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Quiet quitting: Why more than half of S. Koreans do it

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : March 26, 2024 - 12:25

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More than half of South Korea's workers are choosing to do minimal work at their jobs without actually resigning, a survey showed Tuesday, indicating that the global trend of "quiet quitting" is growing more prominent among workers here.

Local job search website Incruit recently conducted a survey of 1,097 employees across the country about quiet quitting, in which 51.7 percent said they have done so.

The term, coined in the early 2020s, refers to an employee doing the absolute minimum requirements of their job and putting no extra time or effort into it, so as not to put work at the center of their life. According to proponents, it is "quitting the idea of going above and beyond" one's responsibilities at work, and instead putting the majority of one's time and efforts into other things that matter in one's life.

The survey showed that 57.4 percent of South Korea's workers between their eighth and 10th years of work have quietly quit, while 56 percent of those between their fifth and seventh years have also stopped going above and beyond at work. Some 54.7 percent of those who have been at their job for 17 to 19 years have also quietly quit in their minds.

The leading cause behind quiet quitting in Korea is "dissatisfaction with the salary and benefits at their current company," chosen by 32.6 percent of respondents. It was followed by "I have no enthusiasm about working at the company (29.8 percent)," and "I'm preparing to change jobs (20.5 percent)."

About 65.8 percent of the respondents view a colleague quietly quitting as "a positive thing."

Recent numbers show that Korea's workers have a relatively low level of satisfaction toward their jobs and life as a general, which is possibly why so many are choosing to do only the bare minimum at work.

Statistics by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development show that South Korea’s life satisfaction was 35th among the 38 OECD member states as of 2022. Rating their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, South Koreans on average gave a 5.95.

Local surveys indicate that such a low average level of life satisfaction may be linked to the equally low level of satisfaction Koreans have with their jobs. In a January survey by Blind, a local app designed for anonymous discussions among employees, in which 50,216 people participated, respondents gave their job satisfaction an average of 41 points out of 100.

With such a low average level of satisfaction with their jobs, Korea's workers are placing more importance on work-life balance. An ideal job in the past was defined by having higher wages and social prestige, but these days, a growing number of people are putting more emphasis on whether their job gives them enough time to pursue what they really want to do after work.

A 2022 survey by job search website Saramin of 1,828 adult job-seekers showed that 71.8 percent of respondents prefer an employer that prioritizes "good work-life balance," even if their salaries may be lower.