Significant number of men expect intimate office relations

A new global poll finds that a significant share of men expect intimate interactions from employees.

Nearly a quarter of men (23%) across eight countries think it's acceptable for an employer to expect an employee to have intimate interactions with them.

This according to a new global survey on sexual harassment commissioned by the poverty-fighting organization CARE, which was conducted online by Harris Poll, among almost 9,500 adults from Australia, Ecuador, Egypt, India, South Africa, the US, UK, and Vietnam.

The figure was highest in Egypt, where more than 6 out of 10 men (62%) said it's okay for employers to request sex from employees. 

"Being expected to have sex with your employer -- that's not a job description, it's sexual abuse," said Michelle Nunn, CARE's president and CEO. "And it speaks to the global epidemic of harassment and abuse in our workplaces."

CARE commissioned the survey to better understand the often-unspoken rules and perceptions that underlie that epidemic worldwide, and is releasing the results of its poll as part of its new #ThisIsNotWorking campaign. This campaign calls on the International Labour Organization to create a new convention, or global law, around freedom from violence in the workplace.


A gap in what counts as ‘acceptable’

The survey found wide gaps between what men and women find acceptable at work in most countries surveyed.

For example, in India, more than half of men (52%) say it's acceptable to rank colleagues based on appearance, while only 35% of women say that's sometimes or always okay.

Also in India, a third (33%) of all adults thinks it's acceptable to cat-call or wolf-whistle at a colleague.

The CARE poll found that across the eight countries, 32% of women who have ever worked say they have suffered sexual harassment or assault related to work, while the figure is 21% for men.

In countries such as Egypt and India, large shares of women may not even count coerced sex as sexual harassment. In Egypt, more than a third (38%) of women said it's acceptable for an employer to expect an employee to have intimate interactions with them. The figure is 21% among women in India.

Other interesting findings from the survey include: 

  • Adults are split globally on whether it’s appropriate to ask a subordinate on a date. Roughly half of adults (49%) in the eight countries surveyed take no issue with it,  while the other half (51%) say it is never acceptable.
  • In Ecuador, a fifth (21%) of 18-24 year olds think it is fine to kiss a colleague at an office party without permission -- compared with only 6% of those in the 45-54 age group.
  • In the UK, more than a third (35%) of 25-34 year olds don't see any problem in pinching a colleague's bottom in jest.
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