amount of consensus that the crisis in the Niger Delta is a cumulative consequence of six major factors. These are: the challenge of minority rights in a multi-ethnic country; a history of poor or bad governance; the allure of crude oil stealing; the challenge of principles-based nation-building with regard to fiscal federalism; and the ‘criminalization’ of politics. Then there is the enclave nature of the oil economy, which limits the trickle-down of benefits to the community.[47]

It will surely sound sweet music to multinational oil companies that Niger Delta crisis predates the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in the Delta.  Long before Shell Oil made commercial finds in Oloibiri in 1956, many of the minority peoples who dominate the Niger Delta had petitioned the British Colonial administration with concerns that they were being marginalized by the ethnic majority groups.  The petitions resulted in a commission of inquiry.  One outcome of the work of the Willinks Commission was the setting up of a Niger Delta Basin Authority to drive economic development. This initiative quickly fell into neglect and deprivation became the symbol of the region. The extraction of wealth from the earth beneath the Delta benefited the Nigerian government and the oil producing companies. At the same time, it despoiled the region’s environment and took away traditional means of livelihood from the region’s young people who were offered no employment alternatives. Their plight became a cause celebre in the quest for civil liberties and fundamental human rights.[48]

As if that was not enough of a burden, bad governance at the state and federal levels meant the region lacked the most basic infrastructure, while communities needed only look across the fence to the ultramodern facilities enjoyed by mainly foreign employees of the oil companies.  Widespread corruption in the institutions established in response to agitation for justice and fairness in the region rendered these efforts utterly ineffective. A central question has been determining who should be held accountable. The people of the region have usually held the operating companies to account, while the oil firms insist that they are victims and that the governments to whom they have paid taxes should be responsible for development.  While the debate went on, the people of the oil-rich Delta remained among the poorest people in the world. (Afiesiama 1985)

The anger of the region is further inflamed by the fact that the federal structure agreed upon at independence was an entrenchment of the principle of being a subsidiary, with an understanding that resources belong to the federating states who then contribute 50 percent of revenues from mineral resources for maintenance of the central government. Under military rule this basic understanding of the essence of the Nigerian Federation was systematically turned on its head without consultation or debate.  At one point, less than one percent of oil revenues, in real terms, accrued to the sub-national oil-producing units by the derivation principle. With greater freedoms and the advent of civilian, democratic rule, these inflamed passions and resentments were predictable and more forcefully expressed.[49]

Large scale stealing of crude oil, in which powerful politicians and senior military officials were known to be implicated, further aggravated the sense of injury felt by the people in the Niger Delta. The dominant feeling was that while they dealt with the pains of poverty, actors from outside the region engaged in rapacious conspicuous consumption from resources of the Niger Delta.

The introduction of violence as an instrument of securing legitimate political power has complicated the scenario even more. Thugs and gangs of political enforcers have proliferated in the region.[50]  This phenomenon, which has been dubbed the “criminalization of the political process,” is currently on ‘exhibition’ at the Rivers State Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It has led to proliferation of arms in the region and the emergence of warlords supported, at least initially, by the actions of politicians and government officials. Many of these actors, with no strong political convictions, add to the criminal elements compounding the activities of the political militants. (Utomi 2008)

It is no small wonder that passions run pretty high on the highly emotive issue of the crisis in Niger Delta. Very often racially loaded comments are made by people in responsible positions and those comments have far reaching implications on the political careers of these highly placed individuals. A recent case involved Van Jones, Environmental Adviser to United States President Barack Obama. He had commented that oil companies are killing “blacks” in Nigeria. His remark about Nigeria was in reference to environmental degradation in the Niger Delta caused by multinational oil companies. [51]

The Washington Times reported that Jones had also in the past made comments claiming an ecological apartheid in which white polluters; white environmentalists were steering poison to minority communities. Such a racially loaded statement is bound to raise a lot of political storm especially when United States has an African-American as President in the White House. (Ohia 2009)

Jones had to resign his post in the face of rising tide of criticism and many observers feel that he was forced to relinquish his post by the President himself as he did not want to provide additional ammunition to all those that were opposing tooth and nail his policies of Health Care reforms. The present project does not deal with the intricacies of Washington politics but the incident involving Van Jones indeed brought in sharp focus the deep lines that divide the stakeholders in this problem.

Legal resistance against environmental pollution

Apart from militant outbursts, legal resistance has also been another channel through which Nigerians have expressed their anguish over the systematic environmental destruction of their territories that multinational oil companies have been indulging in for decades.[52] A Nigerian High Court had upheld on 19th May 2006 an order asking Royal Dutch Shell to pay $1.5 billion in damages for pollution in the oil-producing Niger Delta region. The oil giant was directed to pay the money to ethnic Ijaw communities in the state of Bayelsa. A group of Ijaws had earlier approached the court of law seeking compensation for what they called the devastation of their area’s environment because of oil drilling. (US Fed News Service 2006)

In a report filed on 30th July 2001, Xinhua News Agency had stated Sola Ebiseni, commissioner of the Ondo State for environment and natural resources, had claimed in state’s capital Akure that Seven out of every ten persons living in the oil rich coastal area of Nigeria’s southern state of Ondo have fled due to the pollution of the environment and the source of livelihood of the remaining people was under severe threat.[53] Faced with an acute environmental crisis Nigerian government ordered the oil companies operating in Nigeria and to take full responsibility of clearing the mess they caused during the operations. The Nigerian Government also called for an elaborate conference of stakeholders on the Nigerian environment from September 18 to 20, 2001 in the capital Abuja. According to a statement issued by National Coordinator of the summit Bolu Jonh Folayan, the summit, a private/government sector coalition to make the Nigerian environment safer, was supported by the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Power and Steel, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other major stakeholders. However, in spite of such high power presence, the summit ended in a bout of finger pointing and passing of pious resolutions without any clear cut fixation of responsibility. (Xinhua News Desk 2001)

Former chairman of the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, on a temporary exile in the United States, has urged the United States government to expand its crime law to enable it nail high level Nigerian recipients of bribe, who usually enjoy a safe haven within the country. During a testimony before the House Financial Services Committee of the US Congress in Washington DC, he argued that while the responsibility to solve this problem ultimately lies with Nigeria, the US could help to narrow the operating space for what he described as “high-stakes elite bribery”, with an expanded law that would rein them in, irrespective of their country of origin.[54] In an effort to put the issue in sharper perspective, Ribadu reminded the Congress that the culprits of the infamous Halliburton/KBR corruption scandal had faced severe consequences including the payment of killer fines up to the tune of $600 million. However, their Nigerian counterparts are still walking free because of poor law enforcement and the fact that the US lacks jurisdiction to rein in those individuals. Same is the case with the Siemens scandal that is yet to produce any conviction or sanction from the Nigerian side. But if and when the perpetrators of this sort of crimes are nabbed across borders, he argued that the lack of hiding place will stop them in their tracks. Ribadu further claimed that Nigeria has lost some $440 billion between 1960 and 1999 to corruption; a figure, he said, is six times higher than the Marshall Plan amount needed to rebuild devastated Europe after World War II. Putting forward some telling statistics,[55] Ribadu claimed that former Governor of Plateau State Joshua Dariye was found to have 25 bank accounts in London alone, acquiring some 10 million pounds in benefits through criminal conduct. Also former Governor of Bayelsa State D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha had banks traced to Cyrpus, Denmark, US and Bahamas. He had property valued about 10 million pounds in London and another valued at 10 million rand in Cape Town, South Africa. (Ikokwu 2009)

How unsafe it is to reside in Niger Delta

Shell, which produces more than half of Nigeria’s oil, and hence one of the prime polluters of environment in the Niger Delta region, has countered condemnation of pollution by pointing out that the Delta has many other environmental problems as overpopulation and land degradation. (Alagoa, The Development of Institutions in the States of the Eastern Niger Delta 1996)

But a report by World Bank environment specialist David Moffat and Professor Olof Linden of Stockholm University, published in Ambio, the magazine of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, claims that even official statistics suggest that every year the delta is polluted by 2.3 billion cubic metres of oil from some 300 separate spills, almost one a day, but that the true figure may be 10 times higher. The report also exploded the oft repeated claim by oil companies – much trumpeted by Shell in the row that had followed the killing of writer and environmentalist Saro-Wiwa and eight fellow Ogoni activists in November 1995 – that they have improved the lives of the people by investing in local communities.[56]

The report concluded that the impact of these initiatives had been “minimal”. The report confirms that that gas flaring from oil production in the area emitted some 35 million tons of carbon dioxide and 12 million tons of methane a year, making it the world’s largest single contributor to global warming. This report goes on to describe how by building canals and roads, largely to service the industry, the oil industry has precipitated some of the most extensive environmental degradation in the region.

The report describes in vivid detail how the oil companies and government construct roads that block streams, creating stagnant ponds of water, killing forests and flooding fields and fertile plains. These roads also give loggers better access to the area’s fast-diminishing forests. This report also goes on to admit that though oil provides more than 80 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange, nearly three-quarters of the people of the Delta live in rural communities characterised by a lack of development, stagnant agricultural productivity, negligible opportunities in urban areas, rapid population growth and tenuous property rights.[57]

And, one must make a special mention of the fact that this is one of the first few reports that stated that while income in the area is below the national average, health is “substantially worse” than in the rest of south-east Nigeria. Tests have found 85 per cent of drinking water samples polluted by sewage, and water-related diseases account for four-fifths of all the illness. It might be of some solace to those who feel disturbed by the environmental pollution unleashed by Shell and other multinational oil corporations upon the hapless inhabitants of Niger Delta that The Royal Geographical Society had voted way back in 1996 to dump Shell as one of its sponsors because of its activities in Nigeria. At its annual conference on 5th January 1996, members of the 160-year-old society voted by 157 to 10 to remove Shell as one of its four corporate patrons because of disquiet over the company’s environmental and political record. (Lean 1996)

According to a report by Xinhua News Agency, researchers at Lagos University had conducted several studies and had come to the stunning conclusion that more than 25 percent of Nigerians are at an increased risk of developing cancer due to exposure to toxic chemicals from crude oil pollution, Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). [58] They are also at the risk that PAHs can be genotoxic, that is, the damage caused can be inherited. Previous studies have already indicated that PAHs caused a decrease in sperm count and fertility in crude oil polluted environment of the Niger Delta. PAHs are known to be acutely lethal in low concentrations and chronically lethal in sub-lethal concentration. Toxic effects observed due to PAHs include decreased body weight, enlarged liver with cell oedema and congestion of liver parenchyma and inflammation of kidney cells. Several related studies have also confirmed that exposure to Benzo(a) Pyrene (BaP) increases the risk of cancer. BaP is a five-ring PAH, belonging to the alternant class of PAHs. It is known to be a ubiquitous environmental carcinogen.

Chimezie Anyakora, Ugochukwu Obiakor, Funke Babalogbon and Herbert Coker of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Lagos had carried out an extensive investigation on auto mechanics and found that 25 percent of exposed subjects (auto mechanics) were found to contain one PAH or the other while one out of eleven unexposed subjects (students) had PAH in their blood sample. A second study published in American Journal of Environmental Sciences by Chimezie Anyakora, and Herbert Coker of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Lagos, concluded that people of the Niger Delta are at a higher risk of cancer because high concentrations of this toxic chemical were found in the fishes they eat.[59]

Oil spills have become a regular feature in the deltaic region with the then Texaco Overseas Nigeria Unlimited Funiwa blow-out and Mobil Nigeria crude oil spill in the late 1990.  Since then, most oil spills which run into millions of barrels are concentrated around oil floating stations, oil wells and crude oil pipelines which crisscross the entire offshore region of the Niger Delta region.[60]

Mid 2007 sabotage of Warri-Kaduan crude oil pipeline that is the main channel (having a capacity of 110,000 barrels per day) for transporting crude from the Niger Delta region to Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited caused massive oil spill and pollution in Chanomi Creeks in Delta State. (Xinhua News Desk 2007)

Oil and Health

There is absolutely no doubt that oil has spelt doom in the lives of the original inhabitants of the delta region. These victims of environmental degradation are denied the basic right to health as envisaged in “The Right to Health”, Fact Sheet No. 31 published by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva.

Key aspects of the right to health

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights had mentioned health as part of the right to an adequate standard of living (art. 25). The right to health was again recognized as a human right in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[61] In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the right to the highest attainable standard of health by WHO and by the Commission on Human Rights (now replaced by the Human Rights Council), which in 2002 created the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. These initiatives have helped clarify the nature of the right to health and how it can be achieved. (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 2008)

The right to health is an inclusive right and goes beyond access to health care and the building of hospitals. It includes a wide range of factors that can help us lead a healthy life. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the body responsible for monitoring the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, calls these the “underlying determinants of health”.[62] They include:

  • Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation;
  • Safe food;
  • Adequate nutrition and housing;
  • Healthy working and environmental conditions;
  • Health-related education and information;
  • Gender equality.

(The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966)

Misconceptions about right to health

One should also steer clear about certain common misconceptions about the right to health while discussing this vital component of human rights. The right to health surely does not mean the same as the right to be healthy. Rather, the right to health refers to the right to the enjoyment of a variety of goods, facilities, services and conditions necessary for its realization. So, a state is morally and ethically respoinsible to provide its citizens all the facilties and provisions that are necessary for them to enjoy unfetterd right to health.

The fact that the programme to ensure right to health has certain tangible deadlines to be met does, however, never means that State is under an immediate obligation to ensure that such deadlines are met.[63] The State must make every possible effort, within available resources, to realise the right to health and to take steps in that direction without any delay. Here, of course, comes another stipulation that prevents all those States that are not that much enthusiastic about implementing this right from escaping the responsibility. A country’s difficult financial situation does not absolve it from having to take action to realize the right to health.

Link between right to health and other human rights

Member States of United Nations feel human rights are interdependent, indivisible and interrelated. This means that violating the right to health may often impair the enjoyment of other human rights, such as the rights to education or work, and vice versa. (World Conference on Human Rights 1993) On the other hand, right to health is also dependent upon many other human rights as rights to food, to water, to an adequate standard of living, to adequate housing, to freedom from discrimination, to privacy, to access to information, to participation, and the right to benefit from scientific progress and its applications. It is common knowledge that ill health is associated with the ingestion of or contact with unsafe water which in turn is linked to lack of adequate hygiene, lack of sanitation and poor management of water resources and systems. Just in case a small bit of statistics helps the case, it may be recounted that most diarrhoeal disease in the world is attributable to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. In 2002, diarrhoea attributable to these three factors caused approximately 2.7 per cent of deaths (1.5 million) worldwide. (Environmental Burden of Disease Series, No. 15 2007)

Right to health as enshrined in International Human Rights Law and Constitutions of several countries

There are several international human rights treaties that recognise the right to health.[64] They are:

  • The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: art. 5 (e) (iv);
  • The 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: art. 12;
  • The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: arts. 11 (1) (f), 12 and 14 (2) (b);
  • The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child: art. 24;
  • The 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families: arts. 28, 43 (e) and 45 (c);
  • The 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: art. 25.

The right to health is also recognized in several regional instruments, such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981), the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, known as the Protocol of San Salvador (1988), and the European Social Charter (1961, revised in 1996). The American Convention on Human Rights (1969) and the European Convention for the Promotion of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950) contain provisions related to health, such as the right to life, the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and the right to family and private life.[65]

The right to health is also enshrined in constitutions of some countries[66]:

Constitution of South Africa (1996):

Chapter II, Section 27: Health care, food, water and social security:

“(1) Everyone has the right to have access to health-care services, including reproductive health care; sufficient food and water; […]

(2) The State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realization of each of these rights.

(3) No one may be refused emergency medical treatment.”

Constitution of India (1950):

Part IV, art. 47, articulates a duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health: “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties…”

Constitution of Ecuador (1998):

Chapter IV: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, art. 42:

“The State guarantees the right to health, its promotion and protection, through the development of food security, the provision of drinking water and basic sanitation, the promotion of a healthy family, work and community environment, and the possibility of permanent and uninterrupted access to health services, in conformity with the principles of equity, universality, solidarity, quality and efficiency.”

Right to health: how far it is honoured in Niger Delta

In spite of so many legal provisions it is unfortunate that hardly anything is being honoured in Niger Delta.[67] We have already discussed how oil spillage has not only polluted water in creeks and made them unfit for human consumption but also killed or infected the fish in those creeks. The pollution from spillages have also rendered fertile agricultural lands completely barren and forced large scale exodus from this region. The air pollution through flaring has also increased chances of contacting cancer and this region has become a virtual death trap for all those who are forced to reside in this condemned zone. (Charlick 2001)

In a news report in TendersInfo Edwin Clarke, an undisputed Ijaw leader claimed that there would no lasting peace in the Niger Delta region unless oil companies pay to the indigenous communities a sum of $100 million as compensation for almost 14,000 cases of environmental degradation that these companies are guilty of.[68] He further accused the Nigerian Government of not being serious about ending gas flaring as is evident from the fact that while all other governments have cut off date for gas flaring to come to an end, Nigerian Government has no such strictly enforceable cut off date and the earliest date by which one hopes it would finally end in Nigeria would be 2020. (manish03 2008)

Is there a way forward?

