East Asian countries issue new laws to reduce working hours

South Korean and Japanese company owners who violate the rules may be jailed or fined.

The South Korean and Japanese governments have ratified new laws to cap working hours in their respective countries.

On Sunday (July 1), South Korea’s Ministry of Labour enacted a 52-hour maximum work week, a 16 hour reduction from the old limit of 68 hours.

Under the new rule, workers will be allowed to put in a maximum of 40 hours each week, and a maximum of 12 hours in overtime.

The law is applicable to all companies with more than 300 employees. Business owners who fail to follow may face up to two years in jail, or a fine of up to 20 million won (S$24,400).

Over in Japan, where “karoshi” (death from overworking) has been a major concern for years, it is now illegal for companies to have their employees work more than 100 hours a month (and 720 hours a year) in overtime.

Companies that violate the limits will be subject to “penalties”, though the details have not been revealed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters “the legislation has been enacted to allow people to have different work styles, including while raising children or caring for the elderly”.

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