The Korea Herald


Koreans working 200 hours fewer than decade ago: data

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : March 3, 2024 - 14:07

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South Korean workers’ actual annual working hours have decreased by nearly 200 hours over 10 years, yet people here still work far longer than the average of the member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to the statistics released by the Ministry of Employment and Labor on Sunday, the average monthly working hours of employees in South Korea stood at 156.2 hours in 2023, down 2.5 hours from 158.7 hours in 2022.

In 2013, the average monthly working hours marked 172.6, amounting to 2,071.2 hours annually. This figure indicates a significant decrease over the preceding decade, with working hours falling by 16.4 hours per month and 196.8 hours per year.

In 2017, the number of hours worked annually fell below 2,000 hours for the first time, registering 1,995.6 hours. Six years later, in 2023, they dipped even further, dropping below 1,900 for the first time to land at 1,874 hours.

Working hours in Korea have decreased, generally driven by institutional changes such as the legalization of the 52-hour workweek, encouraging workers to use all 15 of their paid vacation days, designating more substitute holidays and changes in overall societal awareness, the Ministry of Employment and Labor said.

The ministry also elucidated that an increase in employees within sectors like construction, accommodation and food services as well as health and social welfare services -- known for their comparatively shorter working hours -- has contributed to the collective reduction of working hours.

Despite this downward trend, however, Koreans still work a lot more hours compared to their peers in other OECD countries. As of 2022, South Korea still has among the highest total working hours, ranking sixth after Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile and Israel.

According to the 2022 figures, Korean employees worked an average of 1,901 hours per year -- 149 hours longer than the OECD average of 1,752 hours.

Meanwhile, there are growing calls for further reforms, including introducing a four-day workweek, from labor unions and civil society organizations.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions, one of two major umbrella unions in Korea, and other labor and civil society organizations, launched the Four-Day Workweek Network on Thursday to call for the adoption of a four-day workweek as a 2024 general election pledge.