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The Mumbai jobs case study that would've cut Jack Ma a lot of slack

Ma raised a storm when he said Alibaba didn't need workers who wanted a typical eight-hour office lifestyle.

ET Online|
Updated: Apr 16, 2019, 08.48 PM IST
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Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, recently talked his way into a big controversy when he endorsed a 12-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week work routine for young professionals.

To survive at Alibaba, one needs to work 12 hours a day, six days a week, he said. "To be able to work 996 is a huge bliss," said Ma, China’s richest man. "If you want to join Alibaba, you need to be prepared to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why even bother joining."

Looks like Ma's critics could do with a quick trip to Mumbai or, for that matter, even Delhi, where working long hours hardly raises any eyebrows, and where people think nothing of putting in extra hours at work.

As per a post on Alibaba’s official Weibo account, Ma had said that Alibaba didn't need workers who wanted a typical eight-hour office lifestyle.

Ma's comments fanned a raging online fire about workers dying from high-levels of workplace stress. In March, Chinese techies had taken to GitHub — an online platform for code-sharers — under the banner 996.ICU to express dissent over their general working conditions.

The topic in question — 996 work culture — indicates working hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. At a time when discussions on work-life balance make for a lively debate, this show of dissent quickly went on to become most popular topic on the site.

So what was Ma thinking, endorsing such extreme overtime which he must have known would certainly cause a furore? Examples from offices in cities like Mumbai, maybe?

We will never know, but here a look at what kind of hours the world's most prominent cities — including Delhi and Mumbai — put in at work.

Maximum ways of the Maximum City
An average employee in Mumbai works 3,315 hours a year — which is more than any other place on earth, a study by Swiss investment bank UBS has found. Which would mean that the maximum city — the city that never sleeps — is also the hardest working city in the world.

Not just that. The vacation days Mumbai employees took — around 10 days a year — were also among the least in the world. The fewer vacations Mumbaikars took could be linked to the longer hours they work, UBS said.

The study ranked 77 top cities on a range of key parameters like working hours and pay. As per the findings, workers in Mumbai, Hanoi, Mexico City, New Delhi and Bogota put in the longest hours in a year. At the other end of the spectrum, workers in Helsinki, Moscow, Copenhagen, Paris, Rome and Lagos logged the least hours.

Along with Mumbai employees, those in cities like Los Angeles, Beijing, Hanoi and Lagos take the least or the shortest vacations.

At 37 days a year, workers in Riyadh took the highest number of off days. Other cities where employees availed more than 30 days a year of holidays include Moscow, St Petersburg, Barcelona and Doha.

Long hours, big purse? Fat chance
The UBS study employed a very interesting yardstick — the iPhone X, which tops most millennials' wish list — to gauge if longest hours at work were also getting people the fattest of pay packets. Here's what it found:

— A Mumbai worker will have to put in more than 900 hours of work to be able to afford the phone.
— The same product would require the average Delhi worker to work for at least 800 hours.
— On this parameter, India's top two cities are above just one global peer — Cairo (1,000 hours).

In sharp contrast, workers in Zurich require just 38 hours of work to make enough for an iPhone X. Employees in Los Angeles, Geneva, Miami and Nicosia too will need to put in considerably fewer hours — less than 100 — for the same purpose.
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