Power Distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014, p. 19). India has a power distance of 77, with the world average sitting at 59; this means that there is a large distance or inequality between the powerful and less powerful within Indian culture making hierarchies and bureaucracies the preferred social structure (Pennsylvania State University, 2019, para 1).
India is the second-most populated country in the world with 1.23 billion people, and within this large population exists a great variety of languages, religions and cultures; Hinduism is the majority religion in India with 80% of the population, Islam with 13%, Christianity 2% and Sikhism with 1.8% (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014, p. 372).
According to Moran, Abramson & Moran (2014), “Hinduism is not only the principal religion of India, but its philosophy dominates the entire culture and relationships by “believing birth is destiny, which perpetuates the caste system (priests, warriors, traders, workers and Dalit/untouchables) and separates social classes by occupations, so that privileges or disadvantages are transmitted by inheritance” (p. 369).
A country that has a dominant hierarchical philosophy that permeates itself through the region’s overarching cultural and religious differences, gives explanation to why India’s power distance score is so much higher than the world’s average. This creates further questions: how does this view on the equality of power affect the diplomatic elections in the country, access to educational and employment opportunities and most interestingly how does this view affect the near 17 million people of the Indian diaspora living in countries with drastically different views on power distance (Indians Abroad, 2017)?
According to Mogul (2017), “Research conducted by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has detailed various incidents of caste discrimination in the UK” which is assumed to happen only within the private sphere between Indian social circles (para 7). Mogul (2017) explains that, “Dr. Meena Dhanda, a leading academic in diaspora Dalit studies, has noted that there is crossover between what happens in the private and public spheres. She argues that if prejudice exists, it cannot always be assumed that this prejudice does not cross over into the areas of employment and education” (para 8).
An example that contradicts this power distance in India’s history is the biography of late K. R. Narayanan, a man born into the lowest caste, Dalit or untouchables, who later became the tenth Prime Minister of India and the first of his social class. Narayanan said the following about his journey: “My life encapsulates the ability of the democratic system to accommodate and empower marginalized sections of society marginalized sections of society” (Moran, Abramson & Moran, 2014, p. 369).
Indians Abroad. (2017). India had the most number of people living abroad in 2017: UN report. Retrieved from https://scroll.in/latest/861999/india-had-the-most-number-of-people-living-abroad-in-2017-un-report
Mogul, P. (2017, December). Has caste discrimination followed Indians overseas?. Retrieved from https://thediplomat.com/2017/12/has-caste-discrimination-followed-indians-overseas/.
Moran, R.T., Abramson, N. R., & Moran, S. V. (2014). Managing cultural differences. New York, NY: Routledge.
Pennsylvania State University (2019). Leadership in a global context–OLEAD 410. Lesson 10: Asia: Focus on China and India, Penn State World Campus, The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1964331/modules/items/25821723