Indians are the one of the most hardworking people in the world
We’ve often heard about how lazy Indians are or are supposed to be. Well, I am not sure whether this is the case now, or if it ever was…let me pen down my personal observations first.
Everywhere I look, people are working and working damn hard. Lets start with the neighbourhood driver. His working day starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 11 p.m and if he is lucky he gets leave for important family occasions. He gets Sundays and festival days off, but not always. The drivers who are permanent employees of corporates have an easier time, but they too work 12 hours a day. Just 12 hours a day works out to be 72 hours a week, not counting sundays.
Our construction laborers? A little less – 8-10 hours but they do hard physical labour. Being contract labour, they often get paid per day so for them there are no paid holidays.
Our housemaids. Quite a few start their working day at 7 a.m. and end it at 7. p.m – seven days a week! Most of them go from house to house and do heavy physical work, with only an hour’s break for lunch. And if there are maids who do not work this much it’s because they have to do back breaking work at home. Most of them do not a get a day off either at home or at work…because even if one household agrees, the other may not. The lucky ones are those who have one good and kind employer.
We don’t even have to mention our child labour…many of the kids work in poor conditions 14 hours a day without a break and without pay.
The security guards. They work 12 hours a day, officially. Take our police – they easily work 12-14 hours a day 6 days a week.
And most of these people earn a pittance per month, barely enough to cover their minimum needs and most of them live in squalor.
But this post is not just about poor people. My husband for example routinely works for 12 hours a day and the number of hours he works has actually reduced as he has got older. When he was 27 or so, he would tour 25 days a month, walk great distances during working hours, and when he was in the office, he worked easily 14-16 hours a day. He’s done it all…like roughing it out in the hinterlands of India. Very often he found it difficult to attend family functions and even today he works on Sundays at times. And if I look around me, I see this phenomena everywhere. Its not just my husband – everyone I know works like that. My cousin and her husband (surgeons) slog the whole day, do a high tension job but rarely take a break. Then our family friend in Delhi who runs a business…he works all the time. Lives, breathes and thinks work.
Take someone like Laxmi Nivas Mittal. Apparently he worked 16-18 hours a day seven days a week at one time and even today he works very long hours.
But I am not talking of just successful people here. Or even unskilled laborers.
I am talking of ordinary people, executives, managers, cooks, call centre workers, actors in TV serial, spot boys…I can go on and on. A five day week is very very rare for these people…sure there are those who do a 9-5 job too (government babus?) but such people exist all over the world, not just in India. In fact one of my cousins who was born and brought up in America was astounded at the way we work. He actually pitied us and was glad to live in the U.S. Our ‘work’ starts almost from our birth…our kids are put into school early, forced to learn the alphabet early, our sixth graders struggle to carry their school books and our ninth graders have to study so hard that they have little time for fun. By the time they finish school, the little time they had for leisure is depleted further.
Apparently this heavy pressure to succeed, the hard work that Indians have to do just to survive, is a natural phenomena in emerging economies. There’s this global survey which gives us the statistics…ofcourse it only talks of business executives.
According to the survey:
…business leaders around the world work on average 53 hours a week with Europeans working the fewest (50) hours, followed by respondents in East Asia (53 hours) and NAFTA (54 hours). Business leaders in emerging economies tend to work the longest hours with India and Argentina at the top of the league table, both at 57 hours a week, followed by Armenia, Australia and Botswana (all 56 hours a week). Italian business leaders work the least number of hours (47) a week in the world, followed predominately by European countries with Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland and Spain all on 48 hour average working weeks.
I guess we cannot look forward to working even 50 hours a week in the near future! Anyway, I don’t think working so hard is such a bad thing. We are all so busy living and struggling that we have less time to be unhappy! I think overall we are a happy people notwithstanding surveys which state otherwise. Those surveys mainly ask people whether they are satisfied with the amount of money they have, whether they have a good house etc. but in India people are capable of being happy inspite of living in miserable physical conditions, with all its attendant frustrations. A walk through the slums is enough for us to know that. No one mugs you, no one looks at you with envy…they are alright.
(Photos taken by me in Mumbai)