There has been a surprising change in the structure of civil service pay structure and the timing of government offices, to be implemented in February 2009. According to the press briefings and various interviews, there will be a slight pay rise to all government employees due to this sudden change, and starting from February 01st, the working hours of all government offices will be 08:00 to 16:00, with a lunch break of one hour from 12:00 to 13:00. The total working hours remains at 07, which was the same even with 07:30 to 14:30 as the official working hours. So, what is the objective of changing the work hours? What are we trying to achieve? Normally, one would expect an increase in pay rise to be associated with an increase in working hours in order to increase the aggregate output of the country. If the change does not increase the number of working hours, I don’t see too many economic benefits of simply starting 30 minutes late, and finishing 1.5 hours late, with one hour break in between (which becomes technically an unproductive one hour).
Due to this change, the civil service employees dependent on part-time employment are mostly to suffer. As many may not be able to continue their part-time jobs, and as a result lose a significant amount of their previous income. If the pay rise does not compensate such loss, then there will be a net loss in the economic welfare. The economy also loses as many leave their part-time employment. Normally, these part-time employments are placed in the private sector, and people are hired selectively based on productivity. This recent reform may in the end lower the productivity in the economy.
Brining our work hours in line with international practice is one of the reasons that were often heard as justification for the change in government working hours. In almost all other countries, people are required to commute hours to work every morning, thus justifies late starting time. But in Maldives, we could get to work within a maximum 15 minutes even in the largest islands in the Southern atolls. Starting our work even at 7:00 will not be a problem for us (Staff at schools start at this time even now). If our objective is to increase productivity, starting at 07:00 and finishing at 14:00 would be a much better option.