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Longest working hours, earliest retirement age

Korean workers are renowned for having the longest working hours in the world. But in terms of official retirement age, they are driven into quitting their jobs earlier than their counterparts in any of the 34 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Korea does not set the corporate retirement age by law but allows private companies to decide on their own. According to figures from the Employment and Labor Ministry, the average retirement age at workplaces with more than 300 employees stood at 57.3 in 2010, little changed from 57.2 a decade earlier.

But labor experts estimate that Korean waged workers actually retire at the average age of around 53. Their counterparts leave the workforce at 64 on average in Sweden, 63 in Britain and 61 in Germany.

France decided to extend its retirement age by two years to 62 in 2010.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt recently proposed raising the retirement age to 75 to keep up with rising welfare costs.

The Japanese government decided last week to make it mandatory to allow civil servants to work for five more years after retirement at age 60 if they wish to do so. It took a similar measure for private sector employees in 2006.

Experts note that Koreans now should change their perception of old-style retirement, in which an employee works full time Friday and no time Monday.

They work 2,256 hours a year, much higher than the OECD average of 1,739 hours and the highest rate among member states, according to an OECD index based on data from 2010.

By Kim Kyung-ho (
catch table
Korea Herald daum