A life with shorter working hours began yesterday. This will be an important milestone in moving on from being an overworked society to becoming one that values a balance between work and family time. In addition, as seen from examples of other countries such as Germany, reduced working time is the most sure-fire measure to increase the number of jobs in this era of jobless growth.
Shorter working hours will also lead to improvements in labor productivity. Habitual long-extended work has been the culprit behind Korea’s low labor productivity. The findings from research by the National Assembly Budget Office indicate that a decrease in weekly work hours by 1 percent can increase labor productivity by 0.79 percent. As such, Korean businesses will be able to secure even higher competitiveness based on creativity and innovation empowered by improved labor productivity.
What matters the most is the fact that it is a fundamental countermeasure to protect the precious lives of the people and guarantee workers' rights to safety by markedly reducing deaths from overwork and industrial accidents as well as keeping exhausted drivers off of our roads. Among many countries in the world that are on a similar level with Korea, not a single country suffers from laboring long hours like our country. Now is high time to rectify the lamentable reality of people working 300 more hours a year compared to the OECD average just to earn a living.
The reduction of working hours this time will be phased in, starting with businesses employing over 300 people. On top of this, the Government will designate the first six months as a leniency period so that violations of the law may be punished in a flexible manner, thereby significantly lowering the burden on businesses.
I hope that the intent of the working hour reduction will be upheld by eliminating as soon as possible any potential confusion and anxiety during the initial stages of enforcement. I also hope that follow-up measures, including cooperation among labor, management and the Government, will be fully prepared so that positive effects can be actually felt at work quickly through the successful implementation of the new system.
In addition, I hope that Government policies to increase real income by reducing the essential costs people face, such as housing, telecommunication, medical, childrearing and educational expenses, will be carried out more swiftly. I also ask labor, management and the people to join in a collective resolve to see that the reduction of working hours, a policy that has just taken its first step, will quickly take root and raise our society to a higher level.