South Koreans spend more time at work despite reduced work hours

While work hours have declined over the past decade, employees in the country are still among those in the world who record the most hours at work.
By: | November 16, 2022

Despite a 10% decrease in work hours compared to a decade ago, South Koreans are still working more than most of their peers in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Data from OECD showed that South Koreans worked 1,915 hours last year, the fifth-longest among 38 OECD member countries. The number of hours marked a 10.3% decrease from 2011, when the nation topped the list with 2,136 hours.

Even with the decrease in hours worked, South Korea remained high on the list behind Mexico, which had 2,128 hours, Costa Rica (2,073), Colombia (1,964) and Chile (1,916). On the other end of the spectrum, Germany logged the least number of hours worked per year, with 1,349. On average, OECD member countries had worked 1,716 hours per year. 

South Korea’s decrease in the number of average annual hours worked comes after the nation’s drive to reduce working hours to achieve better work-life balance. 

READ: Business in South Korea told to address workplace gender equality

The 52-hour workweek rule, implemented in July 2018, limited the number of maximum working hours in Korea to 52 hours a week, from the previous 68 hours. With the rule, the maximum weekly overtime beyond the statutory 40-hour workweek fell from 28 to 12. 

The spread of the pandemic also reduced the number of working hours for the past few years. Working hours in South Korea decreased by 3% from 1,967 hours in 2019 to 1,908 hours in 2020, when the pandemic first hit.