[EDITORIALS]Avoid the 5-Day Work 'Weak'

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[EDITORIALS]Avoid the 5-Day Work 'Weak'

The move to a five-day work week got rolling Wednesday following President Kim Dae-jung's remarks the day before to his cabinet urging the introduction of the change from the current five-and-a-half-day work week. The Ministry of Labor established a task force to formulate a plan and indicated its intention to have a bill before the National Assembly by the end of the year.

It is time we put fast-paced economic development based on long hours well behind us, and the people's desire for a higher quality of life has to be recognized. Korea is the only member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that is not on a five-day work week.

But are we adequately prepared for the change? A shorter work week is not just a matter of spending less time at work. It is an issue that has important consequences on almost every aspect of a person's life. Only with corresponding adjustments and modifications to many customs of society can the change be successful.

An important concern about introducing the change has to do with our economy. With recovery seemingly some time off and business investment and exports struggling, the possibility of the change having an adverse effect on the work ethic is a just cause for concern. The change must be preceded with a set of standards that ensures our international competitiveness, and even then the move must be taken carefully in steps.

The idea of a five-day work week is not something new to us; the tripartite commission of labor, business and government reached a consensus in principle on the issue last fall. But lack of a final conclusion to the issue indicates the complexity of interests involved. The change should not lead to an excessive burden on employers; this can be accomplished by making sure the complex system of leaves is overhauled to make it more in line with international standards.

The fact that the health care reform, despite honorable intentions, caused tremendous confusion was largely because of the lack of adequate preparation. To avoid a repeat of the confusion, the groundwork for the five-day work week should begin but the change must come one step at a time, containing any adverse impact.

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