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Debate on 70 Hour Work Week

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November 15, 2023

Why in news?

Recently Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy sparked a debate, urging young Indians to work 70 hours per week.

Status of Working Hours in India

  • As per Time Use Survey 2019, urban Indians aged 15-29, work 8.5 hours a day on average, with Uttarakhand ranking first at 9.6 hours a day. Rural Indians work 7.2 hours a day on average.
  • Factories Act 1948- Every adult (a person who has completed 18 years of age) cannot work for more than 48 hours a week and not more than 9 hours in a day.
  • Any employee who works for more than this period is eligible for overtime remuneration prescribed as twice the amount of ordinary wages.
  • Mines Act 1952- No person in a mine is required to work for more than 10 hours in any day, inclusive of overtime.
  • Minimum Wages Act 1948- Wages paid for overtime must be double the actual rate for any hour, or part of an hour, of actual work undertaken in excess of the prescribed 9 hours or 48 hours per week.
  • New labour code- Weekly and daily working hours are capped at 48 hours and 12 hours, respectively.
  • State’s Shops and Establishment Act - Every State in India has its own overtime rules and policy set out in this Act.

What are the arguments in favour of 70 hour work week?

  • Economic productivity- A long work week boost economic productivity, leads to employment opportunities and overall economic growth.
  • Worker efficiency- It will increase the productivity and efficiency of the Indian workforce, which is currently one of the lowest in the world.
  • This would meet market demands, generate profit in a competitive global market.
  • Developed country- It is necessary for India to become a developed country and uplift the living standards of its people.
  • Skill acquisition- It will enable young Indians to learn new skills, acquire more knowledge, and innovate more solutions for the country’s problems.
  • Success stories- It will help India emulate the success stories of Japan and Germany, which worked hard and long hours to rebuild their nations after the Second World War.

working-hours

What are the arguments against the 70 hour work week?

  • One size does not fit all- 89% of the Indian workforce is engaged in informal employment, compared to just 4.2% in Germany and 8% in Japan.
  • Hence comparing these countries with India in labour productivity in not viable.
  • Exploitation- A prolonged work week can lead to the exploitation of the working class and deprives their rights and benefits.
  • Health impacts - It can negatively impact mental and physical health, resulting in stress, burnout, fatigue, sleep deprivation and other health problems.
  • Work-life balance- As per ILO, companies that implement work-life balance policies benefit from increased retention of current employees, improved recruitment, lower rates of absenteeism and higher productivity.
  • Counterproductive- It can reduce quality and efficiency of the work output, increase the chances of errors and accidents, lowers the morale and motivation of the workers.
  • Economic inequality- Rich benefit from long work hours of working class which may widen the inequality between working class and rich.
  • Productivity- Productivity is an attribute of skill, not time, and that reducing working hours can improve leisure and quality of life without reducing output value.
  • Working more than eight hours a day also leads to lower hourly output.
    • Belgium has given the workers the right to work four days a week without a salary reduction to create a more dynamic and productive economy.
  • Outdated- 70 hour work week is outdated as it does not suit the changing needs and preferences of the modern workforce, which values flexibility, autonomy and work-life balance.
  • Lacks funding- Worker productivity depends on the amount of capital and the quality of institutions that support investment and innovation, hence just increasing working hours will have no impact on productivity.
  • Labour productivity- India’s average annual working hours stayed above 2,000 from 1970 to 2020, while the labour productivity increased marginally from 2 dollars per hour to 9 dollars in the same period.
  • Hence the need of the hour is to increase productivity through technology rather increasing working hours.

 

References

  1. The Hindu- Understanding worker productivity
  2. The Hindu- What is wrong about 70 hour work week
  3. The Hindu- 70 hour work week idea into perspective
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