Capetonians wither at work when the heat is on
Developing countries lose almost twice as many work days as developed countries due to heat
Working Capetonians wanted nothing more during last week’s heat wave than to head home, strip off and cool down. Maybe they knocked off a few minutes earlier than usual, or struggled to get through as much work as usual as stickiness sapped their energy.
It’s all part of a worldwide pattern of what boffins call heat-related work productivity loss, and a new study names Cape Town as SA’s most severely affected city.
Scientists from China and the UK who received 4,000 responses to a global online survey found that Capetonians lost between six and nine days worth of productivity each in 2016 due to heat.
The worst-affected African cities, with more than 12 days of lost productivity, were Mogadishu in Somalia, Abidjan in Ivory Coast and Bamako in Mali.
Reporting their findings in the Journal of Cleaner Production, a team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences said developing countries’ average of 6.6 lost days was almost twice as high as the average for developed countries.
“The heat-related work productivity loss has significant negative correlation with GDP per capita, indicating that the work productivity loss is inversely proportional to the level of development,” they said.
They used their findings to project future productivity dips as the climate changes, and said: “When global warming reaches 1.5°C, 2°C, 3°C and 4°C respectively, the average work-productivity loss will be 9 (19), 12 (31), 22 (61) and 33 (94) days for developed (developing) countries.
“Countries in south-east Asia in a 1.5°C-warming world would suffer the same loss as the developed countries would in a 4°C-warming world.
“Heatwaves surely impact more seriously the developing countries in general, but our study quantitatively estimated how much heatwaves would reduce the productivity and identified the most vulnerable regions over the world.
“Our results call for attention to the need of adaptation to increasing heatwaves by improving protective infrastructure, especially for the developing regions in the Belt and Road.”