High Trust and Low Trust Societies

It’s my friend’s first year studying in Canada after living in India his entire life. I asked him what his observations are of Canadian culture. He answered by first describing India as a low trust society, while Canada, on the other hand, is a high trust society. This is something that I take for granted every day.

What is a high trust and low trust society?

A low trust society is defined as one in which interpersonal trust is relatively low, and which do not have shared ethical values. And vice versa for a high trust society.

An example of a low trust society is Venezuela. Trust in the government is low, mass looting of grocery stores are taking place, and many people opt for fences and security if they can afford it. A high trust society is one like Sweden, trust in the government is fairly high, crime is relatively low, and you don’t have to worry about someone breaking into your car.

Why does trust matter?

There’s a high cost to low trust. Both socially as well as financially. In general, a low trust society is less productive as it takes longer to get things done.

A small example, is when I’m studying at Waterloo, where trust is fairly high. I can leave my laptop and backpack in the library reassured that it’s likely going to be there when I get back. However, when I’m studying at a coffee shop in Brampton, relatively a lower trust society than Waterloo. I have to pack my things and bring it to me even if I’m leaving for a couple minutes. The time saved between packing my stuff and leaving it there is an example of the efficiency of a high trust society.

Interchange that example with companies engaging in business, the legal process, or the microinteractions between people in that system. And in a low trust society, you can have large inefficiencies leading to an unproductive system.

How can we increase trust within our organizations, countries, and the world as a whole?

February 22, 2020 · Economics

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