Mumbaiites work hard but don’t have a life
We in Mumbai work the highest number of hours in a year, according to the findings of a global study released earlier this week. Most Mumbaiites will shrug their shoulders and remark that it is, after all, their lived experience and they did not need the Swiss investment bank, UBS, to tell them so. In fact, the reality may well be harsher than the study findings.
An average Mumbai employee clocked in 3,315 hours a year at work, the most in any of the 77 cities studied, and took the least number of days of vacation – barely 10 a year – compared to other cities. However, it still did not bring him or her enough income to afford an iPhone X with ease. The average Mumbai employee would have to would have to work for over 915 hours to afford the aspirational must-have gadget for millennials across the world. That’s tough work indeed when a New Yorker can afford it with only 54 hours of work or an employee in Zurich – the best off in this regard – with barely 38 hours of work.
That the value of work is measured by a high-value device itself says a great deal about the scope of the study as also about aspirations of millennials. All these years, the UBS’ studies measured affordability by the hours an employee needed to put in anywhere in the world, to by a Big Mac burger. The study examined 15 professions which best represent the natural workforce composition of a European country. To that extent, it would be a limited marker for Asian cities including Mumbai.
But here’s the nub. The study still seems to under-estimate the number of hours an average Mumbaiite puts in at work in a day, say labour researchers. Break down the numbers: if we factor in 10 days of vacation in a year into the 3,315 hours a year, it would mean an average Mumbai employee works for about 9.33 hours a day. Calculate the vacation and weekly-offs together at 62 days a year and he or she would be clocking a little more than 10 hours a day.
This is about three-quarter of a day’s work for most people in the formal sector, the sort that the study would have looked at. We know from experience and observation that most employees put in a good 12-14 hours a day at work across sectors such as finance, banking, entertainment, IT and IT-enabled services, medical and hospitality. The informal sector is worse; a 14-hour work day is par for the course for most workers across transport, construction, street vendors, domestic work and the like.
Then, the hours of work do not encapsulate working conditions or the long hours spent getting to the workplace and back home in Mumbai. Across the informal sector and even in some formal sector jobs, the working conditions do not meet the basic standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which describes ‘decent work’ as that which offers opportunities for income growth, respects rights of employees or workers, extends social protection and provides for strong social bonds or dialogues. By these standards, very few kinds of work opportunities in Mumbai, perhaps the few at the top-most rungs of a handful of industries, would qualify as decent work.
But the important aspect of long working hours is altogether missed here. That was not perhaps in the scope of the study but the length of a work day would have to be evaluated by the income earned and the quality of life it affords an employee or worker. Those in the lowest income groups work long hours too but are unable to access even basic housing in Mumbai. Doesn’t this say a great deal about work and life in the city?
We aren’t even thinking about the iPhone X.