Making sense of the employment challenge


Recently, N.R. Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys, had proposed a rather ambitious challenge for the Indian workforce – a 70-hour work week – aiming to boost the nation’s overall productivity.

  • Drawing inspiration from the post-World War II economic resurgence of Japan and Germany, Murthy contends that longer working hours could potentially replicate the rapid growth witnessed by these countries during their reconstruction phase.


GS-02, GS-03 (Growth and Development)


GDP, Index of Industrial Production (IIP), Inflation, Lokniti- CSDS

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Demand, Labor, and Economic Realities
  • Economic Strategies for India

Demand, Labor, and Economic Realities:

  • The fundamental economic principle that output is determined by aggregate demand sets the stage for understanding the intricacies of labor dynamics. Unpacking this, it becomes evident that there is no demand for labor independent of the demand for goods and services.
  • Firms, driven by the profit motive, will only employ more labor if there is a corresponding increase in demand for their products. Therefore, exhorting workers to embrace longer hours might prove inconsequential if firms remain unwilling to hire amid stagnant demand.
  • Historical evidence from post-WWII Germany and Japan, while showcasing high working hours, also highlights the unique circumstances of reconstruction-led demand.
  • Similar to Germany and Japan, South Korea experienced prolonged working hours during its recovery phase. Yet, it is crucial to note the additional layer of coercion and a dictatorial regime, which played a role in mobilizing labor for large-scale projects.
  • The juxtaposition of these countries offers insights into the varied factors influencing working hours during economic resurgence.

Economic Strategies for India:

  • Exploring potential economic strategies for India, two distinct approaches emerge. Firstly, emphasizing global competitiveness echoes the South Korean experience. Productivity, driven by a healthy and skilled workforce, becomes paramount.
  • Secondly, an alternative route involves expanding the domestic market, particularly by focusing on lowering food production costs. This approach aims to increase the real income of households, subsequently fostering demand for non-agricultural goods and services.

Way Forward:

  • Addressing Disparities in Work Conditions: It is imperative to recognize that Murthy’s proposal primarily targets the formal sector, with specified work hours and minimum wage stipulations. However, it is equally crucial to acknowledge the existing conditions in the informal sector, where unorganized workers often endure long hours without legal safeguards. The challenge here lies in activating legal measures to ensure acceptable working conditions encompassing fewer hours, higher wages, and improved equipment.
  • Economic Policy Strategies: Proposed economic policy strategies entail a twofold focus. Firstly, enhancing global competitiveness necessitates investing in workforce productivity and infrastructure. Secondly, expanding the domestic market involves strategically lowering food production costs, thereby increasing the real income of the majority. This, in turn, stimulates demand for a broader array of goods and services.
  • Emphasizing Legal Protections: As the discourse extends to encompassing informal sector reforms, there is a pressing need to activate legal measures that go beyond the formal sector. This includes ensuring that acceptable working conditions prevail, encompassing reduced working hours, higher wages, and the provision of improved equipment.