SEJONG, Nov. 2 (Korea Bizwire) – A new report by a government-backed policy institute has claimed that the introduction of the 40-hour work week has led to a 1.5 percent rise in productivity.
The report, published by researchers Park Yun-soo and Park Woo-ram at the Korea Development Institute on Wednesday, showed fewer working hours are linked to higher productivity, while urging the South Korean government and companies to raise salaries for full-time workers and slash overtime pay to discourage long work hours.
The researchers looked at the average annual working hours among the OECD member countries between 1990 and 2016, and found that workers from countries with fewer working hours tend to have better productivity.
Prior research was cited in the report, including a study during the First World War when the same worker in a similar setting showed lower productivity while on a longer shift.
Similar results were found in companies with over 10 workers between 2004 and 2011, where the average working hours were previously longer than 40 hours before the 40-hour work week gradually took effect, leading to a productivity increase of up to 2.1 percent.
Overall, the report also found the total factor productivity rose by 1.8 percent, making positive contributions to the economy.
“The findings show that working hours in South Korea are currently excessive, damaging productivity,” the report said, while urging the government to cut working hours and do away with the culture of unproductive overtime.
The report then pointed out the lack of clarity when it comes to working hours and overtime pay as among the most pressing issues that need to be dealt with.
Under current labor laws, in addition to the minimum of 40 working hours per week, employers can ask workers to work an additional 12 hours a week.
In addition, the Ministry of Employment and Labor says that depending on the administrative interpretation, workers can be subject to up to 68 working hours.
Previously, President Moon Jae-in also shed light on the lack of clarity in labor laws, and said he will seek ways to amend the administrative interpretation of the labor law if necessary.
However, the researchers also said in a briefing that preparation and other necessary measures must take place prior to shortening legal working hours so as to avoid potential confusion in the workplace.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)