Employee groups reject South Korea’s 69-hour workweek proposal

Criticism and doubts have been raised over the feasibility of longer work hours and vacations in a proposal pushing for a new working hour system.
By: | March 15, 2023

South Korea’s proposal to increase the maximum weekly work hours from 52 to 69 has been met with resistance by groups of employees in the country.

The proposal aims to provide flexibility in the workweek system by allowing longer working hours during weeks with heavy workloads, while also providing longer vacations for employees. The Ministry of Employment and Labour has cited the preference of Millennials and Generation Z (MZ Generation) for more flexibility in work and life as a factor in the proposed changes.

However, some employees, including those in the IT industry, have expressed concerns that the proposed changes will negatively impact their work-life balance and health. Employees in the gaming industry, in particular, have raised concerns about returning to the “crunch mode”, a period of extended overtime that has been linked to employee deaths.

A labour group comprised of MZ generation members has also criticised the government’s proposal, arguing that it runs counter to international efforts to improve labour conditions.

READ: More flexibility for employees in South Korea to choose when to work

Additionally, some have raised doubts about the feasibility of the proposed longer vacations, citing previous difficulties in taking annual leave. As part of the new proposal, employees will have the option to convert extended working hours to vacation time, which will be added to existing paid annual vacation time.

“Many workers are still facing difficulties taking their annual leave when they want. I doubt workers will be able to enjoy a one-month vacation, as announced by the government,” said an official at a civic group specalising in workplace abuse, reported The Korean Times.