South Korea 69-hour workweek plan reversed after youth backlash
Im, who spoke on the situation that solely his final identify be used as a result of he was not licensed by his employer to talk publicly, is among the many tens of millions of South Koreans of their 20s or 30s who have been exasperated by final week’s proposal from President Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration to lift the authorized cap on weekly work hours to 69.
In a uncommon coverage reversal, the federal government will rethink the plan after a vocal pushback from youthful adults. “The president views workweeks longer than 60 hours as unrealistic, even when including overtime,” Ahn Sang-hoon, a senior presidential adviser, advised reporters Thursday. “The government will listen more carefully to opinions from MZ workers” amongst others, he added, utilizing the collective time period generally utilized in South Korea for millennials and people in Generation Z.
“I think it’s a positive sign that the president has taken a step back after listening to younger generations,” stated Kim Seol, the chief of Youth Community Union, a labor activist group that advocates higher working situations for youthful adults. “But it’s also proof that the president didn’t really think this through,” he stated.
Yoon’s disapproval score amongst South Koreans of their 20s and 30s jumped to 66 p.c and 79 p.c respectively on March 10, 4 days after the federal government formally introduced the 69-hour proposal, in keeping with Gallup Korea. (The rankings have been 57 p.c and 62 p.c respectively on March 3.) Disapproval rankings from different age teams throughout the identical interval both stayed comparable or decreased.
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By regulation, the South Korean workweek is 40 hours with as much as 12 hours of weekly additional time, so long as the employer compensates employees with additional trip or pay. In apply, additional time incessantly goes unrewarded, in keeping with employees of their 20s and 30s who spoke to The Post. Employers nudge them to do leftover work at home within the evenings, they are saying, and in some instances accuse them of being inefficient to keep away from authorized scrutiny for the prolonged hours.
Daniel Kim, a 35-year-old who works within the medical business as a researcher, stated he as soon as went by means of an eight-month interval when he couldn’t go house earlier than 10 p.m. Eighty-hour workweeks weren’t exceptional at his firm, he stated. His spouse, who’s employed by a pharmaceutical agency and sometimes works into the evening, was wrapping up work from home as he was being interviewed for this story round 9 p.m. Wednesday.
South Koreans work a mean of 1,915 hours a 12 months, whereas Americans work 1,791 hours, in keeping with the newest figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD common is 1,716 hours.
Neighboring Japan — which 20 years in the past had work hours above the OECD imply and continues to be taking steps to beat the issue of karoshi, or deaths from overworking — final 12 months averaged 1,607 hours. Today, “working excessively long hours is frowned upon” in Japan, stated Motohiro Morishima, a professor of human useful resource administration at Gakushuin University in Tokyo. South Korea ought to search to extend productiveness, not working hours, he stated.
“If there is more work, [South Korean] employers should hire more people,” stated Lee Jong-sun, a professor of labor relations at Korea University’s Graduate School of Labor Studies in Seoul. That means, extra jobs are created and overwork is diminished, he stated.
But firms not often do, he stated, as a result of they both don’t have the monetary capability or as a result of it’s cheaper to ask present workers to choose up the slack. “Hiring new people means more benefits, insurance and more wages,” Lee stated. “It’s more expensive.”
As lately as 20 years in the past, South Koreans have been anticipated to work 5½ days every week. On Saturday mornings, youngsters would go to highschool whereas mother and father headed to the workplace for a half-day. It was solely in 2011 that the nation totally adopted the five-day workweek. Seven years later, the nation capped weekly working hours at 52.
“Nobody wants to go back to longer weeks,” stated Lee, 58, who remembers when he must sacrifice participation at household gatherings on Saturdays to go to work. Legalizing a workweek of 60-plus hours can be like sending the nation again in time, he stated. “We’ve already felt the benefits of shorter weeks. Why would anyone want to go back?”
Im, who works the company job, bought married this 12 months — and stated a 69-hour workweek would imply giving up his and his spouse’s hope of getting two children. “Who’s going to take care of the baby if mom and dad are at work all day?” he stated. “It’s frustrating, but there’s little I can do about it.” He expressed doubt that South Korea’s world-lowest birthrate of 0.78 would enhance below such a system.
Long hours are related to low birthrates as a result of they’re “antithetical to caring and they make the clash between work and care” troublesome, stated Rae Cooper, a professor of gender and employment relations on the University of Sydney. “South Korea sits near the top of the list” of nations with lengthy working hours, she stated, including: “This is not a prize to be celebrated.”
An earlier model of this text incorrectly stated Gakushuin University is in Kyoto, Japan. The college is in Tokyo. The article has been corrected.