The world celebrated International Labour Day on May 1. Newspapers and television channels marked the day with special features, catchy reports and many other programs. While we all understand the importance of the day and many can even rattle out dates and facts about the International Labour organisation and its objectives, have we really grasped the whole concept, especially in the Indian context.
Surpisingly while on the one hand we celebrate Labour day, on the other hand Indians have the dubious distinction of having the longest working hours across the world. On an average an Indian employee works for 52 hours a week. This is even longer than hours clocked by some of the most hardworking cultures in the world like Japan. The employees there put in about 46 hours a week compared to the 52 in India.
In countries like UK, Australia, the average weekly working hour is capped at 41 hours a week. Surprisingly all of these countries that work for significantly lesser hours than India are all counted amongst the most developed economies in the world. Infact there are several internationally acclaimed reports that have highlighted the potential danger of employers encouraging employees to work long hours, willingly take I cash compensation against leaves and give up vacations.
Perhaps ours is one of the few countries in the world that ascribes so much importance to the number of hours that you put in as against the quality of work that you are able to generate. While world over there are several initiatives that are being taken to make employees feel at ease, work from the comfort of their house and what not, our country still fails to provide a decent crèche facility in every office with more than 10-20 woman workers.
As per the Factories Act 1948, every adult can work for 48 hours in a week and should not exceed over 9 hours in a day. According to Section 51 of the Act, the spread over should not exceed 10-1/2 hour. However the ease with which the rule is being flouted is surely an indicator of the will to actually bring this Act in the limelight and implement it in practice.
However we are a country, where the employee is always encouraged to stay back to make a good impression on the boss, where juniors never leave before the boss just in case they make the wrong deduction.
I believe the change has to be brought about from the leaders. They need to put up a strong stance against overworking and corporate should look at providing better working environment for their employees instead of trying to squeeze out as much work as they can while paying as little as they can spare.