"A historic step forward in returning labor-management 'time sovereignty' over working hours," Minister of Employment and Labor Lee Jeong-jeong described the revision of working hours. 'Work by driving and rest by driving'. Loosening the overtime management unit from a week's basis to a monthly or annual basis paves the way for working up to 69 hours in a given week. In this way, the Ministry of Labor explains that you can also take a long-term vacation such as "living in Jeju for a month."

"I can't even use up all the vacations" and "it will lead to overwork."

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The reaction from office workers was chilly. It was pointed out that in a country where they can't even take their vacations, they will only spend more time at work because of their workload. Ultimately, the concern was that the user's "time sovereignty" convenience would increase. Even under the 52-hour week, overworked workplaces (Serious Accident Act No. 80 Doosung Industries) have already been caught as supervised by the Ministry of Labor, mainly in small businesses, but the Deputy Minister of Labor refuted as "extreme logic" the interpretation of some media that the 1.80-hour workweek is possible with this amendment. It has been pointed out that the reform of working hours, which has a profound effect on all working people, opens the way to "overwork," but the Ministry of Employment and Labor did not seem to be willing to accept these concerns.

Is flexible working hours a global standard? Start with the reality of long hours of work

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The government has often used the term "global standard" to describe the reform. It is explained that major European countries have actively reflected this because it is an international standard for reasonable adjustment of working hours through labor-management agreements. However, there is also a "global standard" that the government painstakingly ignores. First of all, the reality of labor standing on your feet is different. In 2021, the average annual working hours in South Korea are 1,928 hours. Compared to 1,300~1,400 hours in European countries, we work at least 500 hours more a year. That is why it is pointed out that it is important to reduce the total amount of working hours before encouraging driving and driving to rest. How about a "global standard" for working long hours? The legal workweek in France is 35 hours, and the maximum working hours in certain weeks can be up to 48 hours. The longest workweek in the UK is also 48 hours. This is in contrast to South Korea, where the upper limit of 52 hours a week is increased to 64 or 69 hours under the Ministry of Labor's reform. Kim Jong-jin, director of the Institute for Citizen Studies, said, "Among OECD countries, France and Germany, which set working hours on a monthly or quarterly basis, define '1 hours a week' as a long workday. In South Korea, an increase in working hours from 48 to 64 hours could significantly increase the risk of overwork and workers' injuries, but the government is short-sighted." Director Kim pointed out that in order to really reduce the number of hours worked, it is necessary to amend the Labor Standards Act to extend annual leave itself or to propose guidelines on the use of minimum leave for workers, but it is difficult to find such an enforceable measure with regard to the "right to rest."

Weekly working hour regulation is important: "Humans are not machines"

In other words, the international trend on working hours is to clearly limit the maximum working hours per week (48 hours per week in Europe) and to be flexible quarterly or semi-annually. No other developed country has a standard of overwork of more than 60 hours in a particular week. The fact that Korea's standard for recognizing workers' compensation is 64 hours a week proves that these concerns are not unfounded. Ryu Hyun-chul, director of the Japan Environmental Health Center, said of the government's proposal, "I don't know from the perspective of production and companies, but it is a ridiculous policy in terms of workers' health." The human body is not a machine, so proper rest at the right time for labor is essential. He pointed out that it would be irresponsible to describe simply delaying the time to recharge by a few months as a "policy that guarantees the right to health" without considering the working day. In particular, in the case of the 64-hour week, the removal of the obligation to rest 11 hours during the working day was criticized as a lack of minimum health and safety considerations.

Vacation binge-write? Overworked Society To Really Improve

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South Korea is already an overworked society. They work about 39 more days a year than the OECD average. Among the countries in the world, it is overworked after Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica. According to the 'National Quality of Life 2022' report released by the National Statistics Office, the life satisfaction rate of Koreans is only 10.5 out of 9. It ranks 38th out of 36 OECD countries. Even without adding to the declining birth rate, we all know that our lives are a series of day-to-day routines. The government also saw the importance of "reducing working hours" and "guaranteeing the right to rest." That's why the institutional solution to the working time savings account system, which should be effective, is as vague as "encouraging a public campaign." If the Ministry of Labor is to evaluate this reform of working hours as a "step forward in history," it should at least make every effort to dispel these concerns.