It is noisy every day with the "69-hour work week". The revision of working hours, announced on 6 June, aims to expand the standard for calculating working hours on a one-week basis to monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and yearly. It was promoted as a flexible working system for workers by making the current 1-hour workweek flexible and allowing them to work up to 52 hours a week, but the reaction of the actual workers was cold. Anxiety that "the 69-hour workweek will in fact be solidified," criticism that "free overtime will increase," and the "working time savings account system," which allows people to take long vacations by accumulating overtime, did not reflect reality at all.

This reshuffle, it didn't come out of nowhere. As the No. 69 labor reform policy, which the president has spearheaded since the presidential election, the government has said since June last year that a 1-hour week is necessary. A research group composed of experts made recommendations in December last year after five months of discussions, and after three months of refining them, the government came up with a policy on the 6th. In presenting the legislation, the Minister of Labour called it a "historic step forward." However, just eight days after the policy was announced, the president's order for a "review" was issued. As a reason for the abrupt reconsideration order, the president's office explained that it "did not think it would be 69 hours."

After the president's order to review the review, the government and the National Assembly said they would listen to the voices on the ground with one voice and reflect them in policy. Was it that I hadn't listened to opinions in the meantime, or hadn't done it?

52 hours→69 hours? Will the working hours increase?

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You think that the expression "69-hour work week" actually increases working hours, but this is not the case. The government's proposal is to maintain the "52-hour week" framework but diversify the "management units" of overtime hours. The current "52-hour work week" limits overtime to "40 hours a week" in addition to the basic 12-hour workweek. The proposal allows overtime tied to "12 hours a week" to be selected by labor-management agreement within "52 hours per month," "140 hours quarterly," "250 hours semi-annually," and "440 hours a year." If the management unit is expanded to monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and yearly, the actual total amount of overtime may be lower than it is now. However, in certain states, it is called a "69-hour work week" because it can be worked up to a maximum of "69 hours a week." For example, if you work 69 hours (basic 40 hours + extension 29 hours) in the first week and 63 hours (basic 40 hours + extension 23 hours) in the second week, you will only work 52 hours in the remaining 3~4 weeks because you have used all 40 hours of limited monthly overtime.

The government was also aware of concerns that if overtime management units were lengthened to quarterly or semi-annually, excessive long hours could be possible. In announcing the reform, it also decided to impose an obligation to comply with "an average of 4 hours over four weeks" if the management unit is more than a quarter. Even if overtime is concentrated during peak periods, workers should not work more than 64 hours on average over four weeks.

Why is it not increasing working hours?

"I can't even use the annual leave I have", and the question is "can I rest properly". Listing only the intent of the amendments and the points to be improved in the future, there may not seem to be a problem with the policy. However, in reality, there are "workers who do not receive overtime pay properly because of the comprehensive wage system" and "workers who cannot use the vacation time caused by working on holidays because their bosses notice them." For them, it's hard to expect a "honeyed break" after a "69-hour week" of work. That's why worries take precedence over expectations of "reforming working hours."

In fact, the survey found that workers took only 17 days off of the 11 days they were given. According to the results of the '2022 National Work-Life Balance Survey' by the Korea Institute of Health and Social Affairs, among wage earners who went to the same job without changing jobs for one year in 2021, the average number of vacation days granted when annual leave was fixed was 1.17 days, of which only 03.11 days were actually used. The most common reasons were to receive annual leave pay (63.20%), but there was a lack of substitutes (1.18%), excessive workload (3.17%), and the boss noticed it (6.11%) was also cited as a reason for not taking leave. "Drive and work and rest well" is the result of a survey that overshadows the government's intent of the reform.

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"Hope is 37 hours a week, I can't even use up my annual leave"... On-site distance 'clear' - Interview 中
Worker A "If you don't work the working hours that the boss wants in the competition, you will be photographed unconditionally. Because that's the reality now...."
Employee B "(What if you would provide such an institutional mechanism to let me rest unconditionally?) I don't think it's going to be properly guarded..."

There are also concerns about whether it is possible to choose a suitable working hour system through a "labor-management agreement." With smaller companies and fewer union memberships, the question is whether a proper labor-management agreement is feasible. According to the national status of trade union organizations released by the Ministry of Employment in December last year, only 12.2021 million union members were members out of 2058.293 million domestic workers as of 14. The union membership rate was only 2.300 percent, compared to 46.3 percent for those with 10 or more employees, to 299.10 percent for 4-30 people, 99.1 percent for 6-30 people, and 0.2 percent for businesses with fewer than <> employees. Even if you don't memorize these figures, in reality, small and medium-sized business workers rarely expect to be able to set reasonable working hours through labor-management agreements.

Working hours that young people will love

Above all, the government's argument that "the MZ generation would prefer to revise working hours" was unconvincing as young people, even the so-called MZ generation unions, protested. Shortly after the government's plan was announced on 6 June, Sung Il-jong, chairman of the People's Power Policy Committee, said, "Everyone likes the 2030 youth. It is a system that is already being implemented a lot in developed countries. It's a labor-management agreement, so if you don't want to do it, you don't have to do it." Minister of Labor Lee Jeong-jeong also dismissed concerns about the abuse of the 69-hour system, saying, "The MZ generation has a very good sense of entitlement, to the point of saying 'come out the vice president' and 'come out the chairman.'"

However, the MZ generation union, the Refresh Workers' Council, expressed strong opposition, saying, "The expansion of overtime management units runs counter to the efforts of the international community to improve workers' working conditions and the historical development process."

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Yoo Jun-hwan / Chairman of the Refresh Workers' Council (MZ union) (last 16 days, National Assembly debate)
"The argument that the 52-hour week should be exceeded is not the argument on the part of the workers, at least. Even IT and game industry workers, who are often cited as examples, view excessive work as a vice. Workers also need flexible options. Usually, flexible working hours are based on 40 hours a week (basic working hours), not overtime hours. Even now, some companies are working "free overtime" because of the 52-hour week. Even though they work long hours, they are not paid properly. This is fundamentally a problem for companies that provide free work, not a problem that will be solved through flexible overtime."

"In a situation where there is a concern about greater overwork through reform, rather than saying that excessive overtime is 'extreme,' 'it is unlikely,' or 'we will thoroughly supervise it,' it is necessary to at least include measures to protect workers from these concerns about reform, or to show that the current system will change to allow proper labor supervision. The purpose of this amendment is unclear, and we have no choice but to oppose it because it does not sufficiently address (the workers') concerns."

The revision of working hours, which was unveiled on the 6th, will go through a 17-day legislative notice period until the 40th of next month. Then, in June ~ July, amendments to related laws such as the Labor Standards Act will be submitted to the National Assembly. The legislative notice period is a time reserved to hear diverse opinions from interested parties. Although the president ordered a review because he "did not know if it would be until 6 hours," it is positive that the government and the National Assembly are now saying that they will "listen to the opinions of the field and improve the system." However, it seems dangerous to blame the current confusion on "lack of publicity" before hearing opinions. At the previous high-level party political consultative meeting, Kim Tae-chung, chief of staff of the presidential office, explained, "Last week, there was a conflict over the flexible working hours," adding, "The extreme and impossible frame of 7 hours was put on and the true intentions were not conveyed."

It is an overhaul of working hours that has been discussed for five months and a process of refining for three months. It is fortunate that opinions are now being listened to, but if you say the opposite, it is basically an admission that the reform was announced without properly gathering public opinion. Acknowledging that driving and resting is not easy in the actual workplace is the beginning of the review.