Asia has longest working hours but least productive and healthy

Employees in Asia have the longest working hours globally but it has come at a price of productivity and ill health. Find out which countries top the charts.
By: | December 19, 2019

Workers in Asia are known for their hardworking ethics which have contributed to its miraculous economic rise. But has it come at a cost?

According to an AIA Vitality Healthiest Workplace survey conducted by Rand Europe, which surveyed more than 26,000 employees in the Asia-Pacific region regarding their health and well-being, Asian countries top the longest working hours globally.

The unwanted top spot went to Hong Kong, which has 46% of employees working more than 50 hours per week. Coming in a distant second is Sri Lanka, who has 35% while Malaysia has 33%, Thailand 24% and Australia 20%.

But working longer doesn’t necessarily mean more work has been done. Hong Kong lost a total of 77.4 days in the average amount of productive time lost per year due to absenteeism and presenteeism, which means when someone is present at work but is too ill or distracted to perform effectively. Malaysia lost a total of 73.4 days, Thailand 56 days, Australia 50.4 days and Sri Lanka 48 days.

Samson Tse, who runs a masters programme in counselling at the University of Hong Kong, explained the plight of Hong Kong workers.

“Employees in Hong Kong suffer from a lack of physical and mental space. There is little job security, and sick workplace cultures, transmitted from stressed bosses, are commonplace,” he said.

The ‘pressure cooker’ work culture in Asia has not just affected productivity, but also its workers’ physical and mental health.

61% of Hong Kong workers reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress followed by Malaysia at 57%, Thailand at 53% and Sri Lanka at 43%. Sri Lanka has the biggest proportion of employees reporting depression at 15% with Hong Kong at 12%, Malaysia 7%, Australia 5% and Thailand 4.5%.

Poor diet has also contributed to Asian workers’ poor health with nearly 85% of employees in Hong Kong and Malaysia eating fewer than five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. These countries also had the highest proportion of employees who were physically inactive.

And the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that Asia could suffer the consequences of an unhealthy workforce in the long run.

“Poor dietary choices and sedentary lifestyles are leading the countries of Asia and the Pacific into a future of lower productivity and ballooning public healthcare costs.”