Though it is practically impossible to untangle the mess in Niger Delta unless environmental pollution perpetrated by oil companies is brought to a near complete halt, the government should make every effort to encourage private investment in agriculture and agro-industries by providing incentives, including tax breaks, finance credit and extension services. Also, inclusion of women would help in the process of negotiating and inculcating a positive peace agenda as that would introduce gender sensitivity.

Apart from the oil industry, there are numerous practices that impact on the Nigerian environment. Apart from the oil companies’ activities having a great impact on the environment, the following also impact the environment:

Bush burning, extermination of wildlife by hunters, rain, drought and desertification, deforestation, flooding and erosion, industrial pollution and contamination of water bodies, vehicular emission and noise pollution, toxic wastes and dumping of hazardous chemicals, emissions from mechanic workshops, sewage and municipal solid wastes disposal problems, winds and other natural disasters.[69]

A desirable outcome for the Nigerian people and the current government is a strong diversified economy able to generate employment and sustain livelihood for its citizens. The focus should be on increasing the productivity of agriculture, diversifying export earnings, increasing the utilization of industrial capacity, and providing gainful employment for its population. (Horton 2001)

According to Dr. Pat Utomi an administrative solution would be the construction of a major East-West highway through the region that will not only open economic opportunity to the community but will also improve access to prospecting areas for oil companies who have shown an interest in co-funding such a project in the past but have seen the federal government renege on its part of the proposal.[70] It is part of what will provide the thawing of the frost to allow meaningful dialogue to begin. This along with adequate funding and educated civil society monitoring of Niger Delta Development Commission, and an agreement in Abuja to return to the founding principles of the Nigerian federation will ensure that energy security and peace and development in the region is achieved. Local economic advancement and energy security are twins that should travel together for sustainable success. (Utomi 2008)




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Onuoba, G. “Pollution and the Brackish Environment.” In The Mangrove Ecosystem of the Niger Delta, by B. Wilcox and C. Powell (eds.). Port Harcourt, Nigeria: University of Port Harcourt, 1985.

Oyadongha, Samuel. “Gov Jonathan Blames N-Delta Crisis on Poverty.” Vanguard, 2006.

Peterside, Sofiri. “Transnational Oil/Gas Corporations and Niger Delta: Sustainable Development.” Newsletter of the Centre for Advanced Social Science (CASS) Vol. 12, Nos. 3 & 4. Centre for Advanced Social Sciences, Ocotber 2004.

Prins [ed.], Gwyn. Threats Without Enemies: Facing Environmental Insecurity. London: Earthscan Publications, 2001.

Sachs, Jeffrey. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.

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The Guardian. “Nigerian Militants Step Up Sabotage of Oil Installations.” The Guardian, February 21, 2006.

The Niger Delta Civil Society Forum. Oils of Injustice. Universal Periodic Review, Nigeria: The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People(MOSOP), 2008.

Trend, D. Radical Democracy: Identity, Citizenship and the State. New York: Routledge, 1996.

US Fed News Service. VOA News: Shell Ordered To Pay $1.5 Billion For Nigerian Pollution. News Report, US Fed News Service, Including US State News, 2006.

Utomi, Pat. “The Niger Delta Crisis: Beyond the Price of Crude Oil.” August 16, 2008. (accessed September 15, 2009).

Waribor, T. Spatial Implications of the Oil Terminal in Bonny. Unpublished B. A. thesis, Nigeria: University of Nsukka, 1976.

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Wilcox, B. H. R., and C. B. Powell. The Mangrove Ecosystem of the Niger Delta. Nigeria: University of Port Harcourt, 1985.

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Xinhua News Desk. Crude oil pollution raises cancer risk among Nigerians: Studies. News Report, Xinhua News Agency, 2007.

Xinhua News Desk. Oil Pollution Threatens Coastal Areas of southern Nigeria. News Report, Xinhua news Agency, 2001.





  1. Rapporteur – somebody who is appointed to investigate a subject and deliver a report on it
  2. Hausa/Fulani – a term used to refer collectively to the Hausa and Fulani people of West Africa. The two are grouped together because their histories have been largely intertwined since the Fulani War. For example, when the Fulani took over Hausa city-state of Kano during the Fulani War, the new emirs ended up speaking the Hausa language instead of Fulfulde.
  3. Yoruba – They are one of the largest ethno-linguistic or ethnic groups in West Africa having around 120 million individuals. Most of these people speak Yoruba language and constitute approximately 21% of the total population of Nigeria.
  4. Igbo – They are also referred as Ibo(e), Ebo(e), Eboans or Heebo and are an ethnic group living chiefly in south-eastern and south Nigeria. They speak Igbo but quite a substantial number of members of this ethnic group can speak fluent English too. They are among the largest and most influential ethnic groups in Nigeria.
  5. Sharia – It is the body of Islamic religious law. The term means “way” or “path to the water source”. It is the legal framework within which the public and private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islamic principles of jurisprudence and for Muslims living outside the domain.
  6. Ijaw – They are a collection of people (also known by the subgroups “Ijo” or “Izon”) who reside mostly in the forest regions of the Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States within the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Some are also natives of Akwa-Ibom, Edo and Ondo states of Nigeria. Many are found as migrant fishermen in camps as far west as Sierra Leone and as far east as Gabon along the Western Africa coastline. They are believed to be some of the earliest inhabitants of southern Nigeria.
  7. Ogoni – They are one of the many indigenous peoples in the Niger Delta region of southeast Nigeria. They number about a half million people and live in a 404-square-mile homeland which they also refer to as Ogoni, or Ogoniland. The world came to know of these people after a massive public protest campaign against Shell Oil, led by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).
  8. Itsekiri – They are also known as Jekri, Isekiri or Ishekiri) and are an ethnic group of Nigeria’s Niger Delta area, Delta State. They number roughly 450,000 people. Though small in numbers they are considered to be a highly educated ethnic group and endowed with a rich cultural heritage.
  9. Ken Saro-Wiwa – He was a was a Nigerian author, television producer, environmental activist, and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize. Saro-Wiwa was a member of the Ogoni people. He was initially a spokesperson and then President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). He led a non-violent campaign against Shell and was also an outspoken critic of the Nigerian Government. At the peak of his non-violent campaign, Saro-Wiwa was arrested, hastily tried by a special military tribunal, and hanged in 1995 by the Nigerian military government of General Sani Abacha, all on charges widely viewed as entirely politically motivated and completely unfounded. His execution provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations.

[1] The multinational companies do have a responsibility towards the inhabitants of Niger Delta and cannot engage in mindless destruction of environment simply to pump up their bottom-line.

[2] The situation has become an intractable mesh of conflicting economic interests mostly of those that do not inhabit the delta and thus the only sensible option of clearing this mess is to adopt a human rights approach that would attempt to uplift the lot of the local inhabitants without attempting to do the impossible, i.e. balancing the conflicting economic claims of concerned stakeholders.

[3] Violence begets violence and world history has ample examples of the futility of trying to suppress legitimate demands of ethnic people through governmental or administrative terror or violence. Such attempts only steel the resolve of the local people and incite them to adopt means they would have abhorred under normal circumstances.

[4] It is these ethnic groups that formed the three basic power centres in modern Nigeria that resulted in a consequent perpetual tug of war between them for national supremacy.

[5] An over-dependence on oil began in right earnest from this point of time.

[6] Economic disparity, a lack of proper education, and a religious divide fanned by rabid fanaticism, combined together to form a deadly potion for instigating fratricidal violence.

[7] It is the body of Islamic religious law dealing with many aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene, and social issues.

[8] This religious dichotomy has also contributed to the sharp north-south divide that has been the bane of the country ever since the modern state of Nigeria came into existence.

[9] These figures only show how skewed Nigerian economy has become. A near complete dependence on oil has made this country completely subservient to the whims and fancies of oil multinationals irrespective of the growls and whimpers occasionally heard from their leaders.

[10] Poverty becomes really ironical when viewed in the Nigerian context. Here is a country that has natural resources that would put similar countries to shame, but it has simply squandered those resources by allowing oil multinationals to conduct “on rent” production and has remained satisfied with the meagre amount of royalty that these oil giants throw at it.

[11] It is highly improbable though that the present leadership in Nigeria would actually walk down the difficult path of industrialisation as both China and India did.

[12] Acute financial distress coupled with loss of traditional means of livelihood has forced many local inhabitants of the Delta region to stoop to stealing in order to survive.

[13] At times, the human aspect of the tragedy gets lost in the barrage of figures.

[14] Though it took a pretty long time for the oil companies to strike oil, once they could do so, it was a pretty smooth and increasingly rewarding journey for the multinational oil giants.

[15] Nigeria was gradually making its presence felt among petroleum producers of the world.

[16] Oil exploration has long been one of the worst enemies of environment and extraction of this non-renewable source of energy has created an unimaginable mess in Niger Delta.

[17] Every single variety of pollution mentioned here has the potential of damaging beyond recovery the fragile eco-system that is generally prevalent in deltaic regions of the world.

[18] The author feels that the best way to focus on and highlight a problem is to concentrate on a case study. This gives more genuineness and immediacy to the problem and readers can also associate themselves with the problem at hand more easily. Oloma is simply a representative of the malaise that has spread wide and deep in oil rich Niger Delta and has heaped untold misery on hapless inhabitants.

[19] This obviously makes it one of the most difficult places to stay.

[20] Bonny proved beyond all doubts the age old wisdom that cities grew not because of their citizens but because of their geographical location.

[21] It was indeed a sad day that Bonny had to see after experiencing so much importance during its heyday. But this decline was only temporary as it revived its glory, thanks once again to its unique geographical location when oil was struck in Niger Delta.

[22] Commercially viable export of crude oil required smooth access by massive oil tankers. Port Harcourt was too far inland to make this feasible. Technically perhaps it was not impossible but the enormous expenditure that the oil companies would have had to incur by dredging round the clock to maintain sufficient draft made it a completely uneconomic proposition.

[23] Bonny extracted every bit of advantage that it possibly could from its unique location and in spite of temporary setbacks it regained its position of preeminence as soon as oil was struck in Niger Delta.

[24] It would surely be unfair if no mention is made of the benefits that have accrued to Bonny town as the oil companies increased their presence.

[25] It has indeed become really dangerous for indigenous inhabitants of Bonny to continue surviving purely through their traditional occupation of fishing.

[26] The fishermen have no option but to accept their bad luck and remain mute spectators to such destruction of their hard earned property.

[27] The impact of oil is not restricted to environmental pollution only; it causes disruptions in family and social lives too.

[28] This path breaking study has nailed the excuse very often spouted by multinational oil companies that irrespective of how dirty it might look to a casual observer, oil spillages do not actually harm aquatic life to that extent the anti-oil lobbies want the world to believe and accept.

[29] The most virulent problem in Niger Delta is possibly the mutual distrust that persists between multinational oil giants and local inhabitants of this region. While the oil majors consider the local inhabitants as a perpetually whimpering and complaining nuisance that occasionally turn violent and disrupt smooth extraction of crude, the locals consider these multinational giants as usurpers who had bribed the powers that are in control in Lagos to plunder the natural wealth of this region. This plunder becomes all the more pathetic as the local populace faces all the negative effects of oil extraction without getting a chance to enjoy the benefits.

[30] Though it was apparent to all those who bothered to be worried about the pitiable condition in Niger Delta, perhaps a report by internationally acclaimed experts was needed to put the final seal of condemnation of Nigerian authorities.

[31] These environmentalists have enough reason to be indignant and sceptical about any attempts made by Nigerian government towards cleaning up the environmental mess in Niger Delta.

[32] As it is the region is extremely inhospitable and if the available communication routes are snatched away, it becomes even more difficult for the local inhabitants to survive.

[33] Corruption at various levels of administration has become one of the worst malaises to have hit these impoverished people.

[34] This happens to be “unseen” impact of oil exploration in Niger Delta. The age old social structures are gradually breaking down and slipping away from sight. These original inhabitants of the Delta region are being silently coerced to leave their habitat of numerous generations not by any foreign occupation army but (and that is most painful) by their own government. The devious government is suitably assisted by a thoroughly corrupt police force that is more eager to fill its pockets through undue gratification rather than apprehend true criminals who cause untold hardships to thousands of helpless and powerless tribes who are numerically in a minority in their own country.  

[35] Such an inherently flawed sharing system automatically creates misgivings and a sense of being wrongly cheated and hoodwinked in the minds of large number of people. This vast army of disgruntled people would initially suffer all such devious machinations and forgeries in silence. But, once their limits of tolerance are crossed, a violent backlash becomes the only plausible outcome.

[36] Such a statement on equality and non-discrimination does not carry any worthwhile meaning.

[37] Oil multinationals have spawned a culture of subterfuge, corruption and violence in Niger Delta that have destroyed the simplicity that was the hallmark of these uncomplicated fishing tribes that inhabited the numerous villages dotting the shoreline.

[38] Violence seems to be the only alternative to the hot headed local youth who feel discrimination can only be ended with the help of a gun.

[39] The Nigerian Government must take some positive steps towards solving the crisis instead of spending money in killing its own people.

[40] This happens to be one of the greatest problems faced by any independent researcher. There are so many interested parties and they are so vociferous about what they feel should be the right course of action that very often truth takes a backseat amidst the prevailing high decibel diatribe.

[41] Numerous Master Plans and Schemes had been devised for the last half a century but all these plans (before this commission was instituted, that is) failed to pay adequate attention to the human factor of the crisis in Niger Delta.

[42] This happened to be perhaps the first governmental acknowledgement of the seriousness of the human factor and a concerned attempt towards viewing the entire issue through a humanitarian prism.

[43] Though there are quite a few observers that are of the opinion that media has actually sensationalised the issue instead of directing world opinion towards practical options of solving the Delta imbroglio, it cannot be denied that concerted exposure of the issue has not allowed it to fade from Western consciousness.

[44] This has been the cry of inhabitants of the Delta region for the last half a century.

[45] It has become a free for all situation in the Niger Delta.

[46] This has been one of the gravest mistakes of all the rulers that have ruled this country irrespective of whether they got power through democratic means or through military coups.

[47] This makes crude oil extraction one of the most vilified industries in the world.

[48] Many a drawing room in plush homes of Europe and United States reverberated with “sympathies” for Delta people and numerous remedies were put forward, often in an inebriated state.

[49] That surely does not mean military dictatorship is a better option than democracy.

[50] Musclemen and corrupt politicians have one thing in common – both want to fish in troubled waters.

[51] Such a provocative statement spewing that much vitriol was surely not expected from a man occupying such an important position no matter how strongly he might have felt about the issue.

[52] All Nigerians are not militants; quite a large number among them would genuinely love to follow the rule of law.

[53] This was not something that the world did not know; it was only that the high and the mighty had started taking note of the abominable environmental conditions in coastal Nigeria.

[54] If this can actually be implemented, the criminals will not have a single place to hide anywhere on the earth. They would then, quite obviously, think several times before getting involved in criminal activities.

[55] These statistics are genuinely telling. Anyone would be scandalised on coming to know of corruption of such an abominable scale.

[56] The multinational oil companies had been playing this nasty game ever since they started exploring for oil in the Niger Delta region. Armed with enormous financial muscle, they have hired best lobbyists and spin wizards and also have won over quite a few media houses. All these three different types of publicists have worked overtime to convince the rest of the world that these multinational oil companies have in fact already done and are in the continuing process of uplifting the standards of living of all those who inhabit the Niger Delta. These publicists never let go a single opportunity to rub in the additional information that had there been no oil companies, these hapless inhabitants of the Delta region would have been forced to lead lives utter poverty and degradation. Thankfully however, due to the efforts of a handful of environmentalists and human rights activists, the nefarious designs of these multinationals have repeatedly been brought to light. 

[57] Such reports truly nail the lie that is being peddled by the oil companies and their cohorts. In fact such reports have been instrumental in making the world aware of the rape of environment that is being systematically done in the Niger Delta for decades on end.

[58] It is rather difficult to imagine that one fourth population of a country are exposed to such a fatal disease as cancer simply because of one reason – oil exploration. This also brings in genuinely sharp focus the abysmal realisation that the human cost of exploring oil is really too massive to allow such mindless destruction of Delta environment irrespective of how vital it is for the Nigerian economy to survive.

[59] The water these Delta inhabitants drink and the food they consume have all been polluted to such an extent that they actually harm themselves as they consume items that are supposed to provide them nourishment. But these people hardly have an alternative other than consuming whatever is available in that region.

[60] No matter what these oil companies would like us to believe, they simply cannot deny that oil spill is a normal working hazard in any area where oil exploration is conducted. This becomes even more acute if such a spill takes place in water since the possibilities of the hazardous spilt material spreading far and wide increase as oil gets carried long distances with river tides and sea currents. The situation in Niger Delta has become so acute partly because large tracts of this area consist of marshy land and mangrove clusters.

[61] The inclusion of right to health in basic human rights is truly a momentous step as it firmly confirms that every human being has a right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health without distinction of race, religion, political belief and economic or social condition. Health has been described as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

[62] It entered into force in 1976 and by 1 December 2007 had been ratified by 157 States.


[63] This must not be either misinterpreted or misread to mean a state can escape its responsibility by citing the excuse of lack of adequate funds.

