Infosys co-founder calls for youth to work 70-hour weeks

Do it for India, says Narayana Murthy, seemingly unaware that China, Japan, and South Korea all have overworking problems

Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy has called for Indian youth to voluntarily work 70-hour weeks.

Speaking in an interview hosted by Indian venture capital firm 3one4 Capital, Murthy opined that India has enormous economic potential but that its productivity rates remain low.

“My request is that our youngsters must say ‘This is my country I want to work 70 hours a week’,” he said, adding “this is exactly what Germans and Japanese did after the Second World War.”

“I hope our corporate leaders will be able to address our youngsters and say ‘For the first time India has received certain respect. This is the time for us to consolidate and accelerate the progress and for doing that we need to work very hard; we need to be disciplined and improve our work productivity.”

Working those extreme hours, he added, will define a culture that ultimately improves India’s government by setting an example.

“Our culture has to change to that of highly determined extremely disciplined and extremely hardworking people, and that transformation has to come to youngsters because youngsters from a significant majority of our population at this point,” he added.

He added his view that long working hours will help to propel India to become one of the world’s top two economies in coming decades.

“Performance leads to recognition, recognition leads to respect and respect leads to power,” he said, citing China as a “great example” of that progression.

“So therefore, my request to all the wonderful youth of this country is that realize this and work twelve-hour days for the next 20 years, 50 years whatever it is, so that India to becomes a number one nation or number two nation in terms of its GDP.”

The former Infosys CEO also called for governments to “remove all restrictions to the entrepreneur, to create more and more jobs for the people to create some wealth for themselves and some wealth for investors.”

Hands-off governments, he said, will be able to raise more taxes.

Presumably an entire generation working 70-hour weeks should help, too.

Ironically, Infosys – the company Murthy co-founded and served as CEO from 1981 to 2002, recently reported its staff utilization rate is currently 81.8 percent – less than half the 70 hours the former boss wants young Indians to work.

The former CEO also appeared ignorant of the fact that long working hours have created problems elsewhere - including in the nations he wants India to emulate and surpass.

Japan’s government actively promotes measures to prevent death from overwork. China’s tech industry developed a culture in which 72-hour working weeks became the norm, leading workers to push back, hard against the expectations of overwork and the nation’s courts to agree that employers could not reasonably require long hours.

South Korea, too, reduced its maximum 68-hour working week to 52 hours, after falling birth rates were felt to be one consequence of long working weeks.

Yet Murthy wants India to catch up to those three nations.

The 70-hour work week plan has another problem: it's illegal.

India’s Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code [PDF] limits working days to eight hours.

Aren’t billionaires and their opinions just great? ®

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