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Friday, January 29, 2010

"Don't you wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There's one marked 'Brightness,' but it doesn't work." - Gallagher


The International Labour Organisation's report on Singaporeans having the world's longest hours was quite widely reported, but I was a little concerned as its sample size was just 13 countries:

Singapore, Iceland, Cyprus, Japan, South Korea, Ireland, New Zealand, Taiwan, Canada, Denmark, Spain, United Kingdom, United States
(in descending hour of work hours)

Now, a broader study reveals that when the sample size is extended to 51 countries, the same finding holds. Given that productivity has fallen drastically in "GDP per employee terms" (rather than, as I thought, "GDP per employee per hour terms"), this is even more telling of the Singapore model.

We've had "Teach less, Learn more". Now we need "Work less, Do more" (or "Live more").

Instead of Cheaper, Better, Faster, we need Fairly-Paid, Smarter, Fast-Enough.

Singapore sweats away the hours - and productivity

"Clocking 2,307 work hours in 2009 - a number that apparently has stayed constant since 1992, according to The Conference Board's data - the average Singaporean surpassed the other East Asians, the most hardworking globally.

Going by The Conference Board's Total Economy Database - which carries 'annual working hours' for 51 countries dating from 1950 - the South Koreans had been the undisputed workhorse world champions for three decades, ever since they overtook the previous leaders, the Taiwanese, in 1975. The Koreans and Taiwanese were clocking well over 2,700 hours a year for years.

But - as is the trend worldwide - annual working hours have fallen over the decades, including Korea's...

Apart from the East Asians, virtually everyone else (except Greece, Chile and Mexico) put in fewer than 2,000 hours a year, with many well under.

For Singapore, the long hours - especially in a year of poor output such as 2009 - would explain its recent poor productivity figures...

With productivity 'growth' of minus 14.2 per cent in 2009 (in GDP per employee terms), Singapore has the poorest number not only in Asia but worldwide. Average productivity growth across East Asia and the Pacific in 2009 was 2.4 per cent, and minus one per cent worldwide...

Singapore's TFP growth plunged from 3.9 per cent in 2007 to minus 4.9 per cent in 2008.

Still, just on the working hours measure, Singaporeans can have some consolation. Apparently, back in 1950, people here used to clock 2,520 hours a year, when total output was far lower. Annual work hours have fallen steadily through the years, down to 2,307 by 1992"
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