South Korean businesses worried about law to reduce work hours

South Korea's National Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill to reduce work hours from 68 to 52 hours a week, as a means of improving the quality of life for South Koreans and boosting productivity. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, March 1 (UPI) — South Korean lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to reduce work hours from 68 hours to 52 hours a week to improve the country’s intensive work culture.

South Koreans work the second-longest hours among 35 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, for below-average pay and low productivity, according to OECD data from 2017.

However, the decision to shorten maximum weekly hours has caused a backlash in the service sector and from small and medium-size businesses.

For owners of restaurants, hotels and other service businesses, limiting weekly work hours is likely to worsen staff shortage during peak periods such as public holidays and weekends.

Small-business owners, who are grappling with a chronic shortage of staff, are also worried, Channel A reported.

“It’s hard enough finding workers as it is and I think it’s going to be even more difficult now. At this rate, I think it will be hard to continue my business,” Ko Sung-min, a printing business owner said.

The recent minimum wage hike — to 7530 won, or $6.93, an hour — has already caused employers to cut down on the number of workers, as well as their hours, Dong-a Ilbo reported.

Shortening work hours could cost businesses $11 billion a year to keep up the same level of production, according to Korea Economic Research Institute.

Industry experts and unions have called for follow-up measures to protect SMEs against rising costs and help them tackle the shortage of labor.


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