[64] It must however be clearly understood that these treaties and covenants will be valid in any country’s court of law only if these covenants are incorporated in the legal framework of these countries.

[65] These regional instruments, once again, will be valid in all the stakeholder countries only if these provisions are incorporated in their legal jurisprudence. Else, they will be mere pious utterances without any legal teeth. It has been observed that many stake holding nations do not hesitate in putting their stamp of approval in similar multinational declarations, but hardly ever incorporate them in their legal framework, thus rendering them completely ineffective.

[66] These countries have indeed taken the right to health seriously and genuinely intend to implement it in their respective countries. This is evident from the fact that they have incorporated these rights, not in the legal jurisprudence, but directly in their constitutions. It is quite obvious that anything which is enshrined in the constitution of a country has much more legal teeth than something that is enacted as a law by passing a resolution in the House of Representatives. This is so because, it is much easier to amend a law passed by the House of Representatives, but it is very difficult to amend a constitution.  

[67] Niger Delta is a place where right to health is given the shabbiest possible treatment. The worst part of the whole issue is; right to health is violated with absolute impunity and total disregard for the human beings who suffer because of such a gross transgression of one of the basic rights of every human being.

[68] Honestly speaking, this also appears to be one of those political leaders who are busy fishing in troubled waters of Niger Delta taking advantage of the enormous faith and support they enjoy from their followers.

[69] While discussing pollution in Nigeria one should not lose sight of some of the other contributors that cause substantial pollution in the country. Though there is no denying the fact that oil is by far the single most ubiquitous pollutant, it allows an independent observer to be more impartial if additional information about several other sources of pollution is available.

[70] Construction of highway through the Niger Delta region might actually become a two-way sword as oil companies will then be able to venture right up to the deep interiors of the region quite easily. This might very well result in an even more unbridled and rampant pollution of the entire zone.

Nation Branding – A brand new concept in marketing

Filed under: International Economics,Marketing — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:15 pm


Branding of a product is an age-old practice adopted by marketers to attract new customers while retaining the existing ones. A properly positioned brand often acquires an independent entity of its own and commands a devoted fan-following from a large group of committed customers who would not so much as look into a competing brand while making their purchases.

A brand could be a symbol, a logo or even a combination of both, often laid out in specific colours, that immediately associates with a particular product or service and causes a recall of previous experience the consumer has had with that particular product or service. More often than not, brand managers try to ensure that experiences the consumers would be having with the brand are overwhelmingly favourable so that the customer does not hesitate in making a repeat purchase.

But more and more marketing management experts are coming round to the view that a brand does not recall only the physical experiences related to a product or service but consumers tend to recall a total gamut of impressions that may be as wide and varied as business ethics, transparency in corporate governance or corporate responsibility of the producer. Thus, a brand tends to bring back a bouquet of impressions a customer might be having about the producer instead of the physical experiences of that particular product. Many producers take advantage of this overwhelmingly psychological aspect of brand recall to hard sell their merchandise.

A Starbucks logo, for example, does not only bring back the aroma of a perfectly prepared cup of coffee served in spotlessly clean environment, but also the additional information that Starbucks happens to be most favoured destination of an overwhelming number of fresh graduates and is one among the top five best employers. (Scmidt and Ludlow) This enormous strength of a brand has prompted many marketers to extend this concept from a product or service to an entire country or nation and position it as the most favoured destination of the targeted segment. The targeted segment could be anywhere between and including both tourists and investors.

The point of discussion in this project would be how a nation can be positioned as a brand, what are the prerequisites for such a positioning and, most importantly, how does it compare with conventional branding of a product or service that every marketer does day and day out. 

Branding of a Nation

Just as a product brand essentially highlights the best facets of a product and the positive attributes of the manufacturer, nation brand also tries to highlight the reputation of a nation in such a way that the very mention of the name of the country will conjure a positive sentiment in the minds of the targeted segment. It has been realised by the powers that may be that branding of a nation is almost as important as branding the exports of a country and a positive image of a country automatically tends to rub off on its products and services and lend them an additional sense of value which can command a premium in the market. Customers abroad might be willing to pay higher prices for products manufactured in a country that they hold in high esteem. If the properly positioned branding is accompanied by a carefully orchestrated advertising campaign, customers can be motivated to happily pay a price that defies the tenets of both – logic and gravity. (Olins) This ability of a brand to command a premium is often referred to as brand value. Every marketer tries to impart as much brand value as is possible in all the products it places in the market. A marketer who is trying to brand a nation or a country also tries to create as much as goodwill as is possible for the country so much so that customers all over the world do not hesitate to purchase an output of that country.

Not so long ago, automobiles manufactured in Germany could easily command a premium on account of the favourable impression the rest of the world had about German engineering and product reliability. Almost in a similar vein we might also recall the negative impression that Chinese products (especially toys and milk powder) have acquired in recent times.

Just as any German product other than automobile got an additional boost because of the favourable impression customers all over the world have about that country’s manufacturing ability, a Chinese product, even though faultless as far as it is concerned, will have to bear the brunt of the negative image the country has about product quality, durability and customer safety. (O’Guinn, Allen and Semenik)

Customers essentially buy something that not only has functional appeal but has a psychological appeal also. So, it has become almost imperative for every country to initiate the process of nation brand building to boost its exports, increase foreign direct investments and also its tourism industry. The only option available to countries to boost their foreign trade and attract more foreign direct investments is by projecting the country in a better light and this also has a distinctly positive spill over effect in areas of diplomatic and cultural interactions with the rest of the world. The most visible US diplomats are McDonald’s and Microsoft while Finland’s most high profile ambassador is surely Nokia. (Ham)

The opponents of this novel concept, however, tend to play down the importance of nation brand building by referring to globalisation and superfast interconnectivity fostered by internet as being the strongest forces of standardisation that is weeping across the world. Multinational companies have distributed the manufacturing centres all across the globe and now the specialities or exclusivities of countries and regions are gradually getting blurred. A Parker pen, irrespective of whether it is manufactured in UK, USA, Australia or India carries the same Parker logo and commands the same price and is produced under the same standardised production environment irrespective of the geographical location.

While this argument surely has substantial merit, it has to be admitted that the forces of globalisation have also given a boost to local flavour and regional diversities. Many manufacturers and nations have realised the hard way that the only technique to stay afloat in this era of cultural homogeneity, is to highlight the local peculiarity and speciality. It is the only way to make a mark in an otherwise highly standardised market. (True)

Thus, there should not be any two opinions about the need for nation branding. But nation branding is decidedly different from branding a product or service in the sense that every nation’s brand is defined by its people, their temperament, education, outlook and also their average economic status, their attitude to work and the general quality of life that nation provides. A nation brand thus is a delicate mix of values held by its population and the creature comforts that country provides.

One can surely appreciate how difficult it is to change the values of an entire nation. Not only does it require education but also enormous levels of patience. Switzerland undertook an elaborate brand building exercise after its name got sullied when it came to light that Swiss banks were holding Nazi gold but abandoned the process midway apparently because it did not see any positive results fructifying from that exercise. Belgium also dumped a nation branding project soon after initiating it ostensibly because no palpable positive outputs were visible immediately. Nation branding is a long process and policy makers can surely not be blamed if they do not show that much patience.

But above all, as in case of product branding, it is the quality of the products that a country is selling that ultimately determines a nation’s brand image. The products need not be tangible ones, it could even be the natural beauty of a region that can be sold to world to convert that place into a tourists’ paradise. Very often nation brand managers cite the successful branding of Slovenia and Croatia after their separation from the erstwhile Yugoslavia. Aggressive and clever advertising somehow pitched these countries in a different zone that did not carry any of the baggage from Belgrade era and presented these countries as the ultimate tourist destinations. A similar example is Tony Blair’s “Cool Britannia” branding that very imperceptibly but irreversibly brought about a quantum shift in the prism through which the British and rest of the world used to view United Kingdom. This campaign intended to portray Britain as a nation that has come a long way from its imperialist era by actively urging citizens to refer their motherland as simply Britain instead of Great Britain or the more repulsive United Kingdom. It might seem almost inconsequential that such an apparently trifle change would actually bring about any perceptible change in the opinion the world had about Britain, but the ground reality is that Britain has indeed been able to portray a far more modern and open image about itself to the rest of the world. (Anholt)

Nation branding, as has been repeatedly emphasised here and elsewhere also, is a very complex and slow process that can succeed only if all the stakeholders in this project provide the fullest cooperation and totally coordinate their efforts. Often times it has been observed that even the best efforts of the stakeholders lead to a chaos simply because of lack of any sort of coordination among the various agencies and departments that get involved in the process. Just as an example let us envisage a real life scenario where the tourism department of a country promotes the place as a beautiful country inhabited by wonderful laidback people leading a slow peaceful life untouched by pollution and industry, and, the investment promotion agency saying the exact opposite and promoting the country as having state of the art infrastructure and a robust work culture. Though you really cannot blame either of the agencies, the ultimate impact of these different messages is utterly confusing to the rest of the world. (Teslik)

Dr Keith Dinnie, one of the foremost proponents of the concept of nation brand, emphasises that all the four sectors of the society – Political Leaders, Government Departments, Private Sector Organisations and Civil Society as a whole need to be involved in the process of nation brand building. He further emphasises the need of a coordinating body and liberal leveraging of opportunities of co-branding, sponsorship etc. All directed towards to portraying the nation as a desirable brand. As an example, he refers to the film Braveheart and the product Glenfiddich malt whisky and the impact it has had on the brand Scotland. Dinnie admits branding a nation is an intensely political activity and managers of nation brand must be ready to tackle increasing diversity within nations that is taking place due to increasing integration among countries of Europe, unprecedented levels of mutual migration across European borders and the resultant heterogeneity among societies of each European nation. (Dinnie)

Nation Brands Index

Though nation brand is essentially a matter of perception, some management experts have tried to quantify this idea and tried to rank various countries in accordance with this concept. In its most elementary form, it is a sort of weighted average of several criteria that tries to put a number to all the countries under consideration and rank them according to their scores. There are of course many academics that do not really support or subscribe to this idea and tend to concentrate only on the foreign trade aspect of a country to have an idea of the nation’s brand image. But a glance at the details of this composite brand index makes one gradually gravitate towards accepting this measure as a genuine and acceptable measure of a nation’s standing in the international assembly of nations.

The most trusted and well known among these indices is the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index that considers the following facets of a country while evaluating its brand value:

  • Exports – Highlights rest of world’s impression about the products and services of a particular country and whether the country has any brand value to the extent that consumers proactively seek products from that country.
  • Investment and Immigration – Measures the rate of flow of capital and trained manpower into the country from the rest of the world. It is a good indicator of how rest of the world perceives a country’s economic and social situation.
  • People – Attempts to quantify the general attitude of the local population, their average level of education and degree of xenophobia.
  • Governance – Measures transparency, lack of bias and competency in government. It also gives a fair indication about levels of propriety and individual freedom prevalent in the society. Obviously, the higher these levels are; the more attractive is this destination.
  • Culture and Heritage – It indicates the respect that the rest of the world has about the history, heritage and rich culture of the country. It is not always true that a high score in this aspect will automatically raise the brand value of this country. Often, as in the case with China, a high level of respect towards Chinese heritage and culture is almost synonymous to complete lack of understanding about local culture and customs.
  • Tourism – A larger number of tourists obviously means this country has a high brand value as far as a tourist destination is concerned. But this need not necessarily translate into higher investment and immigration – the two most important drivers of economic growth. (GfK Custom Research North America)

Score in each of these areas is neatly portrayed in the form of Nation Brand Hexagon of each country which is an easy tool for rating countries on the basis of their nation brand value. One must always remember that nation brands take a long time to develop and a long time to wither away too. Just as Australia enjoys the benefits of a good brand perception and will continue to do it for quite some time, it will take ages for North Korea to cleanse itself of the opprobrium of international denunciation it is subjected to for decades.

Nation Branding Greece

Every country in the world now feels the need to create a positive image and tries to take concrete advantage of that positive perception it is able to portray about itself to the rest of the world.

Greece is very advantageously placed in this race for creating perceptions as it has one of the most remarkable landscapes in the entire world and has a civilisation that is held in awe and wonder by the rest of the world. Greece is inextricably linked with some of greatest brands the world has ever seen as it happens to be birthplace of Olympics, a nursery for Democracy and an incubator for the loftiest philosophy mankind has till now been able to put forward. So, Greece does not suffer the fate of its neighbour Macedonia who has to make an effort for the world to wake up and take notice of it. This positive brand perception was further reinforced as the country managed the super successful Athens Olympics in 2004.

Perhaps as a logical follow through of Olympics, Greece climbed up in the rankings among nations of the world and clinched the 17th place in the Q2 2007 Anholt Nation Brands Index falling just behind Ireland and beating Belgium by a whisker.

The strong area of Greece is tourism and it is no wonder that with its magnificent landscapes and archaeological ruins dripping with heritage, it remains high on the wish list of every tourist in every country. It remains just behind Italy in the world’s list of desirable tourist destinations and the welcoming nature of local Greeks also adds up in good measure to its attractiveness in this sphere.

But in other areas Greece does not portray a bright picture of itself. In spite of successful management of Olympics and winning European Soccer Championships in 2004, Greece is still perceived by rest of the world as a country without any sporting excellence. This is an area where the brand managers must focus as it is purely a case of inadequate communication rather than any real shortcoming.

Greece also scores very poorly in exports (coming 26th in a list of 38 nations) and in Governance (coming 23rd among 38 nations that were considered).

The other notable feature that emerges from a careful study of these rankings is that Greece is viewed in a brighter light by distant countries while neighbours (most notably Turkey) is not prepared to hold such a charitable perception bout the country. Turkey admitted the inherent strength of Greece in areas of tourism but ranked it too far below in other sectors leading to an overall rank of 27th.

Even if we ignore the ranks as fancy figure work, the startling revelation that comes out loud and clear is a nation’s branding depends a lot on how deftly its political bosses handle its diplomatic activities and maintain cordial relations with its neighbours, some of whom may actually be its competitors in foreign trade and commerce. (Greece at the Nation Brands Index)



Anholt, Simon. Competitive Identity: The New Brand Management for Nations, Cities and Regions. Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Dinnie, Keith. Nation branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice. Butterworth Heinemann, 2007.

GfK Custom Research North America. “The Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index.” 2007. GfK Custom Research North America. <;.

“Greece at the Nation Brands Index.” 2 September 2007. 20 March 2009 <;.

Ham, Peter van. “The Rise of the Brand State.” September/October 2001. Foreign Affairs. 18 March 2009 <;.

O’Guinn, T. C., C. T. Allen and R. J. Semenik. Advertising and Integrated Brand Promotion . OH: Thomson South-Western, 2006.

Olins, W. On Brand. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003.

Scmidt, K and C Ludlow. Inclusive Branding: The Why and How of a Holisitc Approach to Brands. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Teslik, Lee Hudson. “Nation Branding Explained.” 9 November 2007. Council on Foreign Relations. 19 March 2009 <;.

True, Jacqui. “Globalisation and Identity.” Miller, Raymond. Globalisation and Identity. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2006. 74.


Filed under: Corporate Management — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:13 pm


Requirements of this project were rather stringent as sufficient knowledge of the topic was not enough. It was also necessary to have abundance of devotion and willpower together with an ability and willingness to perform hard labour for successful completion of this project. It would be unfair on my part not to acknowledge the contribution of all those who had encouraged me all through and kept my spirits from flagging and that include my parents, friends and well wishers. These people, though not directly involved with the project, did most certainly provide the ambience that was sorely needed while undertaking such a strenuous task.

I feel extremely fortunate that I had Mr/Ms Xxxx as my project leader and cannot thank him/her more for the unstinted encouragement I had received throughout this period. If his/her suggestions that resulted in necessary and timely course corrections were not there, I doubt very much whether this project would have at all seen the light of the day, let alone being successfully completed within the deadline.



The word that is most significant in Lean Manufacturing process is ‘lean’ which literally means a body or a system that does not have any unnecessary or avoidable flab or float. Such flab or float exists in manufacturing systems and are manifested through unnecessary or nil value movements or costs that do not add to the final worth of the finished product but increase total cost of production. The requirement of such a stringent approach to production process arose immediately after the Second World War especially in Japan which was facing a critical situation with most of its production facilities destroyed by Allied bombing and social infrastructure in total shambles following its ignominious defeat. The captains of Japanese industry were eager to bring back the country on an even keel and the only way they could do it was to match the Allied victors in industrial output. As there was acute shortage of necessary inputs, the captains of Japanese industry thought of ways and means to make best use of whatever is available. The best way to increase productivity was to reduce wastages of all form – be it material or human resources, and this resulted in the birth of Lean Manufacturing Process. As it was pioneered by Toyota, this form of taut and lean production system was named after the company. 

Toyota Corporation realised pretty early that production process should be designed in such a manner that the level of inventory at each stage, right from the raw material inputs, to in-process stock till the finished output should be maintained at an optimum level to reduce capital locked up in inventory. Such reduction in inventory would drastically bring down working capital requirements of an organisation and would most certainly help in very big way to bolster its financial health. The most common tools used in reducing inventory levels are known as Just in Time (JIT) manufacturing, manufacture smoothing, setup reduction, and similar techniques.

