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Devina Haripersad - 04 April 2023

Image: iStock

The Department of Labour may soon conduct an investigation into the working hours of its working class citizens.

According to, South African workers potentially have the longest working hours in the world.

Currently, the South African Labour Guide stipulates that a 5-day work week in South Africa sees employees working 9 hours a day – excluding a lunch break – which adds up to 45 hours a week.

But, reports have indicated that the Department of Labour in the country may soon conduct an investigation into the working hours of its working-class citizens, to determine whether South Africa’s working hours are reasonable.

According to government, the last investigation was conducted in 2014, when the then Employment Conditions Commission looked into the feasibility of reducing working hours. (The role of the former commission has since been taken over by the National Minimum Wage Commission.)

It found that hours were successfully reduced in certain industries such as textile, sugar, glass as well as metal and engineering.

But in 2017, South Africa was still identified by the International Labour Organisation as one of the countries where people worked the most, with a total of 2 178 hours worked in a year. This was comparable to the number of working hours recorded in Costa Rica but lower than those of nations such as Mexico, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

Work hours could be reduced

Should the Department of Labour find that the number of hours worked in the South African context had adversely affected the well-being of employees and the growth of the economy (working workers reduces consumer spend as they are otherwise occupied), then South Africans could see a considerable reduction in the amount of time they spend at work.

But the International Labour Organisation says that when considering a reduction in working hours, several factors should be taken into account, including the economic development level of the country, the potential impact on production, productivity, economic growth, and new industry development, and avoiding inflationary pressures that can reduce real income for workers.

The authority advised that it was also essential to consider the potential to increase productivity by using modern technology, automation, and management techniques, and to improve living standards for people in developing countries.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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