South Korea’s Working Hours Decrease But Still Exceed OECD Average

SEOUL, South Korea — Recent data has revealed a significant reduction in the average annual working hours for South Koreans over the past decade, although the numbers still surpass the average working hours of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries by about 150 hours.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the average monthly working hours for employees in businesses with at least one worker decreased to 156.2 hours in 2023, down by 2.5 hours from 2022. This reduction translates to an annual total of 1,874 working hours, marking the first time the figure has dropped into the 1,800-hour range.

The implementation of the 52-hour workweek system in 2018 contributed to a gradual decrease in South Korea's notably long working hours. From an average of 172.6 monthly hours in 2013, equivalent to 2,071.2 hours annually, the figures fell to 1,995.6 hours annually in 2017, and further dipped below the 1,900-hour mark last year. Compared to a decade ago, the monthly average for 2023 has decreased by 16.4 hours, with the annual hours reducing by 196.8 hours.

Despite these improvements, South Korea's 2022 annual average of working hours remains 155 hours longer than the OECD average of 1,719 hours per year. This difference amounts to South Koreans working an additional 13 hours per month compared to the OECD average. Among the 38 OECD member nations, only five, including Colombia, Mexico, and Israel, recorded longer annual working hours than South Korea, based on the 2022 figures.

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