It must be mentioned that the efficacy of TPS is most apparent in Job and Batch manufacturing processes as these processes have production stages that can be independently controlled with clearly identifiable stages and specific engineering requirements. Moreover, TPS can be most effectively implemented in engineering industries and might not be that easy or effective to implement in chemical industries which have a continuous process system.

This project analyses the situation of BAY STREET Company which had introduced these lean principles were implemented in a process-based manufacturing scenario. The chosen tool for implementing this production system was ‘Value Stream Mapping’ that was put to use to identify the unnecessary cushions that exist in the system.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM), as the name implies, is a procedure to identify contribution of each related activity towards the final output till it reaches the ultimate consumer. Hence, it is quite obvious that VSM starts right from arrangement of raw materials to a rigorous analysis of the distribution system in places that ensures that final consumers gets the finished output in right quantities and at the right moment when they need it.

This project attempts to break the prevailing myth that TPS is unsuitable for process based manufacturing. It has been observed that the so-called unsuitability of TPS arises more from the fact that managers are not enthusiastic about proper documentation and are hence averse to implement this programme that guarantees improvement in productivity and efficiency. Moreover, the ground reality is rarely do industries have production systems that are either pure process or pure batch based. Rather, a combination of both these systems is the order of the day. Thus, the primary goal of this project is to establish that it is not as difficult as it is made out to be to implement Lean Manufacturing techniques in such industries.

Two randomly chosen industries, HCS Bakery (a well known Indian manufacturer of bakery machines) and ALDO (a Canadian manufacturer of shoes having factories United Kingdom and several other countries of the world), have been considered to prove our point.  

The project contains a brief study of the tools used by these companies to implement Lean Manufacturing techniques and though there are many tools that are utilised by them, such as, VSM, PEST, SWOT and Gap Analysis and the like, emphasis is placed on GAP Analysis to examine how this technique has introduced perceptible improvements in the working of these two organisations.




Table of Contents

  2. DISCUSSION.. 56
  5. ANNEXURE.. 77



















Technique of Lean Management

This technique is resorted to achieve production efficiency generally in manufacturing but these days, industries in service sectors are also implementing these techniques and are reaping rich dividends by doing so. The main objective of this technique is to increase efficiency and productivity by doing away with unnecessary blockages of financial and physical resources that so often happens in the course of production of goods or offering services. This technique is the foundation stone on which a management can hope to obtain maximum output from existing resources. But one must remember that such maximisation of efficiency cannot be achieved simply through proper handling of financial and physical resources, it also requires equally efficient and application of human resources that are available at the disposal of a commercial organisation.

The origins of Lean Production System lie in Toyota Motor Corporation and thus this technique is often also referred to as Toyota Production System (TPS). The credit for being the creator of this system can surely be given to Sakichi Toyoda.

But in fairness of things it should be mentioned that Lean Management techniques were already in use in some form or the other since middle of 19th century heavy machinery equipment manufacturing unit to motivate workers, improve quality and reduce unnecessary and avoidable wastes. It is, in a nutshell, a technique of producing efficiently to generate maximum possible output for available resources (Richard 2006).

This also implies that this technique automatically ensures reduction in production cycles, at least in terms labour hours required since any effective improvement in efficiency can never take place unless labour productivity is substantially increased. It is only through this that effective cost reduction can be achieved and, as is most obvious, an efficient production system is one that is least expensive. After all, all efficiencies and improvements are worthwhile only when the result in reduction in production costs and consequent improvements in bottom-lines.

An example might make the issue clearer.

Let us assume 100 workers are engaged in manufacturing shoes and there is no division of labour in the shop floor. It implies every single worker does everything necessary to produce a pair of shoes. Let us also suppose 500 pairs can be produced per day when 100 workers are hired. Hence, these figures translate into the basic fact that average output per labour per day is 5 shoes. However, in lean management process labour efficiency is increased by employing workers in jobs that match their expertise and specialisation thereby increasing average productivity of labour from 5 shoes to 8 shoes per day through the simple technique of judicious division of labour. Thus the factory can now enjoy more output with same level of inputs. This is in brief the main advantage of Lean Manufacturing system (Stephens 2006).

General Observations

The Process of Lean Manufacturing

(a) Analysis of requirement

Implementation of Lean Manufacturing technique begins with an analysis of what is required. Once there is a clear perception about the immediate requirement can the management team go about choosing the relevant tools that can deliver the desired results in the shortest possible time and least possible disruptions in the existing work process or schedule (David 2002).

(b) Application of theories

This is a very crucial stage in implementation of Lean Management techniques. There is an old adage which says “what is sauce for goose need not be sauce for gander.” In a sense this is a very crucial issue that should never be forgotten by those that are in charge of implementation of this technique. It is but natural that techniques that would be suitable for manufacturing sectors need not always be that much relevant for service sectors too. But one thing that can be said with reasonable degree of certainty is that as the mindset of all levels of employees in service sector are almost the same, the same techniques are applicable for all levels of employees, but as the mindset of employees vary widely from one level to another in manufacturing sector, the same techniques cannot be applied with equal degree of success at all levels in a manufacturing industry. Techniques will vary widely – from soft to hard – depending upon specific requirements and urgency (David 2002).

(c) Results analysis

As implementation of lean techniques impacts all aspects of a company, the general approach to this tool is to implement it on a pilot project and observe very carefully the benefits obtained. The management then engages in a very detailed cost benefit analysis of implementation of this technique and once they come round to the conclusion that it indeed would be beneficial to implement it on a company wide basis, a feasibility testing is done to further confirm whether or not this technique is actually generating the desired results. It is a commonly accepted fact that a 10% margin of error must be accommodated in the results of the feasibility study before accepting the results and taking a final decision (David 2002).

(d) Closely observing the activities in the related areas

Once the requirements are analysed and proper lean technique has been chosen and implemented, the area where it has been implemented needs to be monitored very closely. This monitoring is necessary to ensure that human resource is accordingly put to use. Any mismatch between choosing required technique and applying requisite human resource in a balanced way would result in total disarray and complete failure of the technique that has been implemented. In fact, the results achieved might even be worse than what had been achieved when such lean techniques have not been implemented. Often the negative results from such mismatch are wrongly attributed to Lean Management techniques. But management must always remain alert and be awake to the fact that human resource must be properly aligned to achieve the best results. If there is a slip up in that area, entire good intentions of management will be washed away in a flood of failures. One of the main requirements of rational employment of human resource is that departments and sub processes in production should not be working at cross purposes and each and every activity should be directed towards achievement of overall corporate objectives (David 2002).

(e) Re-evaluation of results

Nothing is etched in stone in corporate activities. Each activity, however much it might seem as necessary, should be re-evaluated in terms of results achieved and, if necessary, suitable modifications should be done to the original plan. Application of Lean Management techniques are no exception to this golden rule of corporate management. Periodic re-evaluation of ground reality and modifications those are necessary both in terms of course correction as well as modification in quantum and direction of resource application (David 2002).

(f) Application of lean technique

Re-evaluation provides management with necessary information before implementing Lean Management techniques throughout the organisation. The ultimate technique that will be applied totally depends on the inputs received from the steps mentioned above and might not come as a surprise if the ultimate technique that is adopted hardly has any similarity with the techniques that were initially envisaged (David 2002).

Present Status of Lean Management

No one would ever deny the importance of employees in the entire process of implementation of Lean Management techniques. Hence, training of employees and making them aware of not only the requirements of new techniques but also taking them into confidence about the benefits that are surely to be derived from such implementation is absolutely imperative for the success of these techniques. Winning over unstinted employee support is one of the prerequisites if the organisation genuinely wishes to improve its competitive advantage. This is observed mostly in service sector where organisations spent considerable amount of money in training their employees in the nuances and requirements of six sigma techniques. 

Employees need to be convinced that such training programmes are mainly directed at improving their levels of efficiency which if they at some point in future decide to leave the organisation would still be with them. In fact, they can claim higher levels of compensation in their new workplaces if they imbibe the salient features that are imparted in the current training programmes. Such a hint that employees would also be personally enriched if the wholeheartedly participate in these training programmes would, in most cases, motivate them to support the efforts of the enterprise. Companies are liberally using software and other modern training tools to achieve this end (Bicheno 2003).  

The primary objective of Lean Management is to improve corporate productivity and this is achieved by focussing on all relevant sectors of a company.  While it primarily concentrates on reducing avoidable and unnecessary levels of inter process inventory, it also aims at strengthening supply chain and spends considerable efforts in managing it properly. However, it must not be overlooked that while these initiatives are fructified, employee satisfaction and improvement of working environment also automatically improves substantially. This implied benefit also helps the organisation in no small manner as it becomes fortunate to have a contented army of workers who would go out of their way to ensure that corporate targets and objective are met without any fail. This would improve their levels of efficiency and would finally result in overall reduction of costs in the entire company. Such reductions, even if some parts of those are passed on to the customers, would most certainly improve turnover and profit volumes of the company (Bicheno 2003).

Primary Objective of this report

The basic aim of this report is to underscore and dissect a few common tools of Lean Manufacturing. The project initially obtains empirical substantiation of the efficacy of these techniques and then proceeds to further investigate their impacts on operational performance of organisations.

This report also highlights the following techniques that are integral to the entire concept of Lean Manufacturing:

  • Cellular Manufacturing aims to club together similar processes that might be common to the manufacture of several finished products. These similar processes are bunched together to form a single group or ‘cell’, if it may be termed so, to ensure smooth functioning of the entire organisation. This approach not only eliminates duplication of work but also provides inherent flexibility to the organisation to modify its output in line with varying levels of demand. This reduces lead time in production and supply and imparts the much needed agility to the organisation.
  • Just-In-Time (JIT) is a system where the ‘pull’ exerted by a demand sets in motion the entire production process. The action starts from reverse, with a confirmed demand and related actions are undertaken right down to the purchase of raw materials and arranging manpower. In a sense, the final demand pulls in its wake all other related activities where no unused or unnecessary stock results as whatever is demanded is produced without anything extra at any phase.
  • Kanban is method of indicating all preceding processes that there is a demand by a subsequent process. This signalling method is possible the most important tool for practically implementing JIT system of production.
  • Total Preventive Maintenance (TPM), as the name implies, is an activity that ensures workers carry out regular preventive maintenance of equipment and tools to ensure minor glitches do not hamper smooth and uninterrupted functioning of production process. It is distinct from breakdown maintenance as it attempts to prevent machine breakdowns altogether. Such preventive maintenance is undertaken by workers that work on those machines. This serves two important purposes. Firstly, workers become more aware of how those machines work and secondly, as they are in constant touch with those machines, it is possible for them to predict any possible breakdowns much earlier. Also, by involving production personnel in maintenance activity the organisation is able to reduce manpower hired exclusively for maintenance.
  • Setup Time Reduction continuously attempts to minimize the setup time on any machine.
  • Total Quality Management (TQM) is a system of uninterrupted and continuous attempts to achieve further improvements in the entire gamut of activities of an organisation. This is essentially participative in nature and often involves suppliers and customers.
  • 5s provide suitable guidelines and benchmarks for improving work place conditions and aim at standardisation of work procedures to eliminate any ambiguity or hesitation on the part of workers to tackle a given situation.

It must be remembered that all these techniques aim to achieve one objective, that of improving production efficiency and corporate competitiveness. In technical terms, these tools attempt to draw a brighter and more rational ‘future state’ map.

A Birds Eye View of the Report

This project is an effort towards measuring the importance of Lean Management or Lean Manufacturing in organizations.

The innovation innate in Lean Management was first given a concrete tangible shape by Toyota Motor Corporation and hence it is also referred as Toyota Production System.

In modern times these techniques have been embraced by manufacturing organisations, but the pleasantly surprising fact is that service providers have also become ardent fans of these techniques. The popularity of these techniques is sure an indicator of their efficiency and effectiveness and has actually motivated me to investigate in greater detail as to how exactly such a transformation of an organisation is possible without any further capital injection but simply through alterations and modifications in existing work procedures.

Two companies have been chosen randomly, the only thing common between these two organisations is that both use Lean Management techniques. Other than that there is nothing in common between these two companies that manufacture completely different products and operate in different sectors and mostly in different markets too. The targeted consumers are also different, so is the work culture that is prevailing in these organisations.

By studying two such disparate companies the researcher attempts to confirm beyond all reasonable doubts that Lean Management techniques are effective irrespective of the companies they are applied to.

The report commences with a succinct overview of these two companies as well as techniques that are generally used to implement Lean Management system. However, main emphasis is given on GAP Analysis as it happens to be the most popular among all the tools that are associated with Lean Management techniques.  

The report ends with a definite conclusion that lean management has indeed resulted in major improvements in these companies and, in particular, their manufacturing processes.













Review of Relevant Literature

As Juran has observed it was not even fifty years ago that Japanese goods were condescended by rest of the industrialized world for their poor quality and the general idea people had about Japan was that of a country manufacturing elementary electrical items and sundry gadgets that carried no guarantee of uninterrupted service (Juran 1993). People preferred goods of European or US origin and none gave Japan even the slimmest chance of being able to manufacture goods that would one day give the products manufactured in Europe and United States such a stiff competition that some of the producers would almost be driven to extinction. But this metamorphosis of Japanese industry did not take place overnight by the wave of a magic wand; it took years of concentrated application and single minded focus of the captains of Japanese industry who were determined to pull the country back from the brink of economic collapse after Second World War that completely destroyed nearly half of Japanese industrial infrastructure.

Ohno notes, Japanese industrialists, especially Kiichiro Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Company, realized pretty early that unless they could beat the Americans in quality there was absolutely no chance of a revival (Ohno 1988). This realization that quality is not one among many problems but the only problem the solution of which takes care of all other problems, gave Japanese industrialists a head start over their American and European counterparts and Toyota became the mascot of Japanese industrial revival that started the era of supremacy of Japanese automobiles.

Ford Motor Company was the leader in automobile industry during the 50s and 60s of the previous century and Eiji Toyoda, cousin of Kiichiro Toyoda, was sent to the US in the early part of 50s, to observe minutely the famous mass production system of Ford Motor Company that managed to produce phenomenally large volumes that allowed the company to enjoy economies of large scale. A part of this economy was routinely passed on to the customers who enjoyed automobiles of very good quality at unbelievably low prices. Ford Company thus was a model that every aspiring automobile manufacturer wanted to analyze and duplicate and Toyota was no exception. An example of the exceptional productive capacity of Ford Company can be understood from the fact that while Toyota could produce 2,685 automobiles in thirteen years since its inception, Ford Motor Company was producing 7,000 units daily in its Rouge plant in Detroit (Womack, Jones and Roos 2007).

The secret to such an astounding level of output was the revolutionary concept of assembly line production pioneered by Henry Ford. Eiji Toyoda was no doubt impressed by the efficiency of the system but thought it needed certain adjustments if it was to be a success in Japan where automobile markets were fundamentally different from those in US. Moreover, US automobiles had a ready market all over the world whereas Toyota could only aspire to sell in Japanese markets. It did not till then have the goodwill to command any clientele anywhere else. Thus, the economies of large scale production that Ford could enjoy were not there for Toyota to take advantage of. It still did not have that many prospective customers to cater for. So, Eiji Toyoda thought of other ways to enjoy the fruits of economies of large scale and that came not through producing large volumes of a single product but relatively much lesser volumes of quite a large number of products on the same production line. This was how the famous Toyota Production System came into existence (McCoby 1997).

Almost during the same time, Taiichi Ohno, production manager at Toyota, observed cost per unit of output drastically went down when production is taken up in small lots in place of large batches. This was no black magic as such and had definite economic reasons for such an occurrence. The most important reason was there for all to see and it related to the small volume of inventory of inputs that was necessary to manufacture a small lot. Such reduction in inventory substantially reduced working capital locked in inventory and, considering the high rates of interest that were prevalent at that time, led to a substantial reduction in total cost of production.  Moreover, with smaller volumes to handle, in-process deviations are easier to identify thus restricting unnecessary process expenses on defective units of output. The other benefit, though indirect, was an additional awareness on the part of the workers to produce defect free output as they knew that production defects if any would immediately be identified. Thus Toyota enjoyed a twin gain when it produced in small batches.

Ohno visited several times Ford’s factory at Detroit and observed the assembly line method of production from close quarters and felt it could be much leaner than what it is – there were still many areas where unnecessary wastages were taking place.

Ford’s assembly line had a foreman who ensured workers were working according to predetermined schedules and procedures and there were housekeepers who periodically came and cleaned the work area to remove any unnecessary oil and chemicals that may or may not cause slippage, fire or any other possible hazard. There was a separate group of workers entrusted with the responsibility of repair and maintenance of both machines and tools and they visited the work area according to a preset frequency to ensure that there was no stoppage in production due to sudden breakdowns. There were several quality inspectors who examined at random finished units to verify that output conformed to standards. There was a rework area where the production line ended and specially trained labourers were stationed there to rectify defective outputs. The company also had on its role a gang of workers who acted as a backup to cover up unanticipated absenteeism. According to Rother and Shook, Ohno felt such a system was full of muda, the Japanese equivalent of non-value added activities that resulted in expenditure without any corresponding benefit (Rother and Shook 2003).

