Food processing and metal companies have been identified as the key industries renowned for overworking staff and will be specifically targeted, particularly the large conglomerates.
From next month, local authorities will conduct on-the-spot checks on approximately 35,000 workplaces across the country in a bid to crackdown on those companies overworking employees.
Mark Keese, head of employment analysis and policy division at OECD employment directorate, told FoodNavigator-Asia that lengthy working hours have been a long standing issue in Korea.
“Hours are much higher compared to other OECD countries,” Keese said.
According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Korean employees worked an average of 2,193 hours in the year 2010.
Keese noted that Korea wouldn’t be the exception to introducing new rules governing working hours.
“Japan is a main example, it has tried to lower working times and has introduced directives and guidance and has seen a strong reduction in working hours,” he said.
However, he noted that if Korea were to introduce guidelines, they would need to be enforced, “perhaps with a labour inspectorate”.
Keese added that enforcing guidelines could be difficult, “particularly in smaller companies, it is hard to enforce and police.”
More jobs, better lifestyle
Lee Myung-Bak, president of South Korea told a cabinet meeting that “shortened hours have many positive impacts on our society; improving lifestyles, creating new jobs and boosting private consumption.”
According to labour minister, Lee Chae-pil, last year 500 workplaces were found in violation of working hour limits and following the correction of practices, just over 5,000 new jobs were created.
The current statutory limit per week allows 40 hours of regular work and 12 hours of overtime. However, this law does not apply to weekends or holiday periods, thus employees can work 52 hours over the five working days as well as eight hours on Saturday and Sunday.
Chae-pil has pledged to change the hourly working limit to be inclusive of weekends and holidays.
According to press reports, The Korea Employers’ Federation has reacted angrily to the plans as it is concerned that any reduction to working hours will cause serious, unwanted impact on industries.