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India's working hours one of the longest among global peers: NSSO report

Workers in Indian cities worked for 53-54 hours and those in villages worked 46-47 hours in a week during the July-June 2018 period.

February 28, 2019 / 01:50 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

Average working hours of employees in India are among the longest compared to global peers, according to a report by the National Sample Sample Survey Office (NSSO). Workers in Indian cities worked for 53-54 hours and those in villages worked 46-47 hours in a week during the July-June 2018 period, Business Standard reported.

This NSSO survey is the first official estimate of working hours in India. As part of the survey, people were asked about the number of hours they worked in the previous week. This report, however, is said to have been withheld by the government.

The survey also indicated that rural women were underemployed, as nearly 50 percent of them worked less than 36 hours in a week. Men in cities worked for comparatively longer hours – often in the range of 60-84 hours per week.

The report also stated that most employees in India work for more than 48 hours a week -- higher than the International Labour Organisation (ILO)'s prescribed time-limit.

A study by ILO's Asia-Pacific Employment and Social Outlook 2018 showed that average work hours in South Asia and East Asia were the highest in the world in 2017, at 46.4 and 46.3 hours per week. In Nepal, the average weekly hours per employee were 54, in Maldives, it was 48, in Bangladesh it was 47 and, for Malaysia and China it stood at 46.

The global mean of hours worked per week was 43, and the numbers were significantly low in developed countries. Nearly 52-55 percent of the rural workers and 68-70 percent urban workers were engaged for more than 48 hours a week in India, according to the NSSO's annual survey.

Apparently, as wages are lower, especially in the informal sector, people have to work for longer hours.

The conventions of the ILO have set 48 hours a week as the standard working time for employees, and anything over that is considered 'excess'. The Factories Act, 1948 of India also caps work hours per week at 48 hours, and the employer has to provide overtime wages if this is exceeded.

Gender disparity in the working hours in both rural and urban parts of the country is also clear in the survey. About 74 percent of urban males and 46 percent of females worked more than the stipulated amount of time per week. Meanwhile, in rural areas, work hours of 58 percent males exceeded the 48-hours limit, but 72 percent females worked less than 48 hours. In fact, 40-46 percent rural females worked lesser than 36 hours per week. While, in the urban areas, 28-29 percent men worked in the range of 60-84 hours a week.

"We have seen a shift towards a piece-rate work regime even in the agricultural sector where workers are paid on an hourly basis. Women have been a provider of cheap labour through the prevalence of piece-meal contracts. Women also work for fewer hours due to family responsibilities," Vikas Rawal, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University's Centre for Economic Studies and Planning told the paper.

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first published: Feb 28, 2019 01:50 pm