He modified the assembly line setup to make it more efficient by shedding some of its fat. Ohno did away with the foreman and clubbed workers into teams where team leaders played the role of the foremen. Thus, while the team leader himself worked he also ensured that work is proceeding according to predetermined parameters. Each team also had the responsibility of keeping the work area clean thereby removing the requirement of the group of workers who perform only housekeeping jobs under Ford Company’s system of assembly line production. Ohno also entrusted this team with undertaking minor repairs of machines and tools and undertaking quality checks of outputs produced. Thus, at one stroke Ohno removed four categories of workers that populated the shop floor in assembly line production system without directly being involved in the production process. Ohno envisaged a scenario where only those that are directly adding value should be present on the shop floor. This removed unnecessary crowd on the shop floor and, as Tolliday observes, what is most important, reduced a substantial amount of production overhead (Tolliday 1998).

But the most innovative introduction of Ohno was setting aside some time for each group of workers when they would collectively discuss and suggest ways and means of further improving the current levels of production efficiency. This became known as ‘Quality Circles’ in Western industries that eagerly picked up this innovative idea as all knew that this would surely increase productivity in shop floor. This process of continuously thinking about ways to further improve the current procedures at workplace is known as kaizen in Japanese and it became one of the mainstays of Toyota’s production process and philosophy (Imai 1986).

Ohno also proved his innovative genius while dealing with rework and rectification of damaged and defective units. Under assembly system the damaged and substandard outputs were reworked at the end of the assembly line but Ohno would have none of this. He was absolutely right in insisting that defects should be rectified right at the very moment they are identified else a late rectification would be much more costly and cumbersome. To ensure that a defective piece of output does not proceed further up the production line, he envisaged introduction of some form of automatic self regulation or jidoka similar to the power loom designed by Sakichi Toyoda that automatically stopped the moment one thread broke (Becker 1998).

Ohno knew it would not be easy to manufacture machines that would be intelligent enough to spot defects in such a complicated manufacturing process as in automobile production and so he introduced another equally novel concept called andon system. It was basically a system where every worker had the right to stop the assembly the moment any one of them spotted a defect. It was in direct contrast with American methods of assembly line production where only a senior supervisor had the right to stall the assembly line. The moment the assembly line is stopped by a worker in a Toyota factory all related workers gather around to solve the problem and the assembly line is restarted only after the problem has been fully resolved. Ohno also introduced ‘five whys’ method of solving a problem that went to root of a problem to ensure that it never occurred again. Initially andon system caused numerous stoppages of work but as workers got used to it the assembly lines hardly stopped since 1990 even though every worker had the right to stall the assembly line if the need arose. Thus, quality of output increased dramatically while cost of rework and rectification fell equally drastically (Webster 2007).

Inventory levels have always remained pretty high in Ford’s assembly line system and Ohno realized it like none else that the unnecessary increase in overhead costs that occur as inventories keep piling up can prove to be a very heavy burden on the working capital of a company. Hence he devised a novel method of reducing inventory levels on the shop floor by introducing Just in time (JIT) inventory system which is described as producing only what is needed, in right volumes and just when it is required  (Toyota Production System 1995). Ohno was determined to reduce shop floor inventory of components and decided that at each stage of production the previous stage should produce only those components and in that specific quantities that would be required by the succeeding stage. There would be no unnecessary production and consequent stockpiling of WIP inventories. This undoubtedly was a very ambitious target and the most important tool to achieve such a target was the famous kanban system which Toyota often refers to as the ‘supermarket concept’. Supermarket authorities make it a point to keep all their shelves full with products in proper quantities and varieties to satisfy demands of customers as and when they visit the supermarket. Ohno tried to replicate this concept in Toyota by considering each process as both a supermarket and customer – a supermarket for succeeding processes and a customer for preceding processes. Thus, each process would manufacture only that much volume that is required by the succeeding processes at the precise moment when it is required (Fisher 1997).

An analogy with a McDonald’s outlet would make the issue clearer. A McDonald’s outlet never prepares burgers in anticipation of customer as there would always be a possibility of demand not matching with quantity produced leading to either inventory stockpiling or a stock-out situation. As a customer places an order, a pull is exerted on the production system signaling it to get started. Here the entire production process depends on the order quantity and in a way works in the reverse direction (Hamel and Prahalad 1996).

A similar situation takes place in Toyota manufacturing units where all subsequent processes send signals to the preceding processes indicating the exact quantity that needs to be manufactured and the accurate time when it needs to be supplied by those preceding processes. These signals are conveyed through cards called kanban which in Japanese means signboard. This form or ordering production in reverse is not only carried out between intra-company production departments but also with suppliers thereby bringing inter-process inventory to a minimum (Spear and Bowen 1999).

However, such a fine-tuned production process can run with clockwork precision only when each process unambiguously defines the exact permissible duration during which a particular job has got to be fully finished by that particular process. This is done by measuring Takt time that is found out by dividing total available production time per day with targeted production units per day (Olofsson 2009).

Automobiles do not come cheap and Toyota is acutely aware of that unsold stock would radically increase its working capital. But at the same time it is also aware that stock out situations would hamper its turnover. It has found a novel solution to this problem. It manufactures semi finished products or “platforms” in accordance with a predetermined schedule. These “platforms” are basic structures that do not require too much of material or labor. Depending upon confirmed orders, these “platforms” are converted into fully finished products. Thus, Toyota does not block capital in unsold stocks while is able to satisfy customers with timely delivery. This hybrid method tries to marry the leanness of “pull” system with the inherent agility and ability of “push” system to quickly satisfy consumer demand and is referred as “leagile” system because of its twin features of leanness and agility. (Goldsby, Griffis and Roath 2006).

The best example of this “leagile” production system is observed in the Scion line of cars produced by Toyota. While the basic platform is manufactured in Japan according to certain predetermined production schedules, the various models, viz., tC, xB or xD are manufactured according to specific demands either at Toyota’s Long Beach production facility or at a dealer’s production facility, if that happens to be logistically more economical. Toyota has also made a marketing coup by taking this agility in its production system even further by allowing customers to mix and match the various specifications of these three models to create unique designs and models for themselves. Thus, customers get the satisfaction of getting their u nique cars within a very short time while Toyota retains its leanness by keeping inventories at the minimum.

Toyota not only modified the famous Assembly line system of production that has been applied so successfully at Ford but also introduced some features in its very own Toyota Production System that were quantum improvements over the production process followed by western manufacturers.

One such process is known as VSM or Value Stream Mapping. In this method a unit of raw material is visually tracked right from the moment it enters the factory gates till it is converted into finished output. What is most important is value added at each stage is meticulously noted. The quantification of value addition is divided into four broad stages that begin with “Preparation” goes on to “Current State” and thereafter to “Future State” and finishes with “Planning and Implementation”. This approach allows management to identify activities that add value as well as non-value adding activities and concentrate their efforts on improving activities that add value while drastically pruning activities that do not (Locher 2008).

The other equally innovative introduction is the concept of 5S that provide a methodology to ensure that the workplace is cleaner, orderly and more organised. Though an orderly and clean workplace does not directly improve efficiency as say reduction of waste but a favourable environment most surely creates an ambience where the workforce feel more motivated to put in their best. The 5S consists of: Seiri (retaining what is necessary and discarding what is not so), Seiton (Orderliness where each item has a designated place and is located at that place only), Seiso (Cleanliness), Seiketsu (Ensure everything conforms to standards set) and Shitsuke (Constant application of the previous four Ss to ensure that levels attained are sustained).

The other innovation of Toyota was the implementation of Quality Function Deployment (QFD) that tries to incorporate the customers’ requirements while designing the products. This is indeed a watershed in production planning and marketing where till now a company produced what it felt it was best in and its marketing team tried to convince customers into accepting whatever the company has produced. But with the implementation of QFD, a company would no longer have to be bothered about a consumer demand since it has produced what exactly the consumers want. This method also guarantees a massive savings in cost as all the problems are solved at the drawing stage only (ReVelle, Moran and Cox 1998).

A survey of Toyota’s path breaking innovations in production systems would remain incomplete if a mention is not made about Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) approach to production processes. Toyota elevated the job of maintenance from a necessary nuisance that only added to downtimes to an essential activity that is as much a part of production as is the act of churning out finished jobs from machine BAYs. It also incorporated the maintenance downtime within the normal time required for production and thus reduced machine breakdowns and consequent production losses to near zero levels (Wireman 2003).

Many companies tried to duplicate Toyota’s Production System but failed to do so thus forcing many management experts to believe that Toyota’s success lay in its cultural roots that would simply not be possible for any western organisation to imbibe and implement (Kotter 2001).

These experts pointed out that Japanese companies, for example believe in life-long employment and Japanese workers value long term economic stability far more than immediate benefits, promotions and incentives. Western workers on the other hand are not that much enamoured by such long term benefits and prefer immediate benefits instead. While Japanese companies lay a lot of emphasis on loyalty, Western employers value the varied exposure and experience that an employee gathers if he switches quite a few jobs.  Japanese workers pride themselves as being team members and exult at the success of their team, but Western workers are more individualistic and are more interested in personal development and enhancement (Hofstede 1991).

These arguments seem very convincing initially but if these were to be the only reasons for the success of Toyota then other Japanese stalwarts like Honda or Nissan would also have been able to replicate this system with ease which, strangely enough, is not the case.

The basic reason for Toyota’s success lies in its inimitable system that marries strict rules, rigid procedures and meticulously delineated routes of material and information flows throughout the production process with an unmatched element of adaptability and flexibility. Every activity in Toyota is specified down to the smallest possible detail. When seats are bolted to the body of a car, the order in which the bolts would be tightened and the torque to be applied and the number of turns to given are strictly specified and any change to the given specification can be done only through a rigorous problem solving procedure that requires a detailed scientific analysis of both the current and the desired state of affairs and a thorough evaluation of the benefit that can be derived from the proposed change. Such a scientific rigour automatically removes all forms of wasteful activity. This scientific rigour is so ingrained in Toyota’s workforce that in spite of such rigidity in specifications and structure, an environment of regimentation or strict command and control that one would normally expect does not exist in Toyota’s factories (McKay and Wiers August 2004).

The other unique factor of Toyota’s Production System is that it evolved through decades of conscientious labour of workers and was not imposed by the top management and thus has become an organic part of the company culture so much so that nothing is written down and hence it becomes very difficult for an employee if he is asked to articulate the uniqueness of this fabulous production system. It thus becomes even more difficult for outsiders to grasp the conundrum of simultaneous existence of flexibility and rigidity (Ibrahim 2008).

This can be better understood if one glances at the four rules that are strictly adhered to in every production facility of Toyota and they are (Spear and Bowen 1999):

Rule 1: Each activity should be unambiguously delimeated with clear descriptions of content, sequence, timing and outcome of each single activity and, every single worker at the factory, irrespective of their seniority or experience, are supposed to meticulously follow the instructions. At a first glance it might seem to be the handiwork of a control freak but if one ponders a bit, the obvious benefit becomes apparent – there would never be any variations in quality of output as all units will be processed in exactly the same manner.

Rule 2: The communication between departments and with outside agencies must be direct and the responses must always be unambiguous in terms of “yes” or “no”.

Rule 3: All production lines in Toyota are set up in a simple well defined path without any forks or loops that might complicate the uninterrupted functioning of supply chains.

Rule 4: Toyota has a continuous programme for teaching people how to improve and ensures that improvements are initiated right down at the lowest level under the guidance of a teacher and is vetted through an elaborate and scientific evaluation process. This ensures that the spirit of innovation keeps burning brightly among the labour force in spite of such rigidity in specifications and procedures.

The story of the continuous development of Japanese industries and their rise to international eminence, especially in spheres of automobile and consumer electronics, is something every country would love to emulate but have till date found rather difficult to do so.  The reason is not very difficult to unravel. Japanese industries have developed a work culture that analyses threadbare each single activity and lays down rigid procedures that are religiously followed by every worker. But the magic lies elsewhere. In spite such strict regimentation, the desire to improve is systematically kept alive in every worker through company sponsored training and top management ensures that every improvement takes place from the bottom instead of being imposed from the top (Ferdman 1992).

Perceptible Benefits Derived from Lean Management

The benefits of Lean Management techniques are:

(1) Final output has better quality and there is lesser in process reduction: This is possible due to smaller batch sizes where workers can pay attention to the work at hand and can immediately identify deviations (David, M. 2006).

(2) Reduced Inventory: As pull system of production is followed there is no scope of extra production by any process and hence the scope of stockpiling of work-in-progress is totally eliminated (David, M. 2006).

(3) Requires less space: This is almost a corollary as lesser inventory is required at every stage (David, M. 2006).

 (5) Makes identifying future kaizens simpler: As in process inventories reduce, it becomes easier to spot and identify production problems as a defective process would not be able to properly satisfy demands of succeeding processes and all subsequent process come to a grinding halt. The defects come to light almost immediately and the management becomes aware where the next improvement initiative has to be undertaken (Henderson 2006).       

(6) Ensures a safer work environment: Lesser inventory ensures lesser clutter at workplace and more light in farthest and least accessible corners of shop floor. Moreover, as each manufacturing cell consists of only a few employees who know each other very well, there is very little possibility of unexpected movements from any of them (George 2003).

(7) Improves employee morale: There is an almost immediate feedback on the state of affairs which reduces the possibility of carrying forward of rework of defective pieces produced in the previous shift. This provides workers some sort of ownership of their output and they no longer try to hide any deviations. Instead, they come forward with all their problems and management gets a chance of solving genuine problems almost immediately. This no doubt motivates employees to give their best and employee morale reaches unprecedented heights (David M 2006).

















Methodology Followed in this Project

This project concentrates on two companies – HCS Bakery of India and ALDO Shoe Company of Canada. A number of research approaches will be employed to study in depth the research question of whether Lean Management and Lean Techniques indeed helps organisations in achieving higher levels of defect free output at lower cost. This question assumes greater importance given the global nature of marketplace and levels of competition that has been unleashed as a necessary by-product of globalisation.

Tools and Techniques

As already discussed before, tools and techniques to solve a specific problem or reach a predetermined target depends almost entirely on the nature and characteristics of the problem at hand or the target that is desired to be reached. Some of the tools and techniques that have been discussed in detail are:

Gap Analysis

Gap Analysis basically tries to decode the difference from the present state of affairs of a company and the future state it desires to be in. This analysis tries to identify ways and means of achieving a desired future state without any further input of financial, material or human resources.

If any arm of the company is not functioning efficiently such inefficiency is immediately exposed through this analysis. Such inefficiencies prevent the company from achieving what it could do and hence restrict the company from achieving its true potential.

Gap Analysis in effect informs the management about those areas that are performing below desired levels and hence where the management must immediately concentrate for further improvement.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

There is a continuous movement of information and materials between departments in every organisation. This technique is geared towards a scientific analysis of such movements. The purpose of such mapping is to identify value additions at each stage. It automatically brings to the fore those processes that do not add any appreciable or tangible value and thus can be termed as wasteful processes that only increase the total cost of production without contributing any commensurate value. Once management is aware of such wasteful processes it can take immediate action to prune those away. This will result in a leaner manufacturing process that would result in considerable cost reduction without any corresponding reduction in volume or quality of output.

Source of Data

All necessary information has been obtained from secondary sources that comprised of published journals, books and authentic websites. The researcher is aware of one of the biggest pitfalls of such type of research, and that is, inherent bias of the researcher that seems to creep in while choosing resources. A researcher, sometimes unknowingly, seems to pick up only those resources that seem to support their intention, thus resulting in a report that, though apparently unbiased, in reality reeks of personal bias and prejudice.

Utmost care has been exercised to eliminate such innate bias and the end product can be reasonably claimed to be a true and authentic study of the research question.

Limitations faced in the course of the project

There were some obstacles that were continually encountered in the course of completing the project and they are:

  • Limitation of the data: As secondary data has been relied upon, this project lacks the authenticity it could have achieved had the researcher been able to collect and collate primary data obtained through personal interviews with line managers. The researcher could also have been able to present a better picture if he had the opportunity of sending questionnaires to line managers on their personal experiences and views on Lean Management techniques.
  • Timeline: This is perhaps the ruse of every researcher that it could have been better if more time was at hand to conduct the research in a more detailed manner. The present researcher is no exception to that grouse and would have surely loved to carry on this research on more relaxed timeframe.



















HCS Bakery Machines

HCS BAKERY MACHINES is a globally famous company. Founded in 1997, HCS Bakery is a well known and reputed manufacturer, supplier and exporter of various industrial bakery equipments and machines of the bakery industry. The different products manufactured by the company include electrically operated bakery ovens, flour sifters made of steel, and, machines meant for automated slicing of breads.

Its products are exported throughout the world and some of the best known names in Bakery industry as Britannia and Taaza are regular customers of this company.

The company has state of the art machines and a team of expert technicians that manufacture world class machines. An excellent network of after sales service ensures complete customer satisfaction and generates very high levels of customer loyalty.

Product portfolio of HCS

The company makes their machines from the best quality metal and ensures that the final products are of international quality. Some of their most popular products are:

  1. Spiral Mixers

These machines are equipped with latest cutting edge technology and are extremely efficient in thoroughly mixing and kneading all types of dough. There are different types of mixers to suit almost every type of requirement. They can be specially configured to radically improve their performance and also their durability. In short, the company can satisfy any type of special requirements of a customer. It might hardly be mentioned that with their proven expertise in this line, the company is able to satisfy even the most finicky of customers.

