This month we are focusing on South Korea’s government who has been forced to rethink a planned rise in working hours after a backlash from younger people who said the move would destroy their work-life balance and put their health at risk. The government had intended to raise the maximum weekly working time to 69 hours after business groups complained that the current cap of 52 hours was making it difficult to meet deadlines.
But protests from the country’s Millennials and Generation Z prompted the president, Yoon Suk-yeol, to order government agencies to reconsider the measure. Yoon, a conservative who is seen as pro-business, had supported the raise to give employers greater flexibility. Union leaders, however, said it would force people to work longer hours, in a country already known for its punishing workplace culture.
The plan has also been criticised as out of step with other major economies, including Britain, where dozens of companies last year trialed a four-day week that campaigners said resulted in similar or better productivity and increased staff wellbeing.
South Koreans worked an average of 1,915 hours in 2021 — that’s 199 hours more than the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development average, according to the most recent OECD employment outlook, and 566 hours more than workers in Germany.