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Flexibility is key

Oct 18,2018
The legal maximum workweek was capped at 52 hours for all workplaces employing 300 or more people starting July 1. The goal is to reduce the notoriously lengthy work hours for Koreans, help them find more balance in life outside work and encourage companies to increase hiring. But in the three months since the law went into place, negative effects instead of positive ones have played out in workplaces.

Jobs, income and production have all fallen. According to Saramin, a job placement site, 21 percent of 638 salaried workers said their paycheck has been cut an average of 369,000 won ($328) since their work hours were scaled back.

The universal enforcement of a cap on the workweek with little respect for the characteristics of the work and worksites is the biggest reason for the negative effects.

Companies that rely on summer sales would have needed flextime to concentrate work from June to August and reduce work hours during the following three months. But flextime is currently limited to three months. Companies chose to cut output without hiring more.

The Labor and Employment Ministry blames large companies for the slow positive results. The ministry claimed it could not find small and mid-sized companies to award government incentives for hiring following the cut in work hours, because many workers who left their companies chose to move to bigger ones.

The ministry is whining that large companies are ruining the government’s plan to encourage hiring at small and mid-sized enterprises.
The government must come up with supplementary measures as soon as possible starting with an extension of flextime from the current three months to six months or a year. Work places also must have the leeway to manage their work hours according to the business features and needs.