The problem with the ‘70 hours a week’ line – Counterproductive Push for a 70-Hour Workweek in India | 8 November 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about issue of work hours in India and global practices associated with it.


  • GS3: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment


  • The recent comments by Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy advocating for a 70-hour workweek for Indian workers have sparked a debate about the role of labor standards in economic competitiveness.
  • This article examines the arguments for and against a longer workweek, highlighting the importance of international labor standards (ILS) and the potential consequences of violating them.


  • Arguments Against a 70-Hour Workweek:
    • Factually Incorrect Basis: Mr. Narayana Murthy's claim that advanced countries like Germany and Japan have achieved success through extended working hours is factually inaccurate. Both countries have witnessed a significant decline in working hours over the past century.
    • Failure to Address the Root Cause of Low Productivity: The onus of improving productivity should not be placed solely on workers. The real issue lies in underinvestment in innovation, a critical factor in driving productivity gains.
    • Violation of International Labor Standards: A 70-hour workweek would violate ILS, including the ILO's Decent Work Agenda and its Fundamental Conventions, which safeguard workers' rights to decent and productive work.
  • Economic Implications of ILS Compliance:
    • Market Access and Supply Chain Participation: Adherence to ILS is increasingly becoming a prerequisite for gaining market access in advanced countries and participating in global supply chains. Non-compliance could hinder India's aspirations to expand its global presence.
    • Worker Well-being and Productivity: Excessive working hours can lead to physical and mental health issues, ultimately affecting worker productivity and overall economic performance.
  • India's Innovation Deficit:
    • Low GERD: India's gross expenditure on research and development (GERD) as a percentage of GDP is among the lowest in the world, indicating a lack of investment in innovation.
    • Private Sector's Diminishing Role: The private sector's share in India's R&D spending has been declining, while countries with stronger innovation systems have higher private sector participation.
  • Importance of ILS in Global Trade:
    • Inclusion in FTAs: Advanced countries are increasingly incorporating ILS into bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs), making compliance a crucial factor for trade negotiations.
    • IPEF and Supply Chain Resilience: The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) emphasizes supply chain resilience and respect for labor rights, including acceptable working hours.
    • EU Supply Chain Due Diligence Regulations: EU member-states have implemented regulations requiring companies to address adverse impacts on labor rights throughout their supply chains.

Way Forward:

  • The push for a 70-hour workweek in India is misguided and counterproductive. It fails to address the root causes of low productivity, ignores the importance of worker well-being, and undermines India's efforts to integrate into the global economy. Instead, India should focus on fostering innovation, enhancing skills, and promoting decent work practices to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

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