Seoul wants employees to work less

South Korea is trying to stop a “culture of working overtime” among its people.

Reported by BBC International.

The metropolitan government in South Korea’s capital Seoul is introducing a new initiative to force its employees to leave work on time – by shutting down all their computers at 8.00pm on Fridays.  It says it is trying to stop a “culture of working overtime”.

South Korea has some of the longest working hours in the world.  Government employees there work an average of 2,739 hours a year – about 1,000 hours more than workers in other developed countries.  The shutdown initiative in the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) is set to roll out across three phases over the next three months.

The skyline of metropolitan Seoul.  South Korea has one of the longest average weekly working hours among OECD countries.

The programme will begin on 30 March, with all computers switched off by 8.00pm.  The second phase starts in April, with employees having their computers turned off by 7.30pm on the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month.  From May onwards, when the programme will be in full-swing, computers will be shut down by 7.00pm every Friday.

Working long hours is seen as a virtue, a perception which the Seoul Government is trying to change gradually.  It will instead focus on raising overall well-being of its employees.

According to a SMG statement, all employees will be subjected to the shutdown, though exemptions may be provided in special circumstances.  However, not every government worker seems to be on-board.  SMG says 67.1% of its workers have asked to be exempt from the forced lights-out.  Just earlier this month, South Korea’s national assembly passed a law to cut down the maximum weekly working hours to 52, down from 68.