South Korea has a 68-hour workweek, one of the longest in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ): 68 hours. This will change in July, when the country introduces a (wait for it!) 52-hour week.
Historically, long hours pushed the booming economy in the 1980s and 1990s, as South Korea raced to catch up with “developed” Asian economies such as Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Today, South Korea is an Asian economic power. But that wealth has come at a cost. The birth rate is very low, young people are delaying or declining to marry, and there is a large gender pay gap. In addition, South Korea has relatively low productivity for a developed country.
While shortening the workweek, the government is hoping to boost employment, raise productivity and also quality of life. The government also raised the minimum wage. These are ambitious simultaneous goals. It will be interesting to watch South Korea’s progress in these areas in the coming years, to see how these measures affect wages, productivity, and social norms.
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