Indians are overworked while millions go jobless
We work longer hours on average than most workers elsewhere. While explanations vary, what’s clear is that our economy has too few doing too much. Don’t rely on the state to fix it
All work and no play is the life story of far too many Indians. Except for employers, few of us would deny this, even if we use a sample of one to conclude as much. Yet, as a recent Mint report confirmed, it is actually true: We are among the world’s most overworked people. With a work-week that averages 48 hours, India ranks fifth among nations that the International Labour Organization (ILO) tracks on this parameter (using household surveys for its estimates). Workers put in longer hours only in Gambia, Mongolia, the Maldives and Qatar. Those in the US, UK, Israel and China clock 37, 36, 36 and 46 hours, respectively. And if you imagine harder work equals higher pay, think again. Minimum wages in India are among the world’s lowest, according to the ILO’s Global Wage Report for 2020-21. The data we have on time spent away from our daily grind is equally dismal. A 2019 study by the National Statistical Office found that we spend less than a tenth of our day on leisure activities. Indian numbers are skewed by a high level of self-employment, sure, with our entrepreneurs either unable or unwilling to take time off, but that is not enough to explain the phenomenon. Others also have highly demanding job schedules.