South Korea’s conservative government has proposed a controversial plan to increase the legal cap on weekly work hours from 52 to 69. The move has sparked a backlash from trade unions, employees, and women’s groups who fear that the plan will hurt work-life balance in a country already known for its workaholic culture. The proposal is also raising concerns about the negative impact of overwork on individuals’ health and well-being.
Academic research has long shown that working long hours can have serious health consequences. A recent study published in The Lancet found that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an increased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. The study analyzed data from over 600,000 individuals and found that those who worked long hours had a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who worked standard hours.
Another study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that long work hours are associated with poor sleep quality, which can lead to a range of health problems. The study found that employees who worked more than 50 hours per week reported more sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and feeling refreshed in the morning. Poor sleep quality has been linked to a range of health issues, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
The proposed increase in working hours has also sparked concerns about the impact on working mothers. South Korea has the lowest fertility rate in the world, and the proposed increase is seen as a setback in the country’s efforts to tackle this issue. Women’s groups argue that the plan will place a disproportionate burden on women, who are often expected to take on the majority of care work. The proposed plan could also result in increased unemployment, as employers may lay off workers and ask those who remain to work longer hours.
The South Korean government has attempted to address concerns by suggesting that the new rules could ultimately give workers more free time. The government has proposed a cap on the number of working hours per month, quarter, or year, and restrictions on working more than three 60-plus-hour weeks in a row. However, critics argue that the new rules do not take into account commutes, after-work emails, and text messages.
South Korea’s proposed increase in the legal weekly work hours from 52 to 69 has sparked concerns about the negative impact of overwork on individuals’ health and well-being. The move is also raising concerns about the impact on working mothers and the country’s declining workforce and low fertility rates. Academic research suggests that working long hours can have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, and poor sleep quality.