Will Shorter Work Hours Benefit Mums?
Women tend to be the one to opt to reduce their work hours so that they can care for their family. Will they only be able to gain low-skilled employment or experience limitations in career progression?
Before I became a mum, I was clocking in more than 11 work hours a day as a personal secretary. I remember taking the LRT from KLCC all the way back to other the end of the line to Kelana Jaya Station everyday.
It was always close to midnight when I finally reached home, only to start the day all over again early the next morning. Thankfully, I wasn’t pulling overtime every day. I cannot imagine what that does to one’s health and social life, let alone have a family.
Recently, the government is looking into possibly reducing daily work hours for employees to increase productivity and counter burn out.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) thinks that 48-hour work week allocated within the law is too long’ as compared to neighbouring countries. They are looking at Sweden who recently shifted towards a six-hour working day in bid to increase productivity.
The move have received positive outcome and it was reported that the likelihood of workers taking sick leave has been halved during the length of the experiment.
- Improved well-being : Stress levels are reduced, when mums can choose what to do with the extra time.
- Building a stronger Society : Investing more time caring for family, friends and neighbours strengthens relationships which builds a stronger society.
- Better employees: Following reduced stress levels and improved overall well-being, mums can become better employees.
- Encourage Returning Mums to the workforce : mums can feel more comfortable returning to the work force if the hours are shorter and not too demanding.
- Higher quality, affordable childcare : Shorter working hours would help mums reduce the need for full-time childcare. With less demand, childcare centres can improve in quality and become more affordable.
Can Malaysia really follow Sweden’s six-hour work day? I must say I have my reservations. Looking at our work culture, I honestly don’t think we’re ready for this.
Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan told Malaysian Digest that this is impractical:
“In Malaysia, the six-hour work day can be really a challenge and I am pretty sure that most employers are not prepared for it. At the same time, I don’t think employees are willing to have a pay cut or be paid on hourly basis. More often than not, it is the employees, not employers, who request for the overtime work in order to fulfill their work commitment or in its simplest term, to get their work done.”
He went on to say that Malaysian employees still lag far behind in terms of job performance, in comparison to Swedish counterparts when it comes to productivity, manpower supply, work ethics and professionalism. Therefore, the six-hour workday is understandably unrealistic for us.
There was also this study carried out by Dr Daniel Wheatley, principal lecturer in Economics at Nottingham Business School, that suggests that while flexible working generates a number of benefits, working part-time or reduced hours – such as job sharing – has significant negative impacts on job satisfaction.
Women tend to be the one to opt to reduce their working hours so that they can care for their family. Will they only be able to gain low-skilled employment or experience limitations in career progression? Where is the satisfaction in that?
I do think that generally Malaysian employers are still very focused on “business need” due to our current economic uncertainties. To be realistic, many are probably also not ready to truly offer “employee friendly” policies and benefits.
What are your thoughts? Are shorter work hours better?