Thursday, July 8, 2010

A workaholic nation?

The sentence below is a requirement that often appears in local job advertisements:

"Applicants must be willing to work extended hours and under tight deadlines"

What about Work-Life Balance?

Is it possible to have a well balanced life when local employers expect employees to work extended hours?

An article entitled "Spotlight on working time" published by The International Labour Organization (ILO) and issued in 2007 states that:
"Attempts to reduce hours in developing countries have been unsuccessful for various reasons, including the need of workers to work long hours simply to make ends meet, and the widespread use of overtime by employers in an effort to increase their enterprises’ output under conditions of low productivity."
It further states that:
"Among those countries with the highest incidence of long working hours for 2004–05 (defined as more than 48 hours per week), Peru topped the list at 50.9 per cent of workers, the Republic of Korea at 49.5 per cent, Thailand at 46.7 per cent (in the year 2000), and Pakistan at 44.4 per cent. At the other end of the spectrum, developed countries such as Norway, the Netherlands and France, as well as transition economies such as Hungary and Estonia, reported the lowest incidence of long hours."
It also mentions the proposal that decent working time arrangements need to fulfill five inter-connected criteria:

1. they should preserve health and safety;
2. be “family friendly”;
3. promote gender equality;
4. enhance productivity; and
5. facilitate worker choice and influence over working hours.

Well, Malaysia has its own Labour Law but how many of us are well versed with the Employment Act 1955 and what the regulation states about hours of work, overtime and work on rest day? Even if we are familiar with the Act, we will still obediently work long hours when our employers expect us to do so because .... well, I honestly do not know why ....


  1. As much as I dislike my previous lousy company, one thing I never complaint about is the working hour. They are quite flexible about what time you come into office, and also not much OT that I can remember I had over the past 5 years.

    But still, they are lousy! haha.

  2. I don't believe there's such thing as work-life balance in a corporate world. Depend on the nature of your job, if it's the demanding type of job, it's only work without life. We usually experience these kind of working life at least in our first decade of working life but as people grow older or have more experience, they will choose company that demand lesser. But still there's no balance. Just maybe lesser OT... Haha!

  3. Elizebeth, I guess for a lousy company, it does have some good points and the working hour being one of them. :)

    Jennifer, Hopefully what you said is true, as people grow older, they could choose not to work such long hours but then I see many "older" people still work long hours in the office. *sigh*

  4. well... everyone now has no choice but to work more hours when we need money so badly. i think we r just afraid of our appraisal/achievements at the end of the year. i think that is one of the reasons we work so much more. and people sacrifice things just for money. and the worse thing is we need money to survive.

  5. Unfortunately the Employment Act as I recall only applies to people who have a monthly salary of Rm2500and below. Anyone who earns above that is pretty much at the mercy of their employers (usually the employment contract will set out their rights, but the Industrial Court will not be able to hear your case).
    A piece of legislation that was designed to protect the lower income group, to prevent abuse, unfortunately does not cater for the new breed of professionals who are being paid more, but have become "cash rich, time poor" without quality of life.
    Over here in the UK there are EU working time directives, but in UK you can opt out of it by signing an opt-out agreement. Depending on which sector your work in, late nights or even overnight camping at the office is not unusual.

  6. Renaye, true enough that almost everything needs money these days.

    miracle8, thanks for contributing your knowledge from a legal eagle stand. Are there any equivalent of EU working time directives for Malaysia?