Life

Criticism of Indian billionaire’s call for 70-hour work weeks highlights challenges with country’s productivity and job market

  ”My plea is that our youth must say, ‘This is my country and I want to work 70 hours.'” One of India’s most respected entrepreneurs believes that if young people want to see India become a global economic powerhouse , they need to work extremely long hours.
  In a podcast called “The Record” at the end of October, Narayana Murthy, the co-founder and former CEO of the Indian software giant Infosys, made a surprising statement, suggesting that young people in the country should Volunteer to work 70 hours a week.
  Murthy has a good background. Forbes magazine estimates his wealth exceeds $4 billion. Infosys, the company he co-founded, later became one of the largest outsourcing companies in the world. He is also the father-in-law of British Prime Minister Sunak.
  The rich man calls himself a “compassionate capitalist” who works hard for the country’s prosperity rather than for personal gain. But young Indians did not buy the bill and sneered at Murthy’s suggestions because the corporate culture that advocates “involution” is no longer popular.

  Murthy’s remarks disgusted India’s young people, who scorned Murthy’s theory of working overtime to strengthen the country.

  According to Murthy, India is one of the least productive countries in the world. In his podcast, he ranges from complaining about Westerners’ “bad habits” to the corruption of the Indian government.
  He told former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai: “Somehow our youth have learned bad habits from the West and do not help develop the country. India is one of the least productive countries in the world. Unless we become more efficient, unless we reduce government corruption to some extent and improve the efficiency of decision-making in the bureaucracy, we cannot compete with other countries.”
  The rich man has many hopes for India’s young people. Young people make up the majority of India’s population and they must shoulder the responsibility for India’s progress. Young Indians must voluntarily work overtime, just as Japan and Germany did after World War II. In this way, India will achieve its goal of becoming the “second largest economy in the world” by 2075.
  Murthy’s remarks disgusted India’s young people, who scorned Murthy’s theory of working overtime to strengthen the country. On social media and in newspaper comment sections, Indians debated their country’s “toxic” work culture.
  Some critics point out that starting salaries for engineers at Indian technology companies, including Infosys, which Mr. Murthy co-founded, are often low. Others are concerned that working around the clock can harm physical and mental health.
  A Bengaluru-based cardiologist said on social media that more and more young people are suffering from heart disease because “there is no time to socialize, no time to chat with family, no time to exercise, no time to entertain, not to mention what companies want People answer emails and phone calls after hours.”
  This is not the first time Murthy has suggested that Indians work longer hours.
  As early as 2020, he suggested that Indians work at least 64 hours a week within 2-3 years to save the economic recession caused by the new crown epidemic in India. At that time, Murthy complained: “Indians are not the most self-disciplined group of people.” When asked whether he would consider implementing home working during the epidemic, Murthy also emphasized that productivity standards must be “established” first. He said: “Once every industry determines this standard, then you can work wherever you want to work.”
  Murthy thinks he has the confidence to call on young people to extend their working hours because he works every week The time will never be less than 70 hours. His wife Sudha Murthy expressed support: “He works 80 to 90 hours a week. Hard work is his life belief and he practices it personally.”
  In Murthy’s heart, the development of the country is always higher than his own wealth accumulation. . The establishment of the software empire Infosys is also inseparable from his patriotism. In 1981, Murthy, who was still a software engineer, felt strongly about the gap between India and developed countries. There are only a few large computers in India, while “everyone has a laptop on their desk” has become popular in the United States.
  Bill Gates’ success inspired Murthy and six of his former colleagues. They established Infosys to take software orders from customers in need, develop them in India, and deliver and maintain them globally.
  In 1991, the Indian government adopted a series of economic liberalization measures, which presented both opportunities and challenges to the company. International giants in the industry such as IBM and Accenture are pouring into India to compete for technological talents in the country. Murthy understood that if talent were snatched away, “we would disappear like dew on a sunny day.”
  Infosys was the first to propose a stock option plan in the country, benefiting hundreds of the company’s employees. The company uses flexible working hours and diverse leisure environments to attract talents, reducing the average employee turnover rate to 11%. In March 1999, Infosys became the first Indian company to be listed on NASDAQ in the United States.
  The company’s success naturally convinced Murthy that hard work paid off. He once said: “I am a person who cannot stop. In Hinduism, I am what is called a yogi. I believe that action and dedication can bring good results, so I do things as if there is no tomorrow. I am completely action critic.”
  But Murthy’s idealism also made it difficult for him to properly resolve conflicts with other operators. In 2014, 33 years after founding Infosys, Murthy ignored advice and bid farewell to the company he founded with six other co-founders.
  After leaving the company, Murthy continued to criticize the company’s management problems, even indirectly leading to the resignation of the company’s then CEO in 2017. Murthy doesn’t think he did anything wrong. He believes that he did not seek fame or fortune when he left the company, and it was not for himself to criticize poor corporate governance. In a media interview, Murthy also claimed that he regretted his decision to leave the board that year.
Do Indians not work hard enough?

  When Murthy appeals to young people to voluntarily work longer hours, he may also believe that he is seeking neither fame nor fortune but is bent on making India a world power. In his eyes, India is an enlarged version of Infosys.
  Some business leaders in India echoed Murthy’s call. Gurnani, chief executive of Mahindra Information Technology, said Mr Murthy may have wanted people to understand his proposal from a more comprehensive perspective. He wrote on social media: “I believe that when he talks about work, it is not limited to the company, but extends to yourself and your country.” Kim, chairman of JSW Group, one of India’s largest steel companies Dahl also said: “A five-day work week culture is not what a large and rapidly developing country like ours needs.”
  But do Indians really not work long enough?
  New Delhi TV cited a research report by the International Labor Organization that showed that compared with the world’s 10 largest economies, India has the longest average working week. The report points out that Indians work an average of 47.7 hours per week, ranking seventh among the countries with the longest working hours in the world.
  Despite this, India also has one of the lowest GDP per capita. Research by the International Labor Organization shows an inverse relationship between a country’s prosperity and the number of hours worked per week. Countries with shorter working hours tend to have higher GDP per capita. For example, workers in Switzerland work an average of 31.6 hours per week, and the country’s per capita GDP is $93,421. France has the shortest weekly working hours at 30.1 hours, but its per capita GDP is as high as US$55,493, making it one of the countries with the highest per capita GDP.
  In fact, some developed countries are still trying to further shorten working hours and implement a four-day work week. A six-month experiment was launched in the UK last year to shorten the working week. The results showed that workers’ productivity did not decrease and their lives improved.
  However, it is also true that Murthy said that India is one of the least productive countries. A Bloomberg commentary pointed out that in 1978, China’s labor productivity was about 70% of India’s. In the following decades, China’s per capita output in agriculture, services and industry rose to 110% of India’s. , 130% and 220%.
  In August this year, a global survey by research company Qualtrics showed that Indians spent the lowest proportion of time on “actual work”, only 57%, which is equivalent to half of the time spent “fishing”.
  But what is certain is that India’s low productivity is not due to not working long enough hours. Entrepreneurs like Murthy fail to see that job opportunities are declining across the country and that the current education system is failing to produce people with adequate job skills.
  An article in the “Indian Express” cited the 2023 India Employment Situation Report and pointed out that more than 40% of college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed, while the income of the working class has stagnated.
  The inability to effectively employ educated youth is a top-down failure in India, as mass education is often substandard and there are not enough jobs. What India needs is to employ more people so that they can gain a foothold in the workplace and have the opportunity to learn, rather than reducing employment opportunities by extracting overtime pay from those in office.

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