  1. Final Proofers

For the uniform proofing in the baked products in the baking industries final proofers are used. Final proofers are best suited for all varieties of ovens that are used for baking and radically improve their performance. To meet the requirements of their clients, final baking proofers are made in accordance to their drawings and specifications. Final proofers are manufactured from premium grade materials to ensure that they function at highest levels of efficiency for many years.

  1. Rotor Ovens

HCS Bakery manufactures various types of premium category rotor ovens. These ovens conform to the strict European standards and thus enjoy high degree of market acceptability in Europe. The company manufactures forced convention ovens and rotary rack ovens on a regular basis and if desired by customer, they also manufacture these ovens in stainless steel. As is the case with its other machines, the company is open to any sort of customisation that the customer may desire.

  1. Process Mixers

HCS Bakery manufactures a mind boggling variety of process mixers. These machines play a crucial role in the manufacturing process of bakery industry as they are used to properly mix the contents of a baked product. If the mixing is not done properly, the end product will have severe quality problems and will, in all probability, be summarily rejected by final consumers. Hence, bakers are very particular when they choose process mixers. The company has on offer mixers that operate at high speeds and also those that are made of stainless steel and also mixers that are of planetary type.

  1. Other Machineries used in Baking Industry

The company also manufactures dough dividers and moulders, ovens having swinging trays, elevators and sifters of flour and pizza moulding machines. It also has on offer automated bread-slicers and hoisters of bowls.

Manufacturing Process at HCS Bakery

Any lean manufacturing system can best be appreciated through a proper and thorough understanding of the manufacturing process that is in place in a company that has successfully implemented the lean system. At HCS, the following steps in manufacturing are in place:

  1. It starts with careful selection of sheets that would be used to manufacture these machines. These have to be of high quality pure stainless steel.
  2. These sheets are then cut into different shapes necessary to construct bakery machines. As the cutting has to be extremely accurate, a sharp steel cutter is used for this purpose.
  3. These pieces are then moulded into required shapes.
  4. These moulded shapes are assembled to get the shape of the desired machine. Due care is taken to reduce wastage in the form of scrap at a minimum.
  5. The Company has a tolerance limit of 5% and take utmost care to ensure that none of its products cross this threshold.

 A “Made by HCS ENTERPRISES” label is a guarantee of assured quality and stringent quality control has propelled the company to the position of market leader that it enjoys now. As it has earned this position through of hard work and commitment, it takes utmost care to weed out all deviations in its manufacturing process.

Future of HCS Bakery

HCS ENTERPRISES is an international name in the bakery industry. With its superior quality and exquisite range of products HCS Bakery has gained in reputation. The company has earned accolades in terms of brand equity, customer satisfaction, popularity and market reputation. It has an assured share of markets in Europe and United States and also has a considerable footprint in African and Middle East markets. It is perhaps needless to add that some of biggest names in Bakery industry in India as Britannia, Taaza and Ellora are also its loyal clients.

ALDO Group of Companies

The ownership of ALDO Group is in private hands. It is headquartered in Montreal. At present it operates nearly 1400 retail outlets and over 700 of these outlets are operating as exclusive stores for the company. It was established by ALDO Bensadoun, a retired French soldier in 1966.

ALDO opened its first standalone store at Montreal and ended its earlier practice of hiring spaces within fashion boutiques. Though that practice ensured steady customer footfall, it did not however, lead to a commensurate turnover. ALDO became an object of often idle curiosity of those that ventured into its shops as the customers were usually more preoccupied with buying other items that the fashion boutiques had on offer.

After successfully testing the waters in Canadian retail market, ALDO ventured into US retail sector during the end of 1993 when it opened its first US store at Boston. There was no looking back for the company thereafter. Within less than a decade the company went on to open one hundred and twenty five stores in United States. It simultaneously strengthened its already preeminent position in Canadian markets also by owning and operating more than one hundred and eighty stores in premium retail locations all over Canada.

The company has opted for market segmentation approach in marketing its products and puts on offer 8 popular and prestigious retail brands through specially designated stores that cater exclusively to the customer group that they intends to target. The number of such exclusive stores has now exceeded 300. This approach, quite obviously, ensures greater conversion of enquiries into actual sales. ALDO has spread its wings and have crossed the Atlantic to open its stores in United Kingdom and Ireland.

It realised pretty early that opening of company owned stores is a time consuming affair and has thus opted for the franchising route also to increase its presence in other markets. It has franchisees spread over in more than forty countries of the world.

The products and services the company provide are meant for everyday use. The company is always on the lookout for excellent craftsmen and is committed to remain a Total Customer Service Provider to retain and expand customer loyalty.

As a part of this effort, ALDO has also designed a series of excellent handbags and purses for ladies and exquisite purses for men, which are available in their stores as well as online through their website

Product range of ALDO

ALDO has acquired specialisation and is famous as a manufacturer of footwear that is highly durable and fashionable. They cater to footwear requirements of both men and women. Also it has made a name for itself as a producer and marketer of other leather accessories as purse, handbags and belts. It has expanded its production from fashionable adult footwear to children’s footwear also.

This premium brand takes care of the detailed features of its products and also ensures craftsmanship is of the highest order. Avant-garde designs and durability coupled with extremely reasonable and affordable prices makes its products irresistibly attractive.

Fashion stylists associated with ALDO regularly scour the fashion capitals of the world and keep a keen eye on the emerging trends to ensure that ALDO always remains the first company to come to the market with the latest trends and fashions. This awareness of latest trends makes it a big hit with fashion conscious ladies in all corners of the world.

Social Welfare Activities of ALDO

ALDO is an excellent corporate citizen and not only does it play an active role by directly engaging in certain welfare activities but also equally actively raises funds for activities where it can do directly get involved in the execution of projects.

The most notable social welfare activity that ALDO is engaged in is a relentless battle for two and a half decades against AIDS. It operates awareness programmes about AIDS especially among the youths who are most vulnerable to this killer disease. It also sells special badges and stickers the proceeds of which go towards educating and protecting this vulnerable group.

It also plays an active role in protection of environment and one such initiative has been conversion of cartons in which it packed its shoes into bags made of bio-degradable material.

 ALDO’s Team

ALDO has a team that is dedicated and totally committed and all departments are equally efficient, be it the personnel manufacturing shoes or sales people who convince customers to buy those or people involved in smooth functioning of the administrative department of the company. ALDO realises that being at the cutting edge of international fashion is one of its strong points and thus ensures that its fashion designers are always on the prowl in international fashion capitals to be the first company to get a whiff of the next emerging fashion that would be a rage within a very short time. In this way, ALDO is always ready with its merchandise when the market demand is at its peak. This not only ensures high turnover but also an ever growing band of happy and satisfied customers.

Training and Development department of ALDO relentlessly works towards raising the levels of efficiency of its manufacturing and marketing personnel and it takes help of latest software and other training methods to ensure people at ALDO are always raring to go and achieve what lesser companies might consider impossible and improbable.

One of the major participants in the ALDO Team is its superlative Research and Development Department that continuously tries to add more value to the product through substitution and product engineering.

Future outlook of ALDO 

The graph of ALDO is on a continuous upswing and it has never looked back since its inception. With a strong customer focus, the main aim of the company is to satisfy customers. As it operates in high fashion segment its clients are also well heeled it does not mind in providing exclusive footwear to its customers. Such exclusivity is attained through total customisation of its products to satisfy every whim and fancy of customers. It is but natural that it is made possible through continuous interaction between the company and its valued clients. Such a flexible and accommodating attitude has only made it more popular among the rich and famous of the world.

ALDO plans to expand its footprint in the small island of Cyprus in Mediterranean as well as the throbbing and buzzing markets of Far East and by the first quarter of 2011 it plans to reach the landmark of 1000 company owned stores spread over forty five countries of the world.

It is also planning to go green and help in environment protection.

Gap Analysis

There is always a difference what we have achieved and what we desire to achieve and this gap between our achievements and our dreams propel us to push ourselves further. What is true for an individual is also equally true for a company. The only difference is perhaps that in case of a company the whole process is more organised and documented so that all  relevant  members of the company are able to take part in the process of filling in that gap  between where the company is at the present moment (also known as Current State) and where it wants to see itself (also known as Future State) after a specific period (Gerhard Johannes Plenert – 2007).

The basic reason for a company is not being able to reach the desired position is a mismatch or imbalance between optimum allocation of scarce resources at its command and current status of allotment prevailing within the company or organisation. Gap Analysis allows an organisation to correctly evaluate and pinpoint the areas of this imbalance and work on ways to rectify it.

This analysis commences with fixing the targets of every department – right from procurement to final despatch. Once these targets or benchmarks are set, it becomes that much easier for the company to modify its existing activities so as to achieve those benchmarks.

Generally the benchmarks are determined through industry average and the difference between industry average and firm actual is termed as “gap” that the firm intends to bridge. The analysis of gaps and attempts to bridge constitutes the essence of Gap Analysis. Such gaps can be found out in different areas, as:

  1. Business trend as opposed to firm’s trend
  2. Organization structure of the firm as compared to common organisation structure in most firm of the industry
  3. Extent to which Information Technology tools and techniques used in the firm
  4. Business practices followed by the firm as compared with popular business practices in the industry

Relevance of Gap Analysis in an organisation

A question might reasonably be asked at this stage as to why a company will take so much trouble in undertaking such an analysis. A simple answer to that query would be this analysis satisfies the need for adjustments and modifications that are necessary for a company to achieve its professed target. Such an analysis might also become necessary to efficiently tackle a change in demand structure or some changes in market equations. Such changes in demand structure often takes place due to changes in tastes and preferences of customers and market equations might change due to entry of a new participant or exit of an established operator. For companies as ALDO that thrive on the cutting edge of international fashion that is fickle, to say the least, such an analysis is almost a daily routine if it wants to retain its position as market leader.

Often, as is the case these days, rapid technological changes render exiting technologies obsolete almost overnight and a company finds itself with grappling with new problems that come along with new technologies. It is practically a Hobson’s choice for most companies as they neither can ignore latest technology nor are they enthusiastic about embracing the new changes as it would automatically lead to a lot of alterations and modifications in its existing procedures and schedules.

However, this so called gap has to be reduced by every company if they want to stay afloat in this world of cutthroat competition.

It might be mentioned at this stage that while Gap Analysis tries to ensure that organisation remains efficient and profitable, Lean Management also has similar objectives and hence these two are perfect complements of each other.

Stages in implementation of Gap Analysis

There are three broad steps in analysing the gap between Current State and Future State and they are:

Gap in usage

The term ‘usage’ means the number of customers that opt for products that a company has on offer. It is quite obvious that every company would ideally try to ensure that each and every consumer buys only the products that they market and the gap between the number of customers that actually buy their products and the total number of customers in a market would put in clear perspective the ground that a company needs to cover. However, every company is practical enough to realise that it is not possible to sell their products to all the customers in a market. Hence, while calculating the gap in usage every company factors in certain percentage of market that would certainly be cornered by their rivals no matter how hard they try to prevent it and then sets a target that they might realistically achieve.

Total potential of the market

The calculation of possible market demand is done through market research made by the company as well as from data purchased from companies engaged in market research. While calculating total market demand, demographic structure of markets and average purchasing power of customers visiting a particular market are taken into consideration to derive a realistic figure.

Current levels of market share

This is available with the company as it knows the volumes it is able to sell and is also aware of the total potential of the market. It is thus very simple arithmetic to calculate the share of market that the company controls.

Thus, gap in usage is calculated as a difference between total potential of the market and the current level of market share controlled by the company.

For most companies this gap can be made up by increasing the scale of their operations and that requires time. Thus this gap analysis also serves as a guide for future expansion.

It must also be mentioned that usage gap does not happen only for companies that operate in competitive markets. It is also an issue of concern for monopolies as well since they should aim at literally winning over all potential customers together with those that actually come to the market and buy their product. Else, these monopolies would also reach a state of stagnation where the only hope of increasing turnover would be through an increase in total population. If the percentage remains the same, an increase in total would obviously result in an increase in the number of customers. But that is not what any progressive company would depend on. Rather, it would act proactively to bring in its fold all those that are still not interested enough in their products. 

Segment gap

It is not possible for any company to have a product for every segment of the market. Hence, it does not have any market share in those segments where it does not have a product. All progressive companies, especially those operating in fast moving consumer goods category, always try to be present in every segment to reduce the gap in usage. In fact, market segmentation to ensure better focus in every segment has been a very popular and persistent approach of these companies.

Gap in Competition

Only a monopolist can sit back and relax as it does not have face the heat of competitors breathing down its neck. But the situation is not that easy going for companies that battle it out in ferociously competitive markets. In such a pressure cooker type of situation the difference between the company and its competitors is of paramount importance for the management. This gap signifies the status of a company with respect to other companies in the market. This gap also indicates the ground that the company has to cover in order to grab the position of the market leader or the efforts the company has to put in to retain its position. Such efforts are mainly directed at marketing and are characterised by innovative advertisements or promotions. Improvements in product quality, though repeated in almost every book of management, is hardly required since in a fiercely competitive market all marketers deliver products that are comparable with other products in the market. Any deficiency in quality will automatically drive out such a producer, so simply in order to exist in the market; no company can afford any slip ups in quality.

Mapping of Value Stream

This is one of the most popular tools of Lean Management through which a company is able to put in proper perspective all the activities undertaken by it from the angle of value addition. By clearly perceiving value addition done by each activity, the company is able to identify the activities that actively contribute to the value of the final product and activities that do not do so. It would perhaps be superfluous to state that all those activities that do not add value should be mercilessly weeded out. But, any such weeding across the board might be counterproductive in some situations since in every company there are activities that do not add any perceptible or tangible value but are absolutely vital in maintaining the work culture or personality of the organisation. If such activities are also pruned out, they might adversely affect the market standing and reputation of the company as a corporate citizen.

Generally this mapping of value addition is done by diagrammatically representing the present production flow chart and information flow chart in the organisation. Just as in any other flow chart, the cycle time and floats in the production process are mentioned against each node thus giving a complete picture of how production is done in the company.

As against the present scenario, the desired scenario is also exhibited in the form of another flow chart with desired lead times and floats mentioned against each node. The desired lead times are reduced to the extent it is practically feasible without causing severe strain on the production process and after factoring in the delays that would creep in due to no fault of the production or procurement departments. Issues such as lack of power or labour unrest must surely be considered before drawing up the desired lead times. If such considerations are not accommodated, the flow chart that represents the desired Future State would only remain as an intellectual exercise without ever being translated into reality.

It must also be remembered that mapping of the value stream and drawing up a Future State flow chart is not one off activity. It needs to be continually updated and worked upon to enable the company not only to reach the heights of excellence but also remain there for long. This is necessary since competitors will always try to outsmart this company and it therefore needs to be on its toes to thwart any possible moves by competitors to usurp its preeminent position.

It should also be appreciated that any improvement in value stream cannot be achieved through the efforts of the production department alone as it depends on almost all other departments, be it procurement, logistics or marketing to make it a genuine success. Any shortcomings on the part of procurement department might result in production delays on account of non-availability of material or hindrances in smooth production flow due to poor quality raw material. Similarly, any shortcomings on the part of the marketing department may lead to stockpiling of finished goods inventory.

Analysis of Value Stream

Drawing of a flow chart might seem to be an easy matter but it is not so, especially in production processes that are complicated and involve a lot of sub processes. However, the flow chart needs to be easily intelligible to every supervisor on the shop floor so that they can manage operations in their areas accordingly. For this, drawing up a value stream chart should be left to specially trained people who would remain sensitive to the requirements of making this chart a genuine and practically beneficial tool for the company.

Identify the product or service to be Mapped

The company should start by identifying the target product or service for which mapping is necessary. It is done by first determining what would be starting and ending points of the production process where Lean Management techniques is to be implemented. Then from this map one can figure out the obstructions and worthless activities in the complete process. The company can also classify certain portions of the whole production process where it feels removal of unnecessary float is required.

The relatively straightforward and uncomplicated process of converting an order placed through internet into despatching the finished product is considered for constructing a Value Stream Map.

Visualising the map of the prevailing value stream

Using special standard codes, the Current State map is drawn which portrays the current flow of materials and information through the production process and relevant departments of the company. The flows that are to be considered for this purpose would also include the flow through supply chain as well as flows through planning and design departments.

The company makes it a point to include those workers or employees who are stake holders in the progression, or in the administration and the supporters of various part of the value stream. Not only the above stated workers but also the recruiters and managers or team leaders are also taken into the account so that the process of creating VSM does not go haywire. The VSM should be based on more of the realistic ideas rather than idealistic ones.

The common activities that need to be included in this flow chart are:

  • Acceptance and processing of an order
  • Managing Supply Chain
  • Organising and monitoring levels of inventory
  • Order scheduling
  • Packaging
  • Shipping

It depends upon the procedures the responsibilities of that area of the VSM hence defining the extent of the process.

