Korea’s weekly working hours fell to a record low in 2012 as companies reduced operations and production to shed costs amid the economic slowdown.
Companies with more than five workers had their employees work an average 41.4 hours a week last year, with average monthly working hours also falling below 180 hours for the first time since 1999 when Statistics Korea began compiling data, the statistics bureau and the Ministry of Employment and Labor said Wednesday.
Korea’s monthly working hours averaged 179.9 hours in 2012.
Its average weekly working hours began to decline in 2004 when it recorded 45.4 hours, then further sliding to 44 hours in 2006.
Korea had maintained monthly average working hours of around 200 in the early 2000s, which started to fall below 190 in 2007.
The declining working hours is also in part due to Korea implementing the five-day workweek system in 2004 as a means to lower the hours to a level similar to the OECD average. Also, technological advancements at offices and production facilities further reduced the working hours of employees.
Korea, however, still has the highest weekly working hours among OECD members.
Meanwhile in a separate report by the statistics bureau, Korea’s employment rate reached 57.2 percent in February this year, the lowest in two years.
The low rate last month is mostly attributable to the Lunar New Year holidays which reduced the working days.
The job rate has been below the 60 percent mark for four consecutive months, making it harder for the Park Geun-hye administration to achieve a 70 percent rate.
OECD members had an employment rate of 62.7 percent from November 2012 to February 2013.
What’s more worrisome is that the job rate among people in their 20s, or college graduates, has been worsening for 10 consecutive months, the statistics bureau said.
The employment rate for 20-somethings recorded 55.3 percent last month, the lowest since June 1999 during the Asian currency crisis.
The economic activity rate for 20-somethings was 60.7 percent, which was also the lowest since June 1999.
As an increasing number of the young are giving up searching for jobs, the jobless rate among those in their 20s reached 9 percent, the highest since March 2011, the statistics bureau said.
By Park Hyong-ki (email@example.com