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Survey shows more people would choose to marry a plumber than a movie star


KUALA LUMPUR — Leading global market intelligence firm Synovate today released results from a seven-market survey on professions that revealed that people in the medical profession are the best marriage material, and people trust teachers more than any other profession.

Synovate’s US-based Global Head of Performance Tracking, John Vidmar, said that much of who we are is tied up in what we do in the hours from nine to five.

“Asking someone what they do for a living is often the first question you ask them, right after ’what’s your name?’ So we conducted this survey, in part, to answer the question of what are people’s gut reactions when you tell them what you do?” he said.

The seven-market survey was conducted in October 2008, covering 5,500 respondents in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Malaysia, South Africa and the United States (US). The study asked people what makes for an admirable job, which professions they trust (or not), who’s overpaid - and which profession they would prefer to marry.

Move over Clooney...

It turns out you can top all the ’sexiest’ person lists in the world and still not be marriage material. More respondents would choose to marry trades people, lawyers, business people, in fact just about anyone... than would choose to marry actors or musicians.

The Synovate professions survey asked people to nominate which, of a list of professions, they would choose a life partner from. It turns out medicine makes for marriage material, with 16% nominating doctors and nurses and others in the field as preferred partners, higher than any other single profession. Answers were fairly spread among the professions, and other popular choices were education (14%) and science and technology (10%).

Right down the bottom of the marriage material scale were those in retail (1%); the media, advertising and marketing fields at 2%; and entertainers, actors and musicians at 3%.

We care for caring careers

The survey also looked at what makes a job admirable. While there are many factors that may contribute, the respondents were asked to prioritise by choosing just one characteristic that makes a profession the most admirable.

More than half of the respondents chose those who help others as being in the most admirable professions. Specifically, the top characteristics that make for an admirable job were ’It helps people with their health’ at 27%, followed by ’It helps educate people’ at 24%. But there is still room for a good time at work as 14% nominated ’It is fun’ as the most important attribute for an admirable job. And if you want to have fun, it seems that Canada is the place to be. Clearly a nation of fun lovers, 23% of Canadian respondents selected this characteristic. What’s more, it tied with ’those who educate people’ as the most important characteristic.

Brazilians clearly care for health workers as 48% ranked those who help people with their health as most admirable, more than any other market surveyed.

Synovate’s Research Director of Brazil, Vasiliki Calliyeris, puts this down to public priorities.

“Every time a Governor or President is elected, the single most important issue for the Brazilian population is health. Like most places, our health system could do with improvement - more people and resources - and health policy can make or break politicians’ careers. I am not surprised that Brazilians so admire those who actually work in the field.”

Education was the greatest focus for Americans, something that is consistent with the overall American ethos, said Vidmar.

"For the first time ever, the US has elected a President who had an immigrant parent. President-elect Obama’s father came to the US to advance his education. Obama himself followed the path that has been trodden by generations of immigrants’ children - seize the educational opportunities that this country offers.

“America values education because it fits well against our stake in individuality. We believe people can improve themselves and education is one major way to do this.”

Trust me, I’m a doctor

And, mostly, we do. Eighty-six percent of respondents trust those in the medical profession, although teachers were top of the class when it comes to trust, with 87% trusting those in the education profession. People in the science and technology fields were also largely trusted (86%) as were homemakers (84%).

The single least trusted professional group across the seven markets surveyed was found to be the media profession. This included journalists, and people in advertising, public relations and marketing - six in ten people said they do not trust people in these professions.

This was especially low in the US and France where three quarters of respondents mistrust media and marketers.

Other professions that may have slightly challenging reputations are retail (59% said they do not trust people in this field) and entertainers like musicians and actors (54%).

Two thirds of Americans and 65% of Chinese do not trust entertainers, and John Vidmar attributed this to a modern celebrity culture.

“The culture - or cult - of celebrity makes these people extremely important figures, but at the same time it also makes us sceptical of their motives. Their lives play out like public soap operas while companies throw advertising money at them.”

China trusts the medical profession a lot less than other markets do (22% don’t trust them) but trusts corporate executives (CEOs, business, etc) more than other markets. Sixty-seven percent of Chinese trust them versus just 53% of respondents globally and only 26% in the US.

Darryl Andrew, CEO of Synovate China said: "There is a very wide variety in service standards in China in the healthcare sector and there are some remaining image and reputation issues following a major contaminated blood scare from a decade ago in one of the provinces.

"Meanwhile, there continues to be issues surrounding ’die-hard’ attitudes in some hospitals where patients have to prove their ability to pay before treatment.

