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Chinese are most industrious and overworked: poll
Publication Date : 13-12-2013
China may be the most industrious nation in the world, according to a recent German survey, but a Chinese labour expert said lax labour rights have created a culture of overworked employees who do not take vacations.
Monster Worldwide, which runs one of the world's largest employment websites of the same name, and GfK, the largest global market research institute in Germany, released a survey on Tuesday that asked workers from eight nations to rate global "industriousness".
About 8,000 participants in Canada, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States were asked which country creates the best ideas or products, how hard-working is a given country's labour force and where in the world is most competitive. The survey did not poll workers in China.
China topped the ranking, followed by Germany and the US. French workers were considered the laziest in the world, according to the survey.
US respondents ranked China second to their own country in industriousness.
"Hardworking and industriousness has been part of the national spirit," said Zhou Haibin, an officer with the International Labour Organisation's China and Mongolia Office. The ILO is a United Nations agency.
"China is experiencing a boom in its economy, while the other nations are now in financial crises," he said. "A lot of industries and transactions are shifting to China, that's why Chinese employees are busier than employees in other nations."
"But one factor that should not be neglected is the lack of labour rights in China," he added.
Employees in China work an average of 8.66 hours and spend 0.96 hours in transit each workday, according to a survey jointly conducted in 2012 by Peking University and Zhaopin.com, a Chinese human resources company. The survey covered more than 30,000 respondents in 28 cities.
Under Chinese labor laws and the ILO's global advocacy, employees should work no more than 40 hours a week.
Germans work an average of about 33.5 hours a week, according to a report by German newspaper Handelsblatt Business Daily.
Zhou said Chinese workers are unable to "safeguard their rights for legitimate working hours and annual paid leaves".
He said not all Chinese employers pay for overtime. On rare occasions, an employer will allow an employee to take the day off if he or she had worked eight hours of overtime.
An employee who works at a leading global consultant firm in Shanghai, identified only as Xu, works 12 to 13 hours a day. He said he is never paid for overtime but considers his high monthly salary a justification for the long hours.
Xu said employees at the firm's Chinese office work the longest compared with their European, Australian and US counterparts. "Maybe that's because all the business is centred here," he said.
Under a regulation endorsed by the State Council in 2008, workers can enjoy five days of paid leave a year after working 12 months. People who have worked more than 10 years can have 10 days of paid leave and workers who have worked 20 years or longer get 15 days.
But few employees in China take their annual vacation. To get more Chinese to go on vacations and boost the tourism industry, the Chinese tourism authority issued a guideline in February to provide more legal support to protect workers' rights to a vacation. The aim of the guideline is that by 2020, all employees in China will be entitled to paid annual leaves.