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8 in 10 job seekers in favor of four-day workweek: survey

The idea of implementing a four-day workweek is gaining favorable views among South Koreans, reflecting the heightened perception of work-life balance and diverse work patterns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data showed Thursday,

In a survey of 4,155 job seekers by human resources service Saramin, 83.6 percent of respondents said they have a positive view of a four-day workweek.

The top reason for favoring a four-day workweek was work-life balance (72.4 percent). The idea of work-life balance is spreading Korea, even though the country’s average working hours are far longer than most members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and its labor productivity remains about half the level of the US.

Other reasons cited in the survey include the possibility of higher productivity thanks to sufficient rest (51.7 percent), improved health (32.1 percent), economic growth induced by more holidays (21.2 percent), and more time for child care (20.1 percent).

Of the 682 respondents who were against a four-day workweek, 60.4 percent said a transition to such system would likely result in a cut in their wages, 45.3 percent said it would generate more stress in the workplace as the workload would remain the same, 19.6 percent cited lower productivity due to more holidays and 15.4 percent said it would induce a sense of relative deprivation among those who work five days a week.

Of all the respondents, 89.4 percent said they would consider a job offer from a company which had adopted a four-day workweek. As for a possible pay cut due to shorter working hours, 72.3 percent said they would accept a decrease of up to 7.6 percent in their wages.

Those who said they would not accept such a job offer cited lower pay as the main reason (71.9 percent). They also expressed worries about a more intensive work style (32.2 percent), fewer opportunities to learn work-related skills (14.1 percent) and an increase in spending (13.4 percent).

Critics say that it is too early to discuss a four-day workweek, given that the 52-hour workweek, introduced in 2018, is yet to be fully implemented.

The government has taken a variety of steps, including incentives and penalties, to accelerate the adoption of the 52-hour workweek, but continue to receive complaints and reports about violations of the rule, while some employers claim a strict application of the system is leading to disruptions in production and sales, and higher labor costs.

Citing the 2019 OECD data, the Ministry of Employment and Labor said on its website that Koreans worked 1,957 hours a year per employee as of 2019, but it remains at a higher level than the OECD average of 1,626 hours.

Saramin said 62.6 percent of respondents in the survey said they thought a four-day workweek would be introduced in Korea, with the majority of them projecting the adoption to take place by 2025.

The survey also found that if more companies adopt a four-day workweek, respondents expect Korean society to shift in favor of providing work-life balance and nurturing a productivity-centered work culture while forecasting the leisure industry will expand as people are given more free time.

Currently, a small number of Korean companies have introduced a four-day workweek, and politicians have begun to raise their voices on the new system as it could be a hot-button issue among voters.

By Yang Sung-jin (