South Korea's working hours dilemma
As one of the four Asian tigers, South Korea maintained an exceptionally high growth rate and rapid industrialisation between the early 1960s and 1990s. Today, along with Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, this Asian Dragon has developed into an advanced and high-income economy.
As South Korea has become a world leader in manufacturing information technology, the demands at work have increased. The stakes are high and the nation needs to maintain its high standards in order to compete at a global scale and retain its world-leading position.
These demands have changed people's lifestyles as they work more than office hours in an extremely competitive environment. This situation has created a work-life imbalance that mostly affects women.
In order to restore work-life balance amongst its citizens, the South Korean government
has recently implemented a Five-Day Working Policy, which makes Saturday an official non-working day and cuts weekly work hours from 44 to 40.
However, according to a study, this policy has not have the desired effect. According to a national survey of urban Korean households - called the Korean Labour and Income Panel Survey - the policy did not result in greater life satisfaction for men or women; nevertheless, women report liking the measure slightly more than men.
The comfort from having more hours at home was counterbalanced by increasing stress at work as the hours were fewer but the demands remained the same.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, puts forward two explanations for this situation. Accordingly, either less working hours are not resulting in the benefits they are meant to or work stress escalates when production hours are cut.
In any case, the shorter work week was supposed to be a benefit for individuals and that is not the way it turned out to be. However, time will tell if South Koreans will be able to adjust to less office hours or if the demands from employers need to decrease and how that will affect the economy