SEOUL, Feb. 13 (Korea Bizwire) – A study conducted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government into the working conditions of franchise convenience store owners has found that almost 40 percent are not able to take even a single day off work each year.
Including 951 owners, the study revealed that average working hour totals were extreme. The average was 65.7 hours per week, 36 percent higher than the mean 48.3 hours business owners put in at work nationwide. Among the convenience store owners, 13.8 percent of those surveyed reported working at least 90 hours a week.
The number of days taken off work amounted to 2.4 per month, with 37.9 percent unable to take time off at all.
The long hours the owners put in are due to keeping their stores open 24 hours every day of the year.
The signs that overwork is taking a physical toll are hard to ignore, with store owners reporting digestive problems (57 percent), joint ailments (44.5 percent), back problems (34.8 percent), insomnia (29.3 percent) and depression (22.5 percent).
The study revealed both the owners and the general public are in favor of shutting down convenience stores during late night hours as well as during holidays.
Among the owners, 86.9 percent said they would like to exercise freedom in terms of opening and closing their shop on holidays. A direct consequence of this inability has been that 82.3 percent were unable to visit extended family during last year’s lengthy Chuseok (South Korea’s Thanksgiving) holiday period.
A Seoul city official said, “While keeping stores open throughout the night or during national holidays is convenient for customers, it can have a deteriorative effect on the working conditions of small business owners and non-regular laborers. On the matter of not just convenience stores but the need for time away from work for business owners and laborers, society in general needs to recognize the importance of this issue.”
In an online survey with 1,000 respondents, around 70 percent agreed that convenience store owners should be allowed to call their own shots with regard to opening or closing on national holidays (65.7 percent) or for late-night hours (71.4 percent).
Though closing one’s own store may seem a simple decision, because of contractual agreements with franchisors, franchise convenience store owners often feel their hands are tied. The Hankyoreh reported that many owners will be required to give up royalty discounts and coverage for utilities bills as well as being forced to pay back financing should contractual stipulations such as 24-hour service fail to be upheld.