Yoon gov’t advised to revamp 52-hour workweek, wage systems

SEOUL– The direction of the Yoon Suk-yeol government’s labor reform policy has become more concrete with a focus on overhauling the rigid 52-hour workweek and strengthening the performance-based pay system.

The 52-hour workweek law introduced in 2018 during the previous Moon Jae-in government to prevent overwork mandates that overtime work cannot exceed 12 hours a week to cap the total hours at 52.

Yoon has criticized the 52-hour workweek as “unrealistic” in consideration of the various labor needs of different industries and unfit to keep up with workloads when demand is high or during peak season.

The Yoon government is set to increase flexibility in the 52-hour workweek in conformity with the characteristics of each industry and company, according to policy proposals released this week by a labor policy advisory group launched by Yoon in July.
The Future Labor Market Research Association advised that labor and management be allowed to manage overtime work hours on a monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly basis, in addition to the current weekly basis. In that case, it is arithmetically possible to work up to 69 hours per week.

The association said its proposal is intended to increase work efficiency through the expansion of autonomous choices for labor and management, and allow workers to enjoy sufficient rest.

It also recommended more flexibility for the current selective working hour system in which workers are allowed to freely set their work hours, including overtime work, for a one-month period within the range of 52 hours per week on average.

It advised that the basis period of the selective working hour system be extended to “within three months” in all industries. The government already expanded the basis period to three months for new products or technology R&D fields in April last year, but some have pointed out that the boundaries of its application are ambiguous.

The association also raised the need to change the wage system by shifting the salary calculation standards from the number of years of employment to work performance evaluations.

The association’s policy recommendations are expected to become the backbone of the Yoon government’s labor market reform, as the labor ministry has decided to fully accept them.

“Reforms for the labor market will begin in earnest,” Employment and Labor Minister Lee Jung-sik said in a Facebook post. “The new working hour and wage systems detailed in the research association’s policy proposals will be legislated as soon as possible.”

However, a rough road is expected until the labor reform task is accomplished, as labor umbrella groups have made clear their opposition to the new policy proposals.

The militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions issued a statement dismissing the policy proposals as a retrogressive revision of the law that will leave the decision on wages and working hours to employers.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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