Labour Legislations for Improving Quality of Work Life in Nepal
The term “Quality of Work Life” (QWL) originated from the concept of an open socio-technical system designed in the 1970s that helps to ensure autonomy in work, interdependence, and self-involvement with the idea of “best fit” between technology and social organizations. Although researchers open socio-technical systems as traditional concepts for practice, it assumes that optimal system performance and the “right” technical organization coincide with those job conditions under which the social and psychological needs of the workers are satisfied (Bolweg, 1976). A better QWL initiative supports to fulfill the technical and social requirements of jobs in our organizations.
Different authors view QWL differently. According to Hackman And Suttie (1977) concept and practice of QWL have broad and diverse and many use this phrase in their own way, for example:
To some, quality of work-life refers to industrial democracy, increased worker participation in corporate decision-making, or a culmination of the goals of the human relations movement of two decades ago, to others, especially those in management. the term suggests any of a variety of efforts to improve productivity through improvements in the human rather than the capital or technological inputs of production. Unions and worker representatives often view changes in the quality of work-life as leading to a more equitable sharing of the income and the resources of the working organization and to more humane and healthier working conditions. Alternatively, some union leaders suspect that management’s efforts to improve the quality of work-life are little more than attempts to elicit higher productivity from workers without payment of higher wages. Finally, many view the quality of work-life as closely related to, if not merely a broader and more up-to-date term for, such concepts as job satisfaction, humanizing work, or individualizing organizations. Thus, efforts to improve the quality of work-life are seen as closely akin to organizational development programs.
The benefits of the QWL initiative go to both employees and employers. Employees trust that with the presence of QWL initiatives they feel safe, relatively well satisfied, and able to grow and thus can develop as human beings. They believe that QWL enhances their dignity through job satisfaction and humanizing work by assigning meaningful jobs, ensuring job security, making provisions for adequate pay and benefits, providing safe and healthy working conditions, giving opportunities to develop human capacity, ensuring growth and security, social integration, constitutionalism, getting the freedom to self-expression and thus help to increase individual productivity that supports to achieve organizational effectiveness (Hian and Einstein, 1990; Nachmias, 1988; Carlson, 1980; Guest, 1979; Suttle, 1977; Walton, 1974). That is why Casio (1992) aptly defines QWL ‘in terms of employees’ perception of their physical and mental well-being. QWL initiatives are equally beneficial for employers. QWL positively nurtures a more flexible, loyal. and motivated workforce, which is essential in determining the company’s competitiveness (Allen and Loseby, 1993; Meyer and Cooke, 1993; Bassi and Vanburen, 197). There a statistically significant correlation between measures of QWL and business performance in terms of market performance, stakeholder value, and business sustainability as well as differentiating competitive capabilities in terms of service quality, delivery, employee knowledge, flexibility, and technological leadership (Roth, 1993). Positive results of QWL reduced absenteeism, lower turnover, and improved job satisfaction (Havlovic, 1991; Cohen et al, 1997; king and Ehrhard, 1997), Largely, it appears that the main concerns of an effective QWL program are improved working conditions mainly from an employee’s perspective and greater organizational effectiveness mainly from an employer’s perspective. Predicting or studying QWL variables depends on approaches adopted to improve the QWL situation at the organizational level. Three different approaches regarding QWL are common in the literature of human resource management (Krahn and Lowe, 1998; Crompton and Harris, 1998; Gallie, 1990; Rose, 1994). In the era of scientific management, QWL was based on extrinsic traits of jobs: salaries, safety and hygiene, and other tangible benefits of the workplace. The human relations approach stressed that, while extrinsic rewards are important, intrinsic traits of a job: autonomy, challenges, and task contents, are key predictors of productivity and efficiency. A third approach-orientation to work suggested that a focus on extrinsic or intrinsic reward is contingent on the person. However, the success of the QWL initiative depends on openness and trust, information management, organizational culture, a partnership between management and workers (Casio, 1992), Equally important, the responsibility of improving QWL is concerned, it should be jointly shared by employees, owners, union leaders, and governments through legislation (Suttle, 1977). The role of these stakeholders is most vital in protecting the rights and interests of the workers and employees. Very few authors have mentioned the role of the state in the protection of QWL rights at the time of liberalization and globalization. Although with the increasing impact of liberalization and deregulation of the economy, organizations in developed and developing are demanding of more autonomy in labor-related decisions, provisions, and mechanism of implementing QWL initiatives should come from the labor laws. In this study, only the legislative role of the government is discussed to explain the QWL situation in Nepalese manufacturing organizations.
In 1999 International Labor Organization (ILO) put forward a new agenda of “decent work” defined as decent work deficits caused by a gap between the world that we work in and the hopes that people have for a better life (ILO, 2001) in order “to improve the situation of human beings in the world of work (ILO, 1999, p.3) From the perspective of decent work, the “gaps’ which exist between people’s aspirations regarding their work and their current work situations can be viewed as “decent work deficits”. Although the “decent work’ movement is a recently developed concept that is different from the initiatives, it has not left the main issue of labor rights problem arising due to the gap in the aspirations and real work situation at our workplaces. In other words, the issues of QWL are also considered while framing the “decent work” concept. However, in this study, only QWL is considered for presentation and discussion. The recent development of decent work issues further substantiates this paper to explore the situation of QWL in the Nepalese workplace.
Very few studies have undertaken to assess the situation of QWL in Nepal. From workers’ perspective, the QWL situation of Nepalese shop floor jobs described in the following ways:
Shop-floor jobs [in Nepalese manufacturing organizations] are generally considered routine and non-motivating. The overall consensus among workers is those job design dimensions are unsatisfactory on the shop-floor. This fact, however, has no effect on workers remaining on the job, due to economic necessity alone […] facts about satisfaction and motivational levels of many factories were discouraging. Workers are alienated from their work and they often feel punished while working on the shop-floor […]. In some factories, workers are resisting difficulties and variety on the job, while others need some sort of challenge and irregularity on the shop-floor. Eu)nomic Incentives and pay are the major determinants of both satisfaction and motivation (Adhikari 1992).
With this anecdotal evidence about the situation in Nepalese workplaces the question arises that: does the situation changed over time? To answer this, some specific questions this study deals with are:
- What QWL- related provisions are stated in the labor laws?
- What are the enforcement mechanisms given in different labor laws to implement initiatives?
- How effectively provisions of labor laws are being complied by Nepalese manufacturing firms?
- What are the expectations of the union leaders towards different dimensions of QWL?