ILO Report: Indians Work Longest, Earn Least With Virtually No Time for Leisure

New Delhi: A new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has revealed that Indians are among the most overworked workers globally while earning the lowest minimum statutory wage in the Asia-Pacific region, barring Bangladesh, reports LiveMint.

India ranks fifth in the world among countries with long working hours, often stretching up to 48 hours a week, if not more. Only Gambia, Mongolia, Maldives and Qatar, where a quarter of the population is Indian, have average working hours longer than in India, according to Global Wage Report 2020-21: Wages and Minimum Wages in the Time of COVID-19.

The estimates reveal that an average worker in China works 46 hours a week, 36 hours in the United Kingdom, 37 hours in the United States and 36 hours in Israel. The data is worked out by using 2019 estimates presented by most national agencies, while data for some countries pertains to previous years.

On a comparative scale, the minimum statutory wage of an Indian worker is the lowest in the world, except for some sub-Saharan African countries. However, actual wages could be different from the minimum wages across countries, particularly in the case of blue-collar workers, the ILO report observes.

Among Indians, it is the well-paid employees – both salaried and self-employed – in urban areas who work longer than those in the rural parts of the country. Casual workers across the country work for almost the same number of hours. Across gender, men work longer than women in both villages and urban areas, reveals the 2018-19 Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).

In rural India, while self-employed men work 48 hours, women spend 37 hours working in a week. In the case of regular wage and salaried employees, rural men work for 52 hours a week, while women work for 44 hours. As for casual labour, rural men work for 45 hours per week,and  women spend 39 hours working.

In urban areas, self-employed men work 55 hours per week, while women work 39 hours. Salaried employees and regular wage earning men spend 53 hours a week working, while women work for 46 hours. In case of casual labour, urban men spend 45 hours a week working, while women work for 38 hours.

India carried out its first time-use survey in two decades in 2019, which also threw up similar trends. Men spend more than four times as much time as women on paid work in a day. Urban men work an hour extra in a day on paid work compared to women.

While the above estimates include time spent on working, short breaks, lunch breaks, time spent travelling between different work locations as part of work, they do not, however, account for time spent commuting to and fro from work and longer meal breaks. Since the estimates are based on a household survey, the estimates include both formal and informal sector labour.

Another startling revelation of the time-survey is that Indians spend less than one-tenth of time in a day for leisure, and especially women get far less time than men for leisure. It has also been estimated that self-employed and even salaried men and women spend more than six days in a week on activities relating to work.

After four new labour codes were enacted by the Centre in September 2020, there has been a discussion among employers and the labour ministry on the viability of introducing a four-day workweek, in line with global organisations. The government sought the responses of various stakeholders on the same and received the first set of comments published in a draft in January. It is waiting for the next set of responses which will be published in another draft.

According to Live Mint, labour unions are opposed to a four-day workweek, as it would mean instituting 12-hour shifts a day accounting for the current 48 work hours per week. Again, these fixed working hours and labour codes only target the formal workforce, but India’s large informal sector workers do not come under their ambit.

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