March 24, 2013

Turning Mauritius into a 24/7

The concept of a 24 by 7 economy is a very simple one. Also known as a ‘round-the-clock’ economy, it means that the country’s economic activities are operational on a 24-hour basis, 7 days a week with many activities happening concurrently.

A simple example would be workers in call centres who synchronise their rhythm with international office hours will have food sellers ready to serve them food in the middle of the night. This will then trigger some sort of transport necessity; a taxi for instance, has to be made available and so on.

The Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) was a major stakeholder who supported this initiative to help change work attitude in collaboration with numerous other stakeholders such as the BPML, OTAM, Apollo Bramwell Hospital, MEF, University of Mauritius and other economic operators.

Rajcoomar Auckloo, Director of the HRDC gave News on Sunday a detailed explanation of the concept and as to why they still currently fully support the 24 by 7 concept. He told us that the events that were being organised were meant to send a strong, but also friendly message, out to the public regarding the 24 by 7 economy concept.

 “The 24 by 7 weekend events the HRDC in collaboration with other stakeholders organised were to encourage people and give them a better understanding of this important step we wanted our economy and people to take. We thought that through these events, we could get our message across in the best possible way. And as many witnessed, the campaign was a success. When we organised the 24 by 7 weekend in Port-Louis the response we got from the public was enormous. Businesses and the public in general showed support, which in turn encouraged us to continue with the process.

However, as regards to why these events have come to a halt, basically this is because one of our objectives behind these events was to set an example for others to follow. We did not want it to be one off. Hence, the continuing campaigns in different areas of the country. Nevertheless we hoped that giving the public and businesses a taste of what good this concept can bring to our economy, we had hoped that these parties would have adopted the trend permanently.  Apart from the obvious public services and BPO businesses, which is on 24 hour, 7 days a week basis, other sectors are reaping the benefits of this concept already.  Many fast foods joints, restaurants, taxi service, and even certain street vendors are all already embroiled in the 24 by 7 economy.

Therefore, I strongly encourage more businesses to adopt this method and reap the benefits. It will not only bring the latter the business edge over competitors, but also help the country to further prosper economically,” explained Rajcoomar Auckloo.

News on Sunday also questioned Rajcoomar Auckloo as to why some members of the public are reluctant to adopt the idea. “One of the main confusions around the 24 by 7 economy is that people will think that they will be working 24 hours a day seven days a week. However, it is the contrary to what is very often perceived. The model will not force employees to work continuously 24 hours a day 7 days a week but rather adapting to a different method of work practices. These different work practices include flexi time and flexi schedule, shift system, work from home, telecommuting and so on,” he stated.

The National Awareness Campaign to change work attitude in the context of a 24 by 7 economy was launched by the government in 2009. Numerous events were organised in different areas to promote the idea. The main objectives were to sensitise the Mauritian public to the benefits of a 24/7 Economy, to transform the Ebène area into a 24/7 economic zone, and also to encourage alternative work practices. However, the events and campaigns to promote the 24 by 7 economy have come to a halt for some time now. Have perceptions changed as regards to whether this concept will work in Mauritius? News on Sunday investigates.

BPO supervisor says social life and health will be affected

Contacted by News on Sunday, J .P, a BPO company supervisor thinks that transforming every sector of Mauritius 24 by 7 will have its definite advantages. However, there is no hiding the fact that it will come with major social consequences and health drawbacks. “As an employee working different shifts in a BPO for almost 8 years now, I can definitely say that it can indeed have positive effects on social life. My husband has never learnt to do housework, but now it is shared equally. We also take turns to look after our kids so there is better interaction.

However, an economy that never sleeps can pose risks to the people and their families. I rarely ever spend quality time with my husband anymore, because our work rosters are different and are constantly changing. I cannot say we are unhappy, but others may face this risk. This can lead to marital unhappiness or even divorce. There is no family bonding. Furthermore, I believe this can indeed affect health. One reason is that parents may forgo sleep in order to be available to their children.”

Frankie Tang, economist: 24/7 economy needs vital infrastructure

Contacted by News on Sunday, Economist Frankie Tang spoke the matter. He stated that indeed a 24 by 7 economy has many benefits, but the idea must be backed by proper infrastructure, the transport system for instance.  “All aspects of this concept have to be properly aligned to function simultaneously with each other.  Today many individuals especially workers who work till late find it difficult to travel back home. After 7 o’clock there is no means of public transport available apart from taxis which cost a lot nowadays.

Until proper infrastructures are put in place Mauritius will find it hard to adopt this system. The metro system once put in place will definitely help the cause but until then I highly doubt businesses will take on board this idea.  There is no doubt that there are major benefits to an economy operating on a 24 by 7 basis. Countries such as Singapore and the USA have been using this for some time now and it has worked for them. Likewise if Mauritius in the future can adopt this way of life it will be very beneficial.”

Frankie Tang also told News on Sunday that apart from setting the proper infrastructures, the mindsets of people need also change. “The Mauritian public today is very wary of this idea, because their way of life has been the same for generations. They have got into the habit of the 9 to 5 working day and it will need a lot of effort to revolutionise this. Furthermore, with crimes and misdemeanours likely to occur at anytime, many are afraid to roam the streets after a certain time.”

OTAM - Social aspects need to be taken into consideration

THE CHAIRMAN of Outsourcing and Telecommunications Association of Mauritius (OTAM), Roshan Seetohul stated that it is crucial for Mauritius to adopt the 24 by 7 system in order to meet the fierce demands of an economy nowadays. However, he pointed out that all this should be done keeping in mind the social aspects.

 “In light of the growing need to be innovative and responsive to today’s competitive environment, businesses can no longer operate on a 9 to 5 basis. Instead, the economy should adapt to meet the challenges posed by continuing its operations round-the-clock. Indeed certain sectors have already taken this leap forward, but continuous sensitisation campaigns as regards to the benefits of operation on a 24 by 7 basis should be given to other sectors.

However, it is also very important to consider the social consequences of a 24 by 7 economy and how it may affect individuals. It is essential that workers’ family life and health are taken into consideration. They need to feel good and have a proper environment to work in,” he explained.



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