TGIF: South Korea reduces its workweek to 52 hours

In an effort to boost their birth rate, South Korea reduces their workweek to 52 hours to make time for – ahem – other things in life.


March 2, 2018

TGIF: South Korea reduces its workweek to 52 hours

This week, South Korea passed a bill to reduce the country’s maximum workweek from 68 hours to 52, to boost quality of life — and population growth.

South Korea has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, due in part to their workaholic culture.

For context, the average employee in South Korea works 2,069 hours a year (about 40 hours per week in a 50-week working year), compared to the United States’ 1,783 (about 35 hours per week).

But we’re tireeedddd…

South Koreans have been working themselves to the bone

Since the SK economy started flourishing in the ’80s, its citizens have embraced a “work hard, work hard” lifestyle.

SK workers have the third-longest workweek in the world compared to other developed economies (excluding China and India).

And, even though employees’ annual time spent working fell nearly 500 hours since 2000, South Koreans work 400 more hours a year than employees in the UK.

Cutting back seems reasonable

But businesses aren’t into it. Under the previous law, weekends weren’t counted as “working days,” meaning companies could legally squeeze an extra 16 working hours out of people a week, completely unpenalized.

But, with the new bill, the standard workweek will be 40 hours, plus 12 hours of overtime (weekends included). And, those extra overtime wages will cost businesses an estimated $11B per year to maintain the same productivity.

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