SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Korea Bizwire) – Employees at Shinsegae Group have mixed feelings about the retail giant’s 35-hour workweek, which began this year, citing positive improvements in work-life balance but heightened labor intensity.
The South Korean retailer, which operates Shinsegae department store and E-Mart hypermarket chains, adopted the shortened workweek Jan. 1 to help its workers utilize their time to work more effectively. The company claimed reduced working hours allow people to spend more time with their families and engage in other activities like going to the gym.
In most Korean companies, the legal workweek is 40 hours with employees on average working eight hours per day. From January, Shinsegae workers come to work at 9 a.m. and call it a day at 5 p.m. minus their lunch break.
Some employees say shortened working hours are helpful, but others claim the change has immediately impacted their work intensity, as they are required to maintain the previous level of productivity while putting in less time at work.
In particular, low-paid workers at Shinsegae said they want to work more and receive more pay. Since the government raised the minimum wage 16 percent to 7,530 won (about US$7) on Jan. 1, the E-Mart cashiers now receive 1.58 million won per month under the 35-hour workweek, higher than the 1.45 million won they got under the 40-hour workweek.
Many workers said they do not expect the shorter workweek to improve their quality of life unless the company hires more employees.