Global trust in 'my employer' hits new high

There's no doubt the level of trust that people have in institutions and firms has a direct impact on how successful the latter are. A fresh survey reveals a lot about the sensitivities of people across the globe.

                "The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." (Ernest Hemingway)

People's trust in governments, institutions and companies seems hard to gauge, but it's exactly what US-based marketing consultancy Edelman has been doing for almost two decades.

Over the past 19 years, the communications firm has studied and documented some vital opinion shifts in its annual Trust Barometer.

The 2019 edition of the global survey emphasizes once more that trust is a critical asset for any organization. And it has a strong message for the business world. "We're observing fascinating parallels between the level of trust a company enjoys and its long-term performance in the marketplace and on the stock market."

Lessons to learn

Here are some major takeaways from the 2019 poll. Perhaps the most astonishing result of the survey is that people hold more trust in their own employers than in any single institution around them.

A staggering 75 percent of respondents globally have expressed confidence in their respective employers — that's 19 points more than trust in business in general and a whopping 27 points more than trust in governments compared with last year's results.

As industrial robots are on the rise, workers need to be retrained for new jobs

Much in the same vein, 76 percent of those polled are of the opinion that CEOs should take the lead on change, rather than waiting for governments to step into action where change is needed, marking an 11-point increase from a year earlier.

CEOs stepping up to the plate?

People are particularly confident that top executives can push pay equality, fight discrimination and organize on-the-job training to make employees fit for the jobs of tomorrow.

"In the face of heightened expectations on CEOs to step into the trust vacuum left by government, the pressure is on them to do more and quickly," concludes Edelman's Stephen Kehoe, global chair, Reputation.

What the study also bears out is that workers, who have trust in their employers, are far more likely to advocate on behalf of their companies and remain far more loyal and committed than their more skeptical counterparts.

According to the survey, employees' expectations that their bosses will join them in taking action on societal issues (67 percent) is nearly as high as their expectations of personal empowerment (74 percent) and job opportunity (80 percent).

French protesters wearing yellow vests are making their voices heard in Paris as anger over President Emmanuel Marcron's reforms rises

Growing disenchantment

While the survey acknowledges that there's a significant divergence in trust between the informed public and mass populations, it states that the world is united on one front — all respondents share an urgent desire for economic and political change no matter where they live.

Only one in five feels the current system is working for them, with nearly half of "mass population" respondents saying the system around them is failing them.

While not everyone is taking to the streets, the data shows why protests like the Gilet Jaunes (yellow vests) in France, the women's marches in India and walkouts by employees at some major tech companies could become more mainstream," says Kehoe.

Gender gap (trap)

In the perception of respondents, companies' pursuit of maximum profits does not have to mean they're bad for society. Some 73 percent agree that a firm can take specific actions that both increase earnings and improve the economic and social conditions in the communities where it operates — a 9 percent increase from 2018.

Let's not suppress another major takeaway from the barometer: Trust is divided along gender lines. Women trust a lot less in institutions and companies than men overall, with a 5-point gap globally and double-digit gender gaps in Germany (12 points), the United States (11 points) and the United Arab Emirates (10 points).

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Mad at Macron

Since his election in May 2016, French President Emmanuel Macron's popularity has fallen steadily thanks to unpopular financial policies, such as ending a wealth tax, and his public manner, which many see as aloof and arrogant. But it was his planned fuel-tax hike, an environmental measure, that really kicked things off. An online video saying Macron is "hounding drivers" goes viral in October.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Nationwide protests

Online outrage is soon transferred to France's streets as more than 290,000 demonstrators don the high-visibility vests that drivers are required by law to keep in their cars. They block roads nationwide. The protests, coordinated via social media, have no structural organization, lack visible leadership and disavow union or party ties. At least one person is killed and more than 150 are arrested.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Clashes and destruction

The Macron government says it won't back down, and further protests are scheduled. On November 24, some 100,000 people protest nationwide, with 8,000 in Paris, where violence and destruction breaks out. Police clash with protesters on the Champs-Elysees (above), using water canon and tear gas. Over €1 million ($1.1 million) in damage is reported.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Cracking under pressure

The "yellow vest" protests are a massive problem for Macron. He initially refuses to budge on the fuel tax, then proposes adjustment in case of rising oil costs. Not satisfied, protesters hit French streets again on December 1, with violence and vandalism erupting in Paris. Macron calls a crisis meeting the next day and on December 5, amid threats of more protests, Macron ditches the fuel tax.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Paris on lockdown

Macron, however, refuses to reinstitute the wealth tax and dismisses protesters' calls for his resignation. The "yellow vests" defy easy categorization, as protesters include both far-left and far-right supporters who opposed Macron's presidency bid. On December 8, nationwide violent protests take place again. Armored vehicles roll down Paris streets as much of the city goes on lockdown.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Speech to the nation

On December 10, Macron responds to the 4-week-old protests with a televised speech to the nation from the Elysee Palace. More than 21 million viewers tune in as Macron strikes a conciliatory tone, saying he accepts his "share of responsibility" for the crisis. He introduces new financial measures, including a minimum-wage hike, tax-free overtime pay and tax exemptions for low-income retirees.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Neighboring discontent

In the meantime, the "yellow vest" protests jump beyond France's borders to other countries. In Belgium, demonstrators expressed anger over high taxes and food prices, as well as low wages and pensions. Anti-riot police responded with water cannon after protesters threw rocks at the prime minister's office. In Germany, protesters also turned out in Berlin and Munich.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

NYE calm

Protesters in France continue into late December, though turnout numbers fall. That doesn't discourage unofficial but high-profile protest leaders, who use social media to encourage continued demonstrations. On New Year's Eve, many revelers wear yellow vests as they take part in peaceful, "festive" gatherings in Paris.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

No end in 2019

Any hopes for calm in the new year were quickly dashed when on January 5 a fresh round of nationwide protests saw some 50,000 take part, an increase in turnout after the holiday lull but less than initial December gatherings. In Paris, some protesters clashed with police, setting fire to motorcycles and storming government buildings. Macron condemned the violence, saying, "Justice will be done."

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

'Reclaiming' yellow vest protests

Several hundred women wearing yellow vests marched through Paris on January 6 in an effort to restore a peaceful image to the "yellow vest" protests. At one point during the march, the women protesters fell to their knees in a minute of silence for the 10 people killed and many others injured since the start of the movement.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

'Grand debate'

In response to the "yellow vest" protests, Macron has begun a series of town hall discussions where he said he would hear the concerns of the French. His first was on January 15 in the northern town of Grand Bourgtheroulde, where around 600 mayors from the Normandy region gathered to raise complaints from their constituents.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Rubber bullets do damage, too

Prominent activist Jerome Rodrigues was injured in a confrontation on January 26. Rodrigues said he was hit in the eye by a police rubber bullet, an anti-riot weapon that has become highly controversial in France. The incident led to public outrage and was one of many severe injuries that protest groups blamed on the rubber bullets.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Court rules rubber bullets fair game

Following numerous injuries and outcry from the left-wing CGT trade union and the French Human Rights League, top French legal authority Council of State (Conseil d'Etat) refused on February 1 ban police from using the "sub-lethal" Defense Ball Launchers (LBDs) . The court said the risk of violence at the demonstrations made it "necessary to allow security forces to use these weapons."