The International Labour Organization (ILO) in its report highlighted that among various work-related risks, long working hours is the leading cause of death among employees. This has started a debate on Labour Ethics around the world.

What is Labour Ethics?

  1. Labour ethics is about treating workers fairly and respectfully, making sure they are paid well, work in safe conditions, and are treated with dignity.
  2. It's about doing what's right for the people who work in a company or industry.
  3. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has the right to take breaks, have free time, and not work too much. It includes having time off and getting paid for holidays.

What are the Various Stakeholders involved in Labour Ethics?


Interests of these Stakeholders

1. Employees

Work-life balance, good work culture, better senior-subordinate relationships and good working conditions.

2. Employers

Better organizational efficiency, Enhanced profits and sustainable human resource management

3. Management

Professional efficiency and satisfaction among the employees and employers.

4. Investors

Maximize returns on their investments, Investments in ethically and socially responsible businesses.

5. Labour Unions

Safer working conditions and reasonable work hours

6. Labour regulatory bodies

Enforcement of labour laws, promotion of the welfare of workers

7. Government

Promote Economic Growth and Human Development

What was the recent controversy of 70 hours of work?

  1. Recently, the founder of an IT firm suggested that young Indians should work for 70 hours a week.
  2. This sparked a discussion on how much time people should spend working.

What is the History of Work Hours in the world?

  1. Back in 1817, a guy named Robert Owen suggested that people should work for 8 hours, rest for 8 hours, and sleep for 8 hours – a balanced routine.
  2. Then in 1926, Henry Ford made the 40-hour workweek popular.

Why 70 Hours of Work is suggested for India?

  1. Demographic Dividend: Some say that working longer hours could help India benefit from its young population.
  2. Nation Building: Like after World War II, when Japan and Germany worked a lot to rebuild their countries.
  3. Learning and Skills: Working more hours, especially when starting a career, can help people learn new things.
  4. Values Hard Work: It's also seen as a way to show the importance of working hard, especially for young professionals.

What are the Ethical Concerns involved in long work hours?

  1. Violating the "Do No Harm" Principle: When people work too much, it can make them feel anxious and depressed. This goes against the rule of not causing harm to others. Think of big accidents like Chornobyl or the Space Shuttle Challenger - they happened when people worked too much.
  2. Wealth over Health: Some companies care more about making money than keeping their workers healthy. This can make young people sick. For example, many young workers are getting sick more often because they have to work too much.
  3. Profit over principles: Long work hours are against a sustainable work culture.
  4. Erosion of family and societal values: When people work too much, it can make it hard for them to spend time with their families. It will make people excluded from society.
  5. Not Treating Everyone Fairly: Some companies make it so that only a few people get good jobs, and this can leave out women. This is not fair and goes against the idea that everyone should have the same opportunities to work.

What are the Ethical Arguments in favour of long working hours?

  1. Situational Ethics:

    1. Sometimes, during emergencies like pandemics or wars, there might not be enough people to do essential jobs. In these situations, working long hours could be seen as a way to keep things going and help everyone.
    2. While it's about helping others in tough times, we need to make sure that people working extra hours are not being taken advantage of and that their well-being is considered.
  2. Utilitarian Ethics:

    1. The idea here is that if everyone works longer, it could make things better for everyone. It might make companies and even whole countries more competitive and efficient.
    2. But, we need to be careful not to overlook the well-being of individuals. It's about finding a balance where the overall good is achieved without causing harm to individuals.

Way forward:

  1. Governments:

    1. Enforce Labor Laws: Make sure that the laws about how many hours people can work are followed. This includes laws like the Factories Act and the Motor Transport Workers Act.
    2. Expand Legal Framework: Make rules for industries that don't have laws about work hours yet.
  2. Businesses:

    1. Take Care of Employees: Companies should invest in things that put wellbeing of employees at priority. This can include things like healthcare insurance, paid time off, and leaves for new parents.
  3. Employees:

    1. Manage Time Better: People should improve their time management skills to balance their work and personal life.
  4. Upskilling:

    1. Learn New Skills: People should learn new things to become better at their jobs. This also helps when there aren't enough skilled workers.
  5. Collaboration:

    1. Work Together: Everyone - the government, companies, and workers - should work together. They can create rules and a culture that makes work good for everyone, not just about working a lot.

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