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May be not 70 hours, but Indians are among hardest workers in the world

A recent statement by Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy has set the stage for a debate about work productivity and the merits of long working hours, a topic that resonates with many in our fast-paced world. Murthy’s call for 70-hour workweeks among India’s youth prompted both applause and skepticism.

But, surprisingly, data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) reveals that Indians are already among the hardest workers globally, dedicating an average of 47.7 hours per week per employed individual as of 2023.

What’s more, when this number is stacked up against the ten largest economies worldwide, India takes the lead with the lengthiest average workweek.

Globally, India secures the seventh position, with only a handful of nations surpassing the Indian work ethic, including Qatar, Congo, Lesotho, Bhutan, Gambia, and the United Arab Emirates. This data has piqued the interest of the International Labour Organization, which is reportedly considering the production of an India-specific report on working hours.

In a recent podcast, Narayana Murthy emphasised that India’s work productivity lags behind much of the world. His solution?

India’s youth should be ready to embrace a 70-hour workweek, a strategy employed by post-World War II Germany and Japan to drive their economies forward.

Notably, Murthy’s comments stirred quite a stir, with reactions spanning from supportive nods to critical headshakes.

In fact, the call for long working hours isn’t unique to Murthy. Just last year, Shantanu Deshpande, CEO of Bombay Shaving Company, advocated for 18-hour workdays in the early stages of one’s career. However, his stance led to a significant backlash on LinkedIn and a subsequent apology.

As the debate rages on, it’s worth noting that an analysis of ILO data alongside corresponding GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) per capita figures reveals an intriguing pattern. There seems to be an inverse correlation between prosperity and weekly working hours, meaning that countries with higher per capita GDP tend to have shorter working hours.

Take, for instance, India, which boasts the highest weekly working hours among the top ten global economies but holds the lowest per capita GDP. On the flip side, France, with the shortest working week among these economies at 30.1 hours, enjoys one of the highest per capita GDP figures at $55,493.

K Pandiarajan, Executive Chairman and HR expert at Ma Foi Strategic Consultants, has weighed in on the matter, advocating for a balanced approach. He suggests that India should avoid simply adopting the Western model of a 35-hour workweek. Instead, he encourages finding a golden middle ground of 48 hours per week while ensuring the health and fitness of employees are taken into account.

The discussion over working hours is far from over, and it raises pertinent questions about India’s path toward enhancing economic competitiveness while prioritizing the well-being of its workforce.

Where do you stand in this fascinating debate about the future of work? Let us know in the comments below.

Published On:

Nov 1, 2023

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