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By Shashwat Tyagi

Indians Are Overworked and Underpaid. How Long Can This Carry On?

27th February, 2021

The recent proposal by the Labour Ministry to give companies the option of a 4-day work week has triggered various debates on the efficacy of the concept. Some people are in favour of it and some against. Indian labour unions are opposing the move which is no surprise. The 4-day week means very little for them as fixed hours don’t apply to the informal sector. Moreover, 12 hour work days will make life even more hectic for them.

India 5th On The List of Longest Working Hours

A new report by the International Labour Association (ILO) shows that Indians are one of the most overworked workers in the world. With a 48-hour work week, they only trail Gambia, Mongolia, Maldives, and Qatar.
The paper- ‘Global Wage Report 2020-21:  Wages and Minimum Wages in the Time of COVID-19′ lists India on the 5th position among countries with the longest working hours. For comparison, an average worker works 46 hours a week in China, 36 hours in the UK and 37 hours in the US.

workers in india work longer hours than other countries

Minimum Wage One Of The Lowest In India

One would think the higher working hours would reflect in the wages of Indian workers. However, that’s not the case. In fact, the minimum statutory wage for Indian workers is the lowest in the world barring some African countries.

minimum wage for india

Urban Workers Work More Than Rural Ones

Delving into urban and rural workers in India, it’s the urban ones who work longer. Also, men work longer than women in both urban and rural areas.
These findings are in line with India’s own survey conducted in 2019, which stated that men spend more time on paid work than women, both in urban and rural areas.

Indians Have Very Less Time For Leisure

Another shocking stat from the survey is that Indians spend less than 10% of their time on leisure with women getting far less time to rest than men. Men and women across both formal and informal sectors are found to spend more than 6 days a week working.

The above estimates don’t take into account the time spent commuting to and from work, which makes the findings even more alarming.

Grim Situation

It’s clear that Indians are being overworked by their employers and the situation is very grim. Labour unions have already started voicing their displeasure over plans to introduce a 4-day working week. Even though these labour codes only apply to the formal sector and won’t have any bearing on most of the Indian workers i.e the informal sector, burnout of workers is a real concern.

12-hour workdays, even in a work from home format will likely take a toll on workers. Women will be impacted more, considering they get less free time even now.
With only a minority of workers in India a part of the organized formal sector, whatever reforms are applied will only matter to a small section of people.

Conclusion

The government and key stakeholders need to have a long hard think about the overworked and underpaid Indian workers. 48 hours a week is too much and this limit should definitely be brought in line with other countries. Workers need to be given ample time to rest and detach from their professional lives. Work-life balance is crucial to happiness and productivity. Otherwise, we risk burning out our workers.

A senior HR at Sunstone Eduversity feels organisations have a big part to play in this. She said “Companies need to make sure their employees feel valued. Making them work long hours is not conducive for both them and the company. With the pandemic paving the way for remote work, it’s high time workers are given the choice for flexible working hours i.e a hybrid between work from home and in-office work. Workers need to be trusted and as long as the work is completed on time I don’t think anyone should have a problem.”

This is exactly the thought required to be implemented. Babysitting workers is a thing of the past and micromanaging is proven not to work. Indians workers need to be pulled out of this vicious cycle of high working hours.

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By Shashwat Tyagi

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