Shorter work hours cause concern among South Korean businesses

SEOUL, Feb. 28 (UPI) — South Korean lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday which reduces work hours from 68 hours to 52 hours a week, in a bid to improve the country’s intensive work culture.

South Koreans work the second-longest hours among 35 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, for below average pay and low productivity, according to OECD data from 2017.

However, the decision to shorten maximum weekly hours has caused a backlash in the service sector as well as small-and-medium businesses.

For owners of restaurants, hotels and other service-sector businesses, limiting weekly work hours is likely to worsen staff shortage during peak periods such as public holidays and weekends.

Small business owners, who are grappling with a chronic shortage of staff, are also worried, Channel A reported.

“It’s hard enough finding workers as it is and I think it’s going to be even more difficult now. At this rate, I think it will be hard to continue my business,” Ko Sung-min, a printing business owner said.

The recent minimum wage hike has already caused employers to cut down on the number of workers as well as their hours, Dong-a Ilbo reported.

Shortening work hours could cost businesses $ 11 billion a year to keep up the same level of production, according to Korea Economic Research Institute.

Industry experts and unions have called for follow-up measures to protect SMEs against rising costs and help them tackle the shortage of labor.

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