Analysing the Present State

The Current value stream should be analysed threadbare to identify the following:

  1. Identifying activities that add value: The point where value is added to the product or service offered by the company. The value-added activities are the processes where value is added to the inputs so that the final product is able to efficiently satisfy consumer needs.
  1. Identifying activities that do not add value: The people at Toyota Corporation feel that any production process generally has three main types of waste which they term as Muda, Mura and Muri. The lesser these wastes would be, the greater would be the efficiency of the company and, quite naturally, the higher would be the profit. TPS brings in a new awareness about these wastes which under normal circumstances would never be considered at all. This awareness about avoidable waste is the unique contribution of Lean Management system.

There are seven most common types of waste that are usually present in any production system.

  1. Overproduction: This is the worst type of muda in any production system. It is even more harmful since those that are responsible for it do not consider that are doing something that they should not do, rather they are proud of it. This might sound pretty confusing, so it is necessary to further elaborate to clarify the issue. The most common unit of measurement of productivity is the number of units produced during a day or a shift. So, every Production Manager would try to produce as much as possible within a particular day or shift. This might lead to a glut of not only finished output but also work-in-process that will result in completely undesirable blockage of capital thereby sharply increasing the interest burden of the company. Moreover, excess inventory will clutter both the shop floor and also the warehouse meant for finished goods. That the warehouse meant for raw materials will also reach the point of bursting due to this wholly unwarranted spree of overproduction needs no special mention.
  2. Avoidable transportation: The transportation does not pay for the any adjustment to the product which the customer would pay for. Besides the more transportation of the product the more risks are involved like misplacing, spoiling, deferring, etc. and also the cost of transportation.
  3. Inventory: If the inventory does not take a shape of the product it adds up to the waste of capital expenditure in the business process.
  4. Motion: Here motion is not of the product but of the repetitive assets and the incurred charges by the manufacturing procedure.
  5. Defects: Many functions like introducing additional outlays, alterations happened in the specific fraction, rearrangements of the production process, etc.
  6. Over processing: This is also a waste that often escapes the eye. If more labour that what is absolutely necessary are employed in a particular process and if each such labour is actively engaged in the production process then such a situation is termed as over processing. Such over processing does not add value to the product but surely increases the cost of production.
  7. Waiting time between processes: This is a very common phenomenon in any production process when output from preceding process faces delay or waits idly because the succeeding process is not yet ready to receive it. The time lost in waiting is essentially lost production units as the efforts spent in terms of material and labour prior to the node where the delay occurs are not converted into production. That is to say, the company would not have lost any production even if the preceding units did not produce those many units that are kept waiting. Hence, the efforts spent in producing those units add to the cost of production without any commensurate increase in output.
  1. Identify those activities that do not add value but cannot be pruned: As has already been mentioned, there are certain activities that must be retained even though they do not add any value.  Care must be taken to not suspend those activities.

Drawing a map that represents the Future State

While drawing the map that reflects the desired Future State following points must be remembered:

  1. Eradication of unnecessary endorsements or shifting them to prevent the non essential work.
  2. Ensuring proper documentation of information flow which can be either on paper or through electronic medium.
  3. Implementing lean management techniques in warehouse management.
  4.  As a corollary of the above requirement, putting in place a rational system of inventory control.

Planning to implement the Future State

Many companies use lean progression techniques at this point that include Kaizen, Kanban, JIT, and the like. The time consumed to implement the plan drawn will be reimbursed by the tagging off the processes well.

Implement the Plan

Implementation of this plan does not happen overnight and the minimum time it takes is a week. It must be remembered that the transformation from Current State to Future State should be gradual as any sudden jerk might totally upset the production schedule and badly affect the output level.

Evaluation of results and retracing the entire process, if necessary

The final stage of this analysis is in a sense an act of stock taking as it involves measurement and analysis of improvements that are expected and locating the loopholes that might still be there and are preventing the company from fully enjoying the benefits Lean Management. These loopholes need to be plugged and, if necessary, the entire process has to be repeated till all loopholes are totally eliminated.

To make the mapping process clear and cost effective more often VSM is drawn by hand in pencil. It can be corrected and altered easily when required. Now-a-day’s many software tools are available and they can be used if manual method seems to be too cumbersome or time consuming.



Advantages derived from VSM

VSM is an optical structure which analyses of the overall procedure flow. This allows the process to be redesigned to remove the obstacles from the flow of the materials or functions. VSM is based on the lean management concept and uses techniques like takt time and demand pull based production scheduling. Lean Management uses VSM as the principal tool to set off the procedure in motion. To achieve this, waste areas are underlined in the process and subsequently facilitate business activities to eradicate them.

It must, however, be remembered that a value stream map must be drawn using symbols and language that is easily understood by all concerned persons.

The primary benefits of value stream mapping are:

  • It ensures unity of direction as it ensures all efforts are directed towards achieving the overall corporate goal.
  • It makes the communications simple by providing the visual representation.
  • Everyone can view the waste in the process hence helps focusing in the right direction.
  • Helps to get the basis on which the lean initiatives are taken for the customer.
  • It is cost effective as no sophisticated software or hardware is necessary. However, in the initial stages some effort is required to do the basic work. Equipments used are pen and paper.
  • On the basis of value stream effective discussions and decisions are done.
  • It elaborates awareness about consumer requirements and clarifies the flow of materials and information through the enterprise.
  • Experienced and efficient workers can repeatedly perform VSM to achieve a better business system.

Negative aspects of VSM

There are some disadvantages of Value stream mapping which are as:

  • Only one product or one merchandise type is studied as per VSM.
  • VSM only represents a graphic presentation of the condition on the structural ground at specific time.
  • VSM is not a regular overview of the real situation of the production.
  • With the suggested new systems or blueprint, testing could be challenging.

VSM is mostly made use of to identify the scope of further reductions in lead time. Many well known companies use VSM to achieve outstanding efficiency by ensuring completely uninterrupted and totally lean flow in their production processes. The immediately perceptible advantages are reduction in manufacturing lead time, superior quality output and low inventories.
























Mapping the Future Stream of Values

While mapping the value stream in a Future State, bottlenecks where inventory piles up, processes that have poor quality, and operations that require excessive coordination should all be marked with kaizen bursts, as those would be areas of focus to improve the current status of operations. Operations where work gets pushed downstream should also be highlighted.

Once the problems with the current state map are identified, a new VSM, the future state map, is created. This becomes the blueprint for the operation’s Lean transformation. All activities required to achieve the future state should be put into an action plan.

Ideal future state maps should balance need, opportunity, and resources. Teams will often have far more ideas for improvement than can reasonably be achieved in the future state map’s time frame. The future state VSM does not portray a wish list. Rather, it portrays how value stream will really look in future. As projects are completed, current and future state maps should be updated. The effect is that the future state map is always 6-12 months out (Rother and Shook 2003).

Mapping the Present State stream of values is the first step that needs to be taken to achieve tye desired state in future. This would show work processes as they currently exist .This would also give us insight of the requirements of changes in the process. Current or Present State Value Stream allows us to understand of where else the opportunities can be used. Present State Value should be drawn up by a team that would comprise of people from all related departments and it should include the following details:

  1. Total demand per day or per month as the case may be
  2. This demand needs to be broken down customer-wise
  3. Daily inflow of raw material inputs
  4. Daily outflow of finished products
  5. Inventory levels at each stage of production in terms of days of production
  6. Production cycle time
  7. Available working hours per day


Drawing the map of Future State values

The map of value streams in Future State is more difficult to draw than a map of Current State value streams. It requires a keener strategic, artistic and commercial approach. When a map of Future State values is drawn, certain Lean Management techniques as Cellular Manufacturing, Kaizen, Lot Sizing, Takt Time and Reduction of Setup Time should be liberally used.


Measuring Takt Time

If there is a demand for 50 vehicles per day and if the available production time is 8X60 = 480 minutes, the Takt time available at each production station is 480/50 = 9.6 minutes. A job must not stay for more than 9.6 minutes at each production node to ensure that requisite numbers of vehicles are produced to satisfy the existing demand.

Identify bottleneck processes

A bottleneck process is one that has the longest cycle time in the entire production process. There is an old saying that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. Almost in similar lines it might be said that a bottleneck process determines the output of the entire process and thus becomes the basis for scheduling a production programme.

Work balance chart is a very important tool in rational scheduling of a production programme.

Identify lot sizing / Setup opportunities

This is an extremely crucial and sensitive activity. Generally conventional production processes tend to produce that much amount that would satisfy the demand for succeeding process for at least the next seven days. That implies an unnecessary inter-process inventory build-up amounting to 3.5 days of production. This reduces agility of the organisation to adjust to sudden changes in demand but reducing lot sizes arbitrarily would also result in increase in setup time. So, a judicious reduction in lot size has to be implemented that reduces unnecessary stockpiling of inventory without radically increasing setup times.

Identify potential workcells                       

This essentially consists of balancing and smoothening out inevitable differences in production cycle times so that production is carried on in an uninterrupted manner without unnecessary stockpiling of inventory at any stage.

From the bar diagram cited above we observe that cycle times for “Cin and Debur” and “Packaging” are considerably lesser than Machining and Honing operations. Incidentally these two operations are very well balanced. So, the only plausible way to balance cycle times of the entire production process would be to increase the cycle time of “Cin and Debur” activities by substituting automated activities with manual or semi-manual operations.

However, there is not much scope of increasing cycle time in “Packaging” department as it is already a predominantly manual process.

Determine Kanban locations

As there are only five cells, intra scheduling is not an issue as all these cells would be a part of the continuous flow of jobs and hence any internal Kanban is not necessary.

Kanban, however, is applicable at the beginning and end points of the production process. That is, at the point where raw materials enter the factory and at the point where the finished products are despatched, to ensure lean management and reduced levels of inventory. Thus, inventory levels would be best indicators of Kanban.

Establishing proper schedules

Proper management supply chain is essential for lean management and for that stable forecasts are necessary. These forecasts would allow suppliers to accordingly schedule their production to ensure timely and uninterrupted delivery of raw materials and also provide sufficient time to the work cells so that they are able to arrange proper manpower to carry out production in an uninterrupted manner. Generally the forecasts should be made on a monthly basis. Procurement department must also ensure availability of funds so that regular payments are made to suppliers and this can be possible only when annual orders are placed on suppliers with strict instructions for staggered and uninterrupted delivery.


Calculation of Lead and Cycle Times

This is the concluding step of the mapping process and it throws up the result that management eagerly waits for.



Shortcomings of value stream mapping


  • If there is more than one product that require different set of raw materials, this method is not suitable for portraying the Future State.
  • This method is unable to quantify and suitably factor in delays that might occur due to reasons beyond the control of production department. There might be transportation problems while semi-finished components are transferred from one process to another and there might also be less than optimum movement of material within the production premises owing to poor plant layout. These are reasons that cannot be tackled by the production department and they should be given proportional leeway while lead time, cycle time and takt time are calculated. But this system has no in-built systems to provide such cushions.
  • While it is termed as mapping of value stream it does not quantify value in terms of money. Hence, the impact of such a method is lost on management which is primary concerned with turnover and bottom-line.
  • Is most suited for continuous assembly line operations that operate on a demand-pull system. Such operations are mainly adopted by manufacturers who operate on a large scale and deal with only a few products.
  • Pays scant attention to efficient utilisation of space on the shop floor. This is a very important factor in determining overall production efficiency and any calculation of value stream without considering this factor would seldom provide a correct picture.
  • This method does not have the in-built agility that is extremely necessary to handle sudden and unexpected changes in demand schedules that is almost a daily occurrence in fashion and construction industries.















Thoughts on Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing defines the value of a product or a service from the customers’ perspective. They do not care about how much effort and inputs have been put in or which special technology has been used to create the product or service they are buying. Their evaluation of the product or the service is done by the ability of the product to satisfy their requirements. The most outstanding feature of Lean Manufacturing is guaranteed quality which is automatically achieved either by sending a warning signal to workers or by halting the manufacturing process which is restarted only after the fault is fully rectified (Lean Manufacturing Basics, Aza Badurdeen).

In the event of a stoppage of work due to quality problems, workers involved in that process are made aware of the reasons as to why that defect surfaced and are sufficiently trained to ensure that such defects never recur. If necessary, a new production process is introduced if the defect had occurred due to a loophole in the production process itself.

If there is a quality problem with a particular product or if it is unable to completely satisfy the customer, minimal changes are made to the existing product till it is able to completely satisfy the customer. The entire product is not discarded. As soon as the customer signals his approval a corresponding signal is sent to production department to commence production with indicated alterations and modifications. The production process is lined up in such a manner only replenishment of stock at each stage of production is done. There is no overproduction leading to unnecessary stockpiling in inventory.

Care is taken to avoid any form of urgent or rushed production as that requires extra manpower that otherwise could be avoided if production is levelled out at an even pace throughout the available lead time. If 1000 units are to be despatched within 25 days, every day 40 units are produced instead of producing the entire quantity within the last five days while doing nothing about this order during the first twenty days.

With passage of time, customers also start believing on the ability of the company to supply regularly and in time. This leads to placing of long term orders having well spaced delivery schedules with no scope of any urgent or rush orders. It is needless to add that such mutual trust between supplier and customer leads to financial gains for both.

Lean manufacturing offers few ready to use and proven solutions for any industry. But to use them we have to customize these solutions to according to the organization. To use these techniques one should start with lean thinking.

Synopsis of Just-In-Time Manufacturing

The basic driving force of JIT Manufacturing is a firm belief that any idle inventory is a drain the scarce resources of the company. This concept, it is needless to emphasise, forms the foundation of Lean Management techniques. Just-in-Time can be achieved only if there is perfect coordination between purchasing, production and distribution functions of an enterprise.

If demand can be accurately predicted, it might be used to calculate the total requirement of raw materials and devise a ration schedule of inflow of raw materials. If the scheduling has been done properly there will never be any unnecessary stockpiling of raw material inventory. However, the production department must also play its role by maintaining a steady rate of consumption of raw materials and distribution department should also ensure that there is no slow moving inventory of finished goods. If all of these three departments act in a coordinated manner, there would neither be any unnecessary stockpiling of neither raw materials nor work-in-process nor finished goods and the enterprise can function effectively by carrying bare minimum levels of stock.

However, the production department must remain vigilant in calculating the requirement of inputs and streamlining the flow of raw materials. Use of software often helps to solve this critical problem by helping production and purchase departments to ensure that required raw materials are regularly supplied to production department just at that very point in time when they are necessary.

JIT inventory scheme can be described as a system that provides material of requisite quality, at the right time, at the exact place and in the precise quantity without the safety network of inventory. The implementers have a broad purpose for this. Hence we can say that JIT is a prescription of constant expansion by eliminating non value adding activities and ensuring cost reduction, improved performance, improved quality, improved delivery and enhancing innovations. These characteristics of JIT automatically improve efficiency and profitability of an organisation.

Advantages derived from Just-In-Time technique

  • Working capital that was locked in inventories is freed.
  • Areas previously used to store inventories are lessened saving upon the rentals and insurance expenses.
  • Reduced output time creates the scope of further output and lends greater flexibility in the organisation as it is able to respond more quickly to customer requirements.

Problems faced in implementing Just-In-Time technique

  • It might be an expensive and difficult proposition to apply JIT procedures in the business as it might require a radical overhauling existing procedures and techniques.
  • It will surely expose the business to risks of disruption in supply chain like supplier’s delivery delay or unexpected orders that have to despatched on an emergency basis.

Total Quality Management

The basic objective of TQM is to do lean management in manufacturing or providing service. TQM techniques increase the customer contentment, reorganize supply chain management and effectively train the workforce. TQM aims to reduce quality defects by statistical analysis, quality audits, teamwork, quality standards, relationship between suppliers and consumers to clearly understand the requirement for the final product.

Sometimes people tend to confuse between TQM and Six Sigma. While TQM focuses on the entire management mode of a company and satisfies the internal desire of a company to improve in all spheres of activity, Six Sigma focuses on improvement of the quality of the finished output and tends to eliminate errors in the production process that might have led to such quality problems (Total Quality Management (TQM) By R. Ashley Rawlins).

Total Preventive Maintenance (TPM)

It is a program used for maintenance of plants and equipments of a manufacturing organisation. The aim is to increase productivity along with greater job satisfaction of employees which would automatically boost their morale.

The machine operator who is in constant touch with the machine is trained to carry out regular routine maintenance of the machine. This does not mean that maintenance department is totally done away with. It only means that the machine operator also becomes a part of the maintenance team that consists of several experts.  As the operator takes care of routine maintenance and immediately informs the experts if there is a problem that is beyond him to tackle, the possibilities of total breakdowns are almost totally eliminated. The machine operator also enhances his job skills by learning basic maintenance over and above the operating skills that he already possesses.

Implementation of TPM

(Plant Maintenance Resource Center 2009)

TPM rests on eight pillars, so to say, and strives to achieve a situation where there will not be any losses due to breakdown of machines or stoppage of production due to some malfunction or the other in plant and machinery of a company.

