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Rant: Hours but to do and die

Elizabeth Broomhall


A recent article in the South China Morning Post arguing against regulating working hours in Hong Kong claimed the city had acquired its status as one of the world's top three business centres by instilling a "diligent, savvy" work ethic. Legal restrictions, wrote General Chamber of Commerce chief executive Shirley Yuen, would influence companies' willingness to invest here and hamper employment prospects.

It strikes me as odd that a city so forward-thinking as Hong Kong should be satisfied with this kind of rationale. When did standardised working hours and international business hub status become mutually exclusive? Britain, Germany and Japan all have legal limits on working hours, and even the mainland and Singapore can see the value in at least paying lip service to a 44-hour working week. Surely a happier, refreshed workforce is more productive than a drained and overworked one?

Another bewildering suggestion made in the article was that regulation would force companies into reducing their operating hours. This doesn't stack up. For example, in Britain, where 48 hours a week is supposed to be the legal limit, many businesses operate round the clock with three separate eight-hour shifts a day.

In any case, a lot of businesses surely have no place being open all night. I mean, really - who needs a foot massage at 2am? Or, worse, a personal training session at 10pm on a Saturday? That's just taking diligence too far.



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Hong Kong is forward-thinking? You must be joking. Just look at its urban mess from pollution to lack of adequate housing and waste management. No. Hong Kong is largely stuck in the age of the glitz and glamour and only shallow folks will fall for that. Even, yes, even Singapore is more forward-thinking than Britain, Japan, Germany and Hong Kong put together.

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