Longer shifts, more leisure: Firms in South Korea adopt new work system

The new system involves two 12-hours shifts followed by multiple days offs, without adding to employees’ overall working hours.
By: | February 21, 2023

Younger employees in South Korea’s manufacturing industry are welcoming a new working system where they work overnight in exchange for having more days off.

Since December 2022, LG Display’s new working system has consisted of two work groups, each split into a pair of 12-hour shifts, one during the day and the other at night. Another two groups of employees are then afforded the day off.

While employees now work four more hours a day, they are rewarded with two full days off during weekdays. This change means that employees receive 80 more days off per year, although their total working hours remain the same.

SK Innovation has followed a similar path at its Ulsan complex in February, with two out of four groups working 12-hour shifts for two consecutive days, followed by two days off. Other organisations, such as Posco, S-Oil, SK siltron, and GS Caltex have also implemented this new working system, reported Korea JoongAng Daily.

However, not all employees welcome the new arrangement. A survey by Hanwha Solutions’ labour union revealed that 48% of its members oppose 12-hour shifts. Union chief Kim Tae-yeol noted that there were requests to change the working hours from younger members, but the preference differed based on generation, with 78% of members aged 50 years and older opposing the change.

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Lee Young-myon, a Business Administration Professor at Dongguk University, added, “The younger generation may opt for 12-hour shifts because they don’t find long hours of labour difficult. The shifts can be physically overwhelming for middle-aged and older employees, so organisations need to review their occupation types and work conditions.”