“On the corporate side, however, governance has improved in leaps and bounds. Furthermore, there is considerable respect awarded to those who are running flagship companies like China Mobile and Lenovo, and hero status for those who have built their business from scratch - people like the heads of Alibaba (a large business-to-business portal) or Chery (a local car manufacturer).”

Community services like police, fire and ambulance workers are generally well trusted. The highest levels of trust for these services can be found in Canada (93%), France (93%) and the US (91%).

Rob Myers, Managing Director of Synovate in Canada, said: “These services help save lives and the perception is that most people working in them are motivated by the greater good rather than money.”

Underpaid or overpaid?

The Synovate study also asked respondents which of the professions under discussion were the most underpaid. Of course there are variations across markets but the the most underpaid professions were perceived to be homemakers (27%), trades people (24%) and educators (14%).

The survey also asked who was overpaid and found it was fat wallets all around for those in corporate jobs (26% think they are the most overpaid), entertainers (16%) and the legal profession (14%). Perhaps the perception of corporate fat cats will change in coming months as many large companies shed positions.

In the US, the number of people who nominated corporate executives as overpaid was 39%, the highest of any market. Americans were also most likely to believe entertainers are overpaid (26%).

Even though homemakers were voted the most likely to be underpaid, the survey showed wide variance by market. Forty-four percent of Canadians answered homemaker but it was as low as 15% in South Africa and 19% in Malaysia and China.

Managing Director of Synovate in Malaysia, Steve Murphy, said: “In Asia there is no expectation for homemakers to be paid, so the low level of agreement in Malaysia is probably a reflection of that fact.”

Darryl Andrew explained the China result: "There is simply a very low proportion of married women (and absolutely no men) that choose to remain as homemakers. They are out in paid employment.

“Mao did say that ’women hold up half the sky’. Perhaps his reference to ’sky’ can be seen as symbolic of the modern Chinese economy!”

Love me, love my job

The Synovate professions survey also explored how people feel about their own profession, as well as how important it is to partners and parents.

An encouraging 82% of respondents reported feeling proud of their profession and 71% don’t care if others admire their profession. Professional pride was as high as 89% in Brazil and at a low in China with 70% reporting feeling proud of what they do.

Darryl Andrew said: “China is a nation of strivers. The Chinese people are continually seeking to better themselves so are not often satisfied with their current position - this is historic and can be traced all the way back to the Tang Dynasty when the exam system was put in place to appoint Mandarins.”

Cultural differences were also very apparent in the way different countries answered whether they agreed with the statement ’I believe a person is defined by what he or she does for a living’. Overall, half agreed (51%), but it was highest at 79% in Malaysia and only 31% in Canada and 29% in the US.

Rob Myers points out that, while many people place a very high priority on work, it’s not the be all and end all in Canada.

“Canada is a multicultural society with a fairly strong social system and an emphasis on egalitarianism. This social backing and ’fairness’ allows people to focus on things other than simply work.”

By contrast, Malaysia’s Steve Murphy said: “It is exceedingly important to have a good job in Malaysia. It is perceived to reflect your social status and a high status improves your lot in life - and that of your family.”

Three quarters of all Malaysians say their partner’s profession matters to them and 79% acknowledge that what they do is of the utmost importance to their parents, the highest level of agreement for both statements.

“Generally, families are very close in Malaysia and it is not unusual to see three, or even more, generations living in the same household. So it stands to reason that parents’ views remain very important throughout people’s lives and are usually a consideration in all key life decisions,” Murphy said.

The lowest agreement with the statement ’It matters to my parents what my profession is’ came from the US at 40%.

John Vidmar said: “Our fundamental belief in the intrinsic value of the individual also explains why the US scored the lowest on the question of does it matter to my parents what my profession is. This culture places a high value in people choosing a path that is their own.”


* The Chinese trust lawyers more than any other market surveyed, with two thirds agreeing they do. Americans have the least trust in legal eagles at 32%
* More than a third (35%) of all respondents think people in science and technology are the most intelligent, followed by the medical profession (20%) and educators (12%)
* 15% of French respondents say the medical profession is underpaid, more than in any other market
* 14% of Malaysians admire professions that help people with their finances

About the Synovate professions survey

This In:fact survey looked at professions, and covered just over 5,500 respondents in seven markets around the world - Brazil, Canada, China, France, Malaysia, South Africa and the United States (US). The study was conducted in October 2008 using online, telephone and face-to-face methodologies.

Synovate, the market research arm of Aegis Group plc, generates consumer insights that drive competitive marketing solutions. The network provides clients with cohesive global support and a comprehensive suite of research solutions. Synovate employs over 6,000 staff across 62 countries.

For more information on Synovate visit


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