SEJONG, The government will focus on managing a soft-landing for a new shorter working system set to go into effect next month, Seoul's chief economic policymaker said Tuesday.
Last week, the ruling Democratic Party (DP), the government and the presidential office agreed to introduce a six-month grace period for the new working-hour scheme in the face of strong demand from the business circle.
Under a revised law passed in February, companies with 300 or more employees must reduce the maximum working hours to 52 hours per week from the current 68 hours, beginning July 1.
Corporate lobby groups have appealed for a six-month grace period for the new regulation, given the difficulty of preparing for the system in a short period of time.
"We will focus on setting the new system in motion, instead of just cracking down on violations," Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said in a labor-related ministers meeting in Seoul. "The government will also seek measures to reflect certain needs in some sectors."
The new work-week system, one of President Moon Jae-in's main election pledges, is aimed at cutting what are often called "inhumanely long" working hours in South Korea and improving work-life balance.
The implementation of the system will be applied in stages to try to cushion businesses from side effects.
The reduced working hours, while benefiting some sectors, could be detrimental to others, some market watchers say. There have been worries that manufacturing, construction and certain parts of the retail sector could suffer a setback, at least in the short run.
The finance minister also said the government will submit a report to the National Assembly on what kind of support measures can be provided to small shop owners suffering from increased costs partly stemming from a recent hike in the country's minimum wage.
The government marked up the minimum wage by 16.4 percent to 7,530 won (US$6.97) this year, the biggest increase in about two decades and has earmarked 3 trillion won as part of efforts to help reduce costs on self-employed and small shop owners.
President Moon has put a policy priority on "income-led growth," which calls for a virtuous cycle of increasing household income and spending.
The current government is desperate to increase the number of quality jobs and is ironing out support measures for those in the lowest-income bracket.
Source: Yonhap News Agency