Are Singaporeans Working Too Hard?

Are Singaporeans Working Too Hard
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By Jocelyn Neo

Asian countries have long been known for putting in long hours at work as compared to their Western counterparts like the United States and Europe. Hence, it is not surprising to hear reports of people in Singapore working long hours each day, be it in the office or remotely.

This is supported by surveys and research conducted by organisations such as Morgan McKinley, Regus and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Singapore workers also work longer hours than other Asian countries, clocking 2,389.4 hours in 2014, as reported in the 2014 Labour Market Report by MOM. This exceeded the hours put in by workers in Taiwan (2,163) and South Korea (2,193).

In the 2011 global survey by Regus, an international business company that provides flexible workplaces worldwide, 31 percent of the workers here generally work nine to 11 hours per day as compared to an average of 38 percent workers in other countries. In addition, 50 percent took their work home to complete three times a week while only 43 percent of workers do that globally.

This is echoed by a separate survey conducted by JobsCentral, an online job portal in Singapore, where one in three respondents bring their work home to finish, and others work while they are on sick leave or vacation.

In the Morgan McKinley Working Hours survey conducted in 2014, 82 percent responded that they worked more hours than stipulated in their contracts, while two-thirds of the respondents felt obliged to put in longer hours. This, in turn, impacts their work-life balance.

However, not many feel they are productive all the time even though extra hours are put in, with only 59 percent feeling they are productive at times. A 2014 study by John Pencavel of Stanford University, cited by a CNBC article last year, corroborates this fact: employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week and falls off a cliff after 55 hours.

Data on the economics research website, FRED, showed that on average, a worker on the other side of the globe — the United States — clocked 1,703.55 hours in 2011, while German workers put in an average of  1,406 hours in the same year. South Korean workers clocked 2,193 hours on average, similar to the report by MOM in 2014. The average Singapore worker worked 2,287 hours in 2011, lower than the 2014 figure reported in the MOM report.

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