Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has come in for a lot of flak with his 9-9-6 statement\u20149 to 9 every day, six days a week\u2014for employees in the tech industry in China. In a lengthy blog post, he was dismissive of those looking for a typical eight-hour day and said that, while he could have said something that was \u2018correct\u2019, \u2018what we lack is truthful words that make people think\u2019. And, in response to what Ma said, Richard Liu, who heads rival firm JD.com, said that he would never force people to work a 9-9-6 schedule since it was inhumane. And though Tesla founder Elon Musk hasn\u2019t tweeted on it recently, he had said, last year, that he even worked 120-hour weeks; while he said that no one should put in so many hours, he recommended working 80 hours as a matter of course. And, in response to criticism such as from Ariana Huffington who said that after 17-19 hours without sleep, we have the cognitive impairment of someone who is legally drunk, Musk said that \u201cthere are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week\u201d. The debate over whether a 40-hour week is ideal or whether it should be Jack Ma\u2019s 72-hours will continue, and it is true that, as Huffington pointed out to Musk, that unstressed minds come up with innovative solutions\u2014she gave the example of Franklin D Roosevelt coming up, on a 10-day break on a naval ship, with his $50bn lend-lease programme that helped him convince the Congress to give the UK the money it needed to carry on with the war; without this, World War II could have swung the other way. But, equally important, work hours need to be related to productivity. In other words, since workers in developing economies are typically not as productive as those in developed ones, they need to work longer\u2014and at lower wages\u2014to retain their competitive advantage; ditto for poorer developing countries like India versus richer ones like China. In the case of India, for instance, apart from the issue of needing to allow hire-and-fire, a larger problem relates to the high minimum wages and the frequent upward revision in even this. And, if that isn\u2019t bad enough, the government even puts a restriction on how much overtime workers can do; while the law restricts this to 17-18 hours a month, and never more than two hours at a stretch (!), overtime wages are generally double the normal ones. Ensuring workers don\u2019t get exploited is important, but when the option to this is no\u2014or low levels of\u2014employment, this needs to be re-examined. India\u2019s wage rates are much lower than those in China\u2014or even Vietnam\u2014but the real way to examine this is to adjust them for productivity. You also need to factor in how much overtime is allowed\u2014Bangladesh allows roughly double what India does per month\u2014since that determines what effective labour costs are. The fact that exports from countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh are growing much faster than those from India is proof of India\u2019s dysfunctional labour laws. A study by Radhicka Kapoor and PP Krishnapriya of Icrier found that, in even the small organised sector in India, the share of contract workers rose\u2014from 15.5% in FY01 to 27.9% in FY16\u2014with firms trying to restrict the crippling power of trade unions. While the NDA did little about labour reforms in the last five years\u2014indeed, in its manifesto, the BJP takes pride in raising the minimum wage by 42%\u2014if this is not addressed by the next government, India\u2019s share of exports is going to further fall and the jobs situation is going to become even more alarming.