Examining the Impact of Long Hours on Factory Workers

FLA’s research, assessments and surveys over the past two years confirm that excessive working hours have a negative impact on workers, often resulting in physical and psychological stress for workers and increased worker turnover. FLA surveys in China found that an estimated 50 percent of workers in the garment industry and 80 percent in electronics manufacturing work more than 60 hours per week, and an estimated 80 percent regularly work more than 7 days in a row.  Even more alarming is the fact that 20 percent sometimes work more than 24 consecutive days without a day of rest.

One argument some have used in defense of excessive working hours is that Chinese factory workers want to work more hours. This argument, however, does not paint the full picture:  45 percent of 1,766 recently-surveyed workers say that their salary would not be sufficient if they did not work more than 60 hours per week. In fact, 40 percent said their salaries were not sufficient to cover basic needs, such as education, health care and housing. In addition, 50 percent of workers reported that excessive working hours make them feel isolated and more prone to sickness.  Many said that they did not get to spend enough time with their families. Only 20 percent of workers felt satisfied with their job.

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Brand, factory and supplier representatives gather at an FLA event to discuss solutions to problems caused by long work hours.

Data obtained by FLA shows that those who spend an excessive number of hours at work are eight times more likely to be unhappy with their job than those with regular hours. In addition, they are six times more likely to show signs of poor mental health.  In short: long working hours create risks to workers’ wellbeing and undermine factories’ retention efforts and long-term productivity. Because of the harmful impact that long hours have on workers, the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct, which is based on international labor standards, states that “the regular work week shall not exceed 48 hours…Employers shall allow workers at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every seven-day period…[and] the sum of regular and overtime hours in a week shall not exceed 60 hours.”

On September 20, FLA Shanghai hosted a networking event and brief workshop for suppliers and brands operating in or sourcing from factories in China. Session facilitators asked participants to consider how to improve relations at hypothetical “Factory A,” which has high working hours. Read the rest of this entry »


New FLA Workers’ Survey Tool Measures Job Satisfaction

Understanding workers’ perception of the factories they work in is essential for management seeking to recruit and retain talented and qualified employees. The Fair Labor Association’s SCOPE Workers’ Surveys are standardized, quantitative questionnaires which are completed anonymously by a randomly-selected, representative sample of workers.  SCOPE surveys measure the effectiveness and impact of factories’ social compliance efforts in areas such as hours of work; hiring; communication; and grievance and complaint systems.  Recently, FLA launched a new SCOPE survey to measure job satisfaction.

The new SCOPE Job Satisfaction Survey gathers workers’ opinions on factors influencing job satisfaction, such as:

  • working hours
  • wages and benefits
  • health and safety
  • working environment and the atmosphere within the factory
  • supervisors’ and management’s attitude and communication
  • professional development and advancement opportunities
  • perception of work performance
  • physical impact of working at the factory

The survey also measures the workers’ loyalty to the factory; their short- and long-term  priorities; and their plans to leave or stay with the factory.  In addition, the survey indicates which factors are most likely to improve hiring practices, retention and productivity.  It may also help identify risk areas in workforce stability. Read the rest of this entry »