If there are major Western economies trying weeks of just four working days, South Korea wanted to do the opposite: increase from 52 to 69 working hours per week. Businessmen are in favor, young people, unions and the opposition have protested against
South Korea’s government has backed away from implementing a 69-hour work week after young people claimed it would destroy work-life balance and pose risks to physical and mental health.
If implemented, citizens would have to work 13.8 hours a day. As the government does not specify whether these hours already include midday or not, this would mean that workers would enter work at, say, 09:00 and leave after 23:00.
As of 2018, the limit is 52 hours per week. Business leaders find it too little and make it difficult to meet deadlines. That is why the government thought of increasing the total to 69.
However, young people went ahead with protests and demonstrations, and according to The Guardian, President Yoon Suk-yeol was forced to ask the government to reconsider the measure and “communicate better with the public, especially Generation Z and millennials “, revealed the press. officer Kim Eun-hye.
Union leaders said such a measure would force people to work longer hours in a country already known for its punitive workplace culture. Opposition politicians also argued that forcing workers in Asia’s fourth-largest economy to work longer hours would do nothing to solve the country’s low birth rate.
Furthermore, it would mean that South Korea operates unlike other major Western economies, which are experimenting with four-day work weeks. In some cases, this measure has already been shown to result in equal or better levels of productivity, as well as greater employee well-being.
Labor Minister Lee Jung-sik argued that raising the weekly limit to 69 hours would allow working women to accumulate more overtime in exchange for later time off that could be used for family or other responsibilities.
South Koreans worked an average of 1,915 hours in 2021, 199 hours more than the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average and 566 hours more than workers in Germany – where average weekly hours range between 38 and 40.