South Korea Abandons Plans of Moving to 69-Hour Workweek

Photo by Melody Zhang on Unsplash

The South Korean government has scrapped its plan to increase weekly working hours to 69 and will uphold its existing 52-hour workweek stipulated in South Korean labor laws, with plans to enhance conditions in select industries and professions.


Presently, companies in Korea are constrained to a 12-hour weekly overtime limit, a rule implemented in 2018. Initially suggested in March 2023, the hours-increase plan sought to allow employers to extend the weekly hours to address concerns raised by businesses grappling with meeting deadlines.


However, strong opposition was faced by Millennials, Gen Z, and labor unions against it.


Further, according to a survey released by the Ministry of Employment and Labor in November 2023, the effectiveness of the 52-hour workweek varied across different sectors, failing to fully address diverse needs. To cope, companies adjusted wages, expanded hiring, and occasionally bypassed regulations.


The Korean government, thus, decided to heed public sentiment reflected in the survey. It intends to retain the 52-hour workweek framework but discuss additional measures for industries facing challenges, involving both labor and management.


Regarding the restructuring of industries and occupations, South Korea aims to introduce safeguards addressing concerns about excessive work hours and health rights. It also plans to introduce various compensatory measures for employees’ hard work.


South Korea has gained notoriety for its prolonged work hours, with its citizens averaging 1,915 working hours in 2021, as per the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), among the highest in developed nations. (In the US, the average worker worked 1,767 hours in 2021)

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