Is Working 70 Hours a Week Realistic in India?


I was scrolling through the LinkedIn feed after a long meeting with my associates on a peaceful afternoon when I saw #70hourswork was trending. Given my tight schedule, experience, and age, my first instinct after seeing a trending hashtag is generally to wait. So, I waited. By the night, the internet was abuzz with this one trend. Netizens, millennials, and Gen Z alike were talking about it. Even I saw that some of my team members at MSys were also posting on LinkedIn and X (formerly known as Twitter). So, what is this 70-hour work thing?

What is the 70 Hours Work a Week Controversy?

Mr. Narayan Murthy, the famous Indian billionaire and one of the co-founders of Infosys, has mentioned about 70 hours of work a week in an interview. While talking about development and nation-building, Mr. Murthy has mentioned, “India’s work productivity is one of the lowest in the world […] so therefore, my request is that our youngsters must say, ‘This is my country. I’d like to work 70 hours a week’.”

In the next couple of days, many other experts, entrepreneurs, and influencers came to support Mr. Murthy’s claim on the internet. Many of them argued that they, during their initial days of employment, had never felt like wasting time. They worked longer hours and ensured that they had always gone the extra mile for their jobs. To compete with developed countries like the USA, the UK, China, Japan, and so on, the workforce in India must bridge the development gap. 

How Long Do Indians Work?

Now, amidst this debate, let’s think about how much Indians work. On average, an Indian worker aged about 15 works around 47.7 hours per week according to the reports of the International Labour Organization which is higher than the U.S. (36.4), the UK (35.9), and Germany (34.4), and also Asian countries like China (46.1), Singapore (42.6), and Japan (36.6). Also, those who work with global teams and clients, are always responsible for answering calls and emails even during odd hours. 

Several surveys will show you that most of the youngsters, aged between 16 and 25, are mostly involved in gig work like driving taxis, rental bikes, or delivery. These jobs neither offer any growth opportunities nor the right remuneration. If you ask a labourer, an electrician, a plumber, or people working with platforms like UrbanCompany, Swiggy, Zomato, Ola, and Uber, the hours they put in at work are mostly around 11–12 hours a day. So, youth are spending more than 70 hours at work. 

Now, one might ask, why is the uproar all around, especially from the people working in IT and corporate? Let’s dive deep into this problem.

Why are IT Employees Against 70 Hours Work Idea?

According to government reports for 2021, India annually produces 1.5 million engineering graduates. India's technical education infrastructure includes 2500 engineering colleges, 1400 polytechnics, and 200 schools of planning and architecture.

There are several reports as of 2024 that say that employability among Indian engineering graduates was about 64 percent. According to a report from the New Indian Express, 48% of all newly graduated engineers are unemployed. What do these unemployed engineers do if they cannot get a job at an IT firm? Mostly, they get gig jobs, contributing to the rising economic contribution of this sector. Currently, there are approximately 15 million gig workers in India, among whom many are overqualified. 

 The people who work in the IT and corporate sectors are dealing with an excessive workload, as only 64% of the engineers are hired, and as a result, the number of employees remains fewer in comparison to the demand. 

Now, let’s think about the remuneration they get in the IT and corporate sectors. In India, the average fresher salary is around 3 lakh per annum, as per various reports and surveys. The growth rate of every salaried employee is not more than 15% in a year in the Indian IT sector. As of February 2024, consumer price index inflation in India is 5.09%. Now, if you calculate the average salary of an IT employee, it will seem inadequate given the 9–10 hours they are already spending at work. However, the finances of billionaire entrepreneurs are growing exponentially every year. The financial disparity is so great that an average employee feels that working 70 hours a week is unfair, and rightfully so from their perspective. 

Other Problems Employees Face with Long Working Hours

As of now, we have talked about the financial aspect of the 70-hour work schedule and why this is unrealistic in India. Now, let’s talk about the mental and physical effects of long working hours. As per the reports of the World Health Organization, around 15% of working adults are suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders that are affecting their daily lives in various ways. Not only that; these conditions are resulting in a loss of 12 billion working days and globally costing us $1 trillion dollars each year. So, it is not difficult to understand that pushing the employees to work harder and for more hours will only result in more loss, less productivity, and increasing grievances. 

Exposure to a screen for longer hours, strict postures at workstations, a lack of movement, and an unhealthy lifestyle due to the lack of physical activity are all contributing factors to various health and co-morbidity issues for boomers, millennials, and Gen Zs alike. 

Why Some People are Still in Favor of 70 Hours Work Schedule?

The biggest reason for that is a lack of empathy in leadership. As a leader, one must foster a healthy work culture that will show empathy towards their team. But when a leader behaves like a boss or an employer and measures the contribution in terms of billable hours, it becomes difficult. Also, the generation gap plays a big role in this discussion. The boomers and their previous generations were believers in hard work, which is synonymous with long working hours, while their awareness regarding mental health and physical effects was not enough. But now, despite knowing the effects of long working hours, pushing employees to work for 70 hours a week sounds unjust and brutal.

What Can Be Done?

Fostering a flexible work environment that encourages collaboration and innovation is important. At the same time, taking breaks from busy work schedules is also important to retain and nurture one’s creativity. It is high time that leaders start to recognise this fact. Instead of making the existing workforce work for longer hours, hiring resources and empowering them can solve many issues. On one hand, it will create more jobs and on the other hand, the productivity rate will also increase.

As I always say, I am a believer in anti-hustle culture, and I endorse a healthy work-life balance. That is why I feel that instead of following the 70-hour-a-week dictum, we can come up with more realistic solutions that will help employers and employees alike. 

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