  1. The first pillar – 5S

A disorganized workplace makes it doubly difficult to identify maintenance problems. Hence, before tackling the disease the patient should be made to follow basic rules of hygiene. Only when a workplace is neat, tidy and well organized is it possible to identify the root cause of a maintenance issue. TPM thus sets out with the objective of organizing the workplace through the following activities:

Seiri (Sorting out): There are three categories of items that are present in every workplace, and they are items that are critical, items that are important but not critical, items that are regularly used but are neither critical nor are they important and items that are not immediately needed but would be required at some later stage. There are of course waste and scrap and redundant items. Critical and important items should be kept at hand and all other items that are not in used at present should be stored at some other place. Gradation of an item is to be determined by its relevance and not on its cost. Such a sorting out and rearrangement would drastically reduce the time spent is searching them.

Seiton (Proper Organisation): Every item should have a designated place where it is to be stored and should be put back to its designated place after use. If necessary, proper tags and identification symbols should be inserted and these tags should be legible even in darker corners of the shop floor. Vertical racks would be ideal to store such items and heavier items should be kept at the bottom while lighter and handy items may occupy higher shelves.

Seiso (Shine the workplace): Cleaning is an important part of this step. It involves cleaning the workplace like no loosely hang wires, free of oil, clear the extra grease, removing the scrap, no oil leakage from machines, etc. 

Seiketsu (Standardization): To maintain the standard of cleanliness in the workplace this is decided by all the workers of the company. To keep up to the standard random inspections or tests are done.

Shitsuke (Self discipline): Following the 5S way the employee should pursue the self discipline. This involves wearing proper uniforms, strictly following work processes, loyalty towards company, staying punctual, etc.

  1. The second pillar – JISHU HOZEN (Autonomous maintenance ):

This is a policy of making machine operators responsible for regular maintenance and minor repairs of the machines they work on. This frees the more skilled maintenance staff to concentrate on more crucial issues rather than spend their time on regular and routine maintenance.

The Jishu Hozen policy can be summarized as:

  1. Continuous operations of the equipments.
  2. Operators provide enough flexibility to operate and maintain the other equipments.
  3. Through active employee participation the defects can be abolished.
  4. Following the stepwise execution of JH activities.

Jishu Hozen activities are aimed at the reduction on the working capital by half as the oil consumption is reduced, cutting back of the process time, etc.

The steps of the Jishu Hozen are as following:

  1. Training of Employees:

The employees must be made aware about TPM and its uses, JH steps and its rewards, etc. Educated employees help in the overall growth as they would understand their responsibilities and would be able to quickly identify any functional problems in the machines and equipments they work on.

  1. Cleaning up of machines:
    • Outer part of the machine should be free from dust, oil and grease; as well the inner part should be taken care of by repairing any kind of leaks, and fastening of any nuts or bolts that might have become lose through regular use, and identifying and, if possible, replacing depreciated parts.
    • Then the tagging step is followed by describing the tags for certain problems, specifying the further skilled maintenance and documenting the tags suitably.
    • Taking adequate care of the areas which are inaccessible by the maintenance staff.
    • The exposed parts of the machine are covered and the machine is started.
  2. Setting up a Maintenance Schedule:
    • There should be a schedule for inspection, cleaning and lubrication of machines and this schedule has to be strictly adhered to by employees who are responsible for these activities. A proper log book should be maintained where details of previous inspection are to be noted.
  3. Routine Inspection:
    • The employees should strictly abide by the inspection manuals that the company introduces for this purpose and always be ready to share their knowledge with others too.
    • With the newly acquired technical knowledge, the operators become more confident of operating their machines and become more aware of its various components.
  4. Special Inspection :
    • New techniques related to lubrication and cleaning up of machines are introduced during such an inspection.
    • Each worker gets a chance to participate in the scheduling with consultation of supervisor.
    • All those parts of the machine which function without any problem are taken out of this special inspection schedule. Which parts would qualify for that distinction would be determined by the workers by virtue of their long term association with these machines.
    • To avoid the defects in JH the good quality machine parts are used.
    • The rate of inspections and cleanups are reduced through the experienced employees.
  5. Standardization :
    • The surroundings of the machinery are organized in this step. Like the necessary items used are organised in the manner were searching to time is reduced.
    • Work place surroundings are modified so that any item that is required can be traced without any problem.
    • This has to be followed by everyone very strictly.
    • Everybody must adhere to the work manual scrupulously.
    • Essential auxiliaries necessary for running the machines are procured through advance planning.
  1. The third pillar – Kaizen or the Early-Phase Management:

Kaizen literally means revolution for betterment. Unlike thorough modernisation that requires substantial investment and a shakeup of existing structures, Kaizen hardly requires any investment and it is initiated by the workers at the shop floor. As they are in constant touch with machines and are directly involved in production process they are the best judges and commentators about the small improvements that might be implemented to cause incremental improvements in the entire production process. When such incremental improvements are taken together, they cause a remarkable improvement in overall functioning of an enterprise. 

  1. The fourth pillar – Planned Maintenance:

Planned maintenance aims at ensuring that machines do not suddenly breakdown causing a complete stoppage of production.  For better management and supervision, planned maintenance is generally further broken down into maintenances that are preventive, breakdown, corrective and protective in nature.

Planned maintenance guidelines are for the machine’s sustenance, reliability, optimum maintenance, availability and reduction spares inventories. The planned maintenance helps in avoiding breakdown of equipment, improved reliability and maintainability, reduced maintenance cost and assurance of spares availability.

Following steps are followed in setting up a planned maintenance schedule:

  1. Every machine is properly and carefully evaluated from the perspective of its productive efficiency and the details of such inspection are noted down in the logbook maintained by maintenance Department.
  2. Wear and tear that is natural with any machine is halted through proper repairs which are aimed at improving the longevity of the machine.
  3. Putting in place a proper procedure of periodically collecting, collating and disseminating all relevant information about each machine that is installed within the premises.
  4. Periodic evaluation of the efficacy of programme of planned maintenance.
  1. The fifth pillar – Quality Maintenance:

The ultimate objective of any organisation is to satisfy its customers. The only way to achieve complete customer satisfaction is to provide products that are of very high quality that is consistently in every batch. Since quality of output has crucial bearing on the very existence of an organisation, every management is very particular about it and pulls out all stops to achieve consistency in standards of output that passes out of the factory gates.

Such consistency or minimisation of non-conformities can only be possible if the tools, equipments and machines operate at their peak capacities and never trouble the workers who can then concentrate entirely on producing high quality output. Quality maintenance takes a very organised, systematic and rational approach to the whole issue and strives to contribute by ensuring machines function without even the slightest of trouble.

The stated objectives of Quality Maintenance are:

  1. Maintaining the machines in such a manner that they function without any trouble.
  2. All activities of Quality Maintenance are directed towards assuring a steady quality each and every batch of output.
  3. Identifying and rectifying defects at their origin before they spread out elsewhere and cause significant disruption of production process.
  4. Try to implement a system that is fool proof and would under no circumstances allow any unexpected hold ups in the production process to take place.
  5. Constructive assistance towards improving operator efficiency.
  1. The sixth pillar – Training and Education:

The basic objective of training and education is to have a well qualified and self motivated workforce that is willing to go that extra mile to serve the interests of the organization. This can be achieved only when employees are aware of why they are carrying out a particular activity. Once they become aware of it they would automatically become more interested in their jobs and it would lead to an army of dedicated and committed workers.

The training should be done in a systematic manner starting with the primary stage when a worker does not know the theory behind the job he is carrying out every day. Upon being imparted the theoretical knowledge the worker would be in a position where he knows the theory but not able to implement it in a practical scenario. Let us take the case of a worker in steel rolling mill. He might be working for years on a particular machine but does not know how it works. Once the required theoretical knowledge is imparted, the worker would be able to describe how the machine works, but in case the machine develops some problem, he would not be in a position to rectify it.

In the third stage the worker is given sufficient training so that he is able to rectify faults in the machine that he operates but he is still not in a position or is confident enough to teach others how to repair or maintain the machine.

The fourth stage ensures that the worker is able to efficiently impart his knowledge to others and is also able to train several other workers. Once this process starts rolling, it would not be long before all the workers become experts in maintenance and the organisation can radically trim down its maintenance department. 

The policy behind the sixth pillar is:

  • To develop and disseminate requisite skills and knowledge among employees.
  • Creating an ambience that would motivate employees to come forward on their own and enhance their skills in areas that they feel necessary.
  • Preparing training materials and procuring latest tools and implements necessary for imparting training at workplace.
  • Impart such training that reduces employee fatigue and consequently raise their morale.

These days, technological innovations are literally falling over one another to reach the market and every organisation needs to be at the cutting edge of technology in order to survive and prosper in the fiercely competitive market conditions. Training and education of employees plays a very big role as they continually upgrade the skills and capabilities of employees of an organisation. Thus an organisation that is equipped with an efficient training and education department will never have to endure downtime due to non-availability of suitably trained employee to run its sophisticated machines.

  1. The seventh pillar – Office TPM

Generally when discussions are being done regarding efficiency and productivity the immediate image that comes to our minds is that of a shop floor. It is undoubtedly true that efficiency at shop floor is of utmost importance but efficiency at offices of an organisation is equally important for the entity to survive and prosper as a commercially viable business unit. As already mentioned earlier, the main objective of TPM is to ensure an uninterrupted productive ambience by maintaining all equipments and machines that are present in a company. It is quite obvious then that such an all pervasive maintenance program would also take within its folds maintenance of equipments used in office. If all desktops functioned without a glitch or all fax machines performed with clockwork precision turning out razor sharp copies one after the other without a break, productivity in offices would surely increase manifold. With increased degree of automation, the importance and relevance of TPM at office is increasing by the day. Each business unit is reducing manpower and becoming more and more dependent on machines. Therefore, if there is breakdown of an office machine, the consequences could be as disastrous as a breakdown in a vital machine at the shop floor.

Introduction of TPM at office would also ensure improvement in efficiency through proper organisation and utilisation of office space and pruning out monotonous work to the minimum extent possible. It hardly needs to be emphasised that reduction of monotony at workplace increases employee efficiency.

Expenses on postage and office stationery, though insignificant when compared to expenses on raw materials and consumables, are nonetheless significant when viewed in absolute terms. TPM in office ensures drastic reduction wasteful consumption of such items which contribute their small mite towards improving the bottom-line of an organisation. Hence, unnecessary though it might seem at first glance, total preventive maintenance in the office of an organisation is equally beneficial to the overall efficiency and productivity of the business.

  1. The eighth pillar – Safety, Health and Environment:

Activities connected with this pillar touch upon the establishing the safe and secure work place and a neighbouring region which is neither polluted nor exploited by our process of production. This is important pillar in all the above mentioned above pillars as it has to be in regular and habitual basis. The achieving the success in this process a group of experts is composed from all the levels of company’s management like managers and workers.
















The basic purpose of any production process is to add value to the raw materials that are introduced in the process by utilizing the available labour and capital in the most efficient manner possible. It is pretty obvious that the production process will most certainly be geared towards producing those items that are in greater demand as any business entity tries to shorten the working capital cycle as much as possible so as to generate maximum amount of profit in the shortest possible time frame. But there is one other element that affects the overall profitability of any organisation, and that is the volume of capital employed. As any student of management accounting is aware of, the quantum of capital employed in plant and machinery is more or less uniform across an industry as all players generally opt for the latest technology so as to enjoy maximum levels of operating efficiency. So, there is not much to differentiate between the competitors in that regard. But the area where the leaders leave the stragglers behind is supply chain management and inventory control. If a proper and taut control over inventory is not maintained, the level of capital employed can never be brought down while keeping the operational efficiency intact.

Tight control over inventory levels can be maintained if and only if an organisation implements Toyota Production System which is another name for the manufacturing system innovated by that giant of automobile industry. But TPS is not restricted to automobile or manufacturing industries only; it can be applied to any form of industry including service industry too. TPS brings in its wake Lean Management techniques that automatically reduce levels of inventory across the board in any industry and also remorseless weeds out non-value adding activities irrespective of how dear or hyped those activities might be. Thus, it is a common sight to suddenly find that some activities that were till the other considered sacrosanct and highly confidential suddenly become irrelevant and redundant overnight. This happens because in enterprises which have been functioning for decades it is bound to have some activities that have remained simply because they were there since ages. Nobody dares to question the effectiveness or necessity of such activities and they keep on being performed without adding any value to the final product and only causing a wholly unnecessary drain on scarce resources at the disposal of the company.

Lean Management techniques identify such activities and prune those out resulting in overall improvement in the efficiency of the enterprise. These techniques also improve employee morale through proper and scientific training and create proper ambience at workplace that further increases productivity and efficiency of workforce.

























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Bay Street is an urban retail developer whose flagship project is a million square foot urban development project for retail outlets at Emeryville in California. Though development and construction of residential units is also a part of the entire project; that part is not the subject matter of the current case study. As the first part project itself was huge, management categorised it into five different sectors from A to E. This was deemed necessary for better management and control while executing the project.

The retail project was initiated as Design-Bid-Build endeavour and the services of an architectural and firm was sought to complete the architectural design as well as the electrical and mechanical designs that would blend perfectly with the architecture. The architectural firm was chosen in August 2000 and they set off to prepare the blueprint of the electrical design within November 2000. By May 2001 the blueprint was finalised and an electrical contractor was given the job of implementing the blueprint. A civil contractor (the PM Company) had already been appointed a couple of months earlier and by early summer that year civil construction had begun in full swing.

By November 2002, the development of retail space was completed with a theatre that had sixteen screens and a seating capacity of more than three thousand seats, sixty five shops and a total of nine restaurants. The second stage of the project that consisted of residential units had an expected completion date of December 2003, but as it is not to be considered here, we would focus exclusively on the first part of the project.


The complexity of the project would be clear from the fact that in each building, other than in building E, there is an electrical room having a low voltage switchboard manufactured by Siemens. Building E has not one but two electrical rooms. Each building has 150 panel boards and 8 MCCs and each one of those is unique because of varying tenant demands. The total electrical requirement of Building A is 4000A (the highest among all the five buildings as it also houses the theatre which alone has a power requirement of 2000A), Building B requires 1600A, and Buildings C, D and E requires 1200A, 1200A and 2300A respectively. The local electricity company allowed a peak load of 4000A for each building and anything beyond that required a special permit.

The purchase order for switchboards was released in February 2002 and all the switchboards were delivered at site in May 2002. By mid-June, work started for setting up the first switchboard in Building A and by mid-November installation of the final switchboard in Building E was almost complete. Though the panel boards and MCCs were ordered simultaneously with switch boards the delivery was taken in a staggered manner.


The discussion regarding opportunities to improve is based on interviews and submission made by persons involved with the job. It is observed that there is still a substantial scope of improvement, especially in the design and procurement stages.

Design Stage

A few suggestions for improvement at design stage require almost simultaneous changes in purchasing stage as well. Moreover, if some other suggestions are to be seriously implemented, it will require some organizational restructuring as well.

Streamlining the Document Flow

A restructuring of the organisational setup would, quite obviously, streamline the flow of documents and information through the organisation and would substantially reduce response and decision making time thereby speeding up the entire project. As of now, in the event of a  minor modification of the electrical design; Design Department of Siemens (the manufacturer of switchboards) has to pass it on to the department in charge of ensuring proper despatch of documents throughout the organisation (some sort of a private post office) which then sends it to the electrical contractor who after perusal and necessary comments and suggestions pass it on to the civil contractor who, again after necessary perusal and comments, passes it on to electrical engineer working at site. The electrical engineer, after studying the pros and cons, sends his comments and suggestions that retrace their way through the same route till they reach the design department of Siemens which then sends it to its production department.

The following diagram shows the process of placing orders and initiating modifications that is at present in vogue in Bay Street Company.

If instead, the design department despatches the modified designs directly to the engineer on site and receive his comments and suggestions equally directly, the whole project could be considerably speeded up by eliminating the unnecessary delay of nearly six weeks that elapse between initiation of design modification and commencement of modification activities at Siemens manufacturing facility.

A possible option would be to send the documents via e-mail but that would only marginally reduce the waiting time as the major part of the delay is caused by the seemingly endless flow of the document from one department to the other in Bay Street Company. Such a restricting of document flow would result in eliminating at least five nodes in the communication process.

Manufacturing Stage

It actually depends a lot on Siemens as to whether it would try and reduce its lead time. The first thing which it can do (with active prodding by Bay Street) is to synchronise its manufacturing and despatch schedules with requirements at site. Bay Street might also insist on receiving deliveries based only on actual demand (something akin to JIT manufacturing theory) instead of receiving them in bulk. This would also help Siemens as it would be ordering for components accordingly which would reduce its work-in-process stock substantially.



It seems that procurement and delivery procedures could be substantially improved by eliminating unnecessary flow of documents and sequencing receipt of consignments in accordance with requirement of components at construction site. The basic motto would be to reduce non-value adding activities. Some of basic reasons for such unreasonably prolonged delays in delivery could be:

  1. The amalgamation of the department entrusted with designing switchboards and the department responsible for procurement of those switchboards with other departments that were not involved in such critical activities
  2. Failure to properly connect the entire flow of activities that go into the execution of this huge project leading to a break in the “pull” exerted by requirements at production site on all the preceding activities. This resulted in stockpiling of inventories at some places while there was inordinate delay in other areas on account of improper streamlining of information flow
  3. Almost unmanageably large lots of documents that kept on moving from one department to the other
  4. Unwieldy bureaucratic organization structure at Bay Street Company


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