Korean workers get off earlier, increase leisure spending on shorter workweek

2019.09.11 15:16:14 | 2019.09.11 15:17:18

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South Korea’s new 52-hour workweek for workplaces employing 300 or more has already brought about sweeping changes to Korean night life, drawing office workers away from bars to gyms and fitness centers.

According to studies by KT and BC Card under the commission of the labor ministry, Koreans now work 13.5 minutes less a day and use the extra time for recreational activities instead of drinking.

The KT study looked at data collected from mobile phone signals in the latest March-May period compared with the same period last year when the shortened workweek had not yet been enforced. It focused on four main business districts – Gwanghwamun, Yeouido, Pangyo and Gasan Digital Complex – after the 52-hour workweek.

The drop was most prominent in Gwanghwamun, home to public and large companies and government offices, as the average working time there fell by 39.2 minutes. The financial district of Yeouido saw average working hours fall by 9.9 minutes and Pangyo, a tech cluster near Seoul, by 9.7 minutes. In the case of Gasan Digital Complex, which houses many small companies that are not yet subject to the new workweek, working hours actually gained 0.6 minutes.

Those in their 20s and 30s worked shorter hours in all four districts, which the labor ministry saw as a reflection of the younger generation’s greater emphasis on work-life balance.

All four districts saw employees get off at an earlier hour, with Gwanghwamun and Yeouido seeing the work start time pushed back as well. In Pangyo and Gasan, workers tended to arrive early and leave early.

More companies seem to be adhering to the 9-to-6 workday schedule, the labor ministry explained.

A study conducted by BC Card between August 2017-May 2018 and August 2018-May 2019 showed a surge in recreational expenditures following the reduced workweek.

Spending on fitness centers, tennis, swimming and other sports and leisure categories jumped in all four districts. In Yeouido, workers more than doubled their spending on sports and recreational activities. In Pangyo, expenditures on travel categories surged by 93.8 percent, while spending on private lessons rose 84 percent among Gasan employees.

In contrast, spending on bars and karaokes, popular after-hour outing spots for office workers, dropped.

In July 2018, companies with more than 300 employees were required to reduce their maximum weekly working hours to 52 hours from the previous 68 hours. The rule became binding from April.

By Choi Hee-seok and Kim Hyo-jin

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]