Press Digest - Former civil servants sceptical on proposal to reduce working hours

PETALING JAYA: Two former top civil servants expressed reservations about a proposal to reduce the working hours for civil servants to six a day from eight currently.

They urged the government not to rush into it to avoid affecting our productivity and efficiency, arguing that Malaysia cannot be compared with Sweden, which observes the six-hour workday.

Former transport ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said he did not agree with the proposal, pointing out that civil servants could not have the best of both worlds – high pay and short working hours.

He said the government should first do a feasibility study on the proposal and not rush into accepting it.

"The authorities should study the consequences of the proposal, instead of making the mistake of simply accepting it."

He pointed out that if the study showed that a shorter workday does not affect the civil service's productivity, he would accept the proposal with an open mind, Oriental Daily News reported today.

Ramon, who is Centre for Public Policy Studies president, said this when asked by the daily to comment on the remark by Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa, who said the government would consider MTUC (Malaysian Trades Union Congress) secretary-general Gopal Kisham's recent proposal for a shorter workday for civil servants.

Gopal had opined that longer working hours would negatively impact employees and eventually reduce productivity.

He cited Sweden as an example where productivity was not affected by the introduction of a shorter workday.

Former education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom also expressed reservations about the proposal, saying the government should look at it in depth, including studying the factors that allow developed nations to have a shorter workday without compromising productivity.

Said Alimuddin: "Sweden is a developed country, which uses technology to reduce workload. But Malaysia is a developing country where technology is applied relatively less in the civil service. We must consider whether we have the same capability as Sweden," he said.