John Parkes

News · KR

South Korea wants people to work less and make more babies

They currently put in insane hours.

Today is the start of an ambitious social experient for workers in South Korea. 

It's a simple enough proposition - the government wants to cut the amount of hours people have to work, giving employees more free time to improve their health, feel less stressed out and maybe improve one of world's lowest birthrates.

So who could object to that?

Well, the workers themselves for a start. The reduction of the workweek to 52 hours (from the current 68 hours) means they are still stuck working exhausting hours no matter what the change says.

26-year old accounts assistant Hyun-Soo thinks that President Moon Jae-in's grand plan is an impossible task:

"A law on work hours is just a piece of paper. The reality in Korea is that we will work and work and work."

To keep up in Asia's super-competitive workaholic environment, companies also have their reservations. They may have to hire more staff or bring in more overtime.

But the president wants his legacy to be as much about the improvement of South Korea's work-life balance as it is about extending his arm to North Korea. Moon’s government has already increased the minimum wage by 16% to almost $7 per hour — the biggest jump in around 20 years. 

Moon said:

"Overworking must not persist in our society. It is impossible to lead a happy life when long hours and overexertion become routine."

To comply with the new laws for shorter working days, some companies have shut down computer networks to force people to go home at a reasonable hour. Other places have installed CCTV surveillance to make sure employees do not come in too early or stay too long. Another tactic is using door entry systems to cut smoking and coffee breaks which will encourage workers to finish tasks without working longer hours.