By Uncle C
Have you noticed the increasing tendency of office workers in Hong Kong to drink alcohol after they finish work in the evening? Come six o’clock or so it is now a very widespread habit for workers to congregate in bars and spend an hour or two downing beer or wine. Short drinks based on spirits like whisky, brandy and gin seem to have gone out of fashion, though vodka has retained a loyal following.
Social drinking at the “magic hour” of six o’clock has become a mainstream daily event but what are its origins? One possibility is that drinking after work has been made more popular by Hong Kong’s very large number of American and European bankers, brokers and financial dealers for whom after-hours drinks are a rite of passage. Just visit Lan Kwai Fong any evening after work and you will see what I mean.
But now academic researchers have come up with a new and very tantalising explanation for the six o’clock drinking phenomenon. They have found that workers who go straight home to their spouse and kids after work earn lower salaries than they colleagues who indulge in social drinking. This is certainly intriguing. The academics even put a figure on how much more the drinkers earn than their tee-total colleagues — 10 percent more for men and 14 percent more for women.
The apparent explanation is that employees who are partial to an after-work pint of beer have an advantage in the workplace because they are more outgoing and gregarious and use their ability to mix well to greater effect at work. When they are drinking outside the office they are also more likely to socialise with their managers, colleagues and clients, building contacts and relationships as a result. Meanwhile those workers who abstain from alcohol completely and are tee-total will not build up the same “social capital” and therefore put themselves at a comparative disadvantage.
The message for office workers seems to be that while excessive drinking is of course unhealthy and can ruin a person’s employment prospects, moderate social drinking can contribute to a more successful working career. When you go social drinking after work, you build up social capital, establish relationships, and keep on adding more names to your mobile’s phone book. The end result is you earn more income.
That leads to the awkward question whether drinkers are more sociable than tee-totallers? The evidence evidently shows that drinkers are indeed more effective socialisers than non-drinkers.
It may well be therefore that the growing number of Hong Kong workers who head to a bar for a drink at the “magic hour”, are without realising it responding intuitively to their instinctive desire to earn that extra dollar. Certainly, both incomes and alcohol consumption have increased a lot in Hong Kong in recent years.
How long will it be before the drink manufacturers start advertising their concoctions with slogans like “Drink this and get richer!”.
Friday, October 20, 2006
By Uncle C