[Letter to the editor]Working smart
I would like to draw your readers’ attention to a little reported fact of global GDP. A United Nations survey published in 2006 ranked 50 countries according to their GDP per worker and per hour worked. All facts and figures that went into the calculations came from the national statistics agencies of the participating countries.
The ranking table is available online through Wikipedia.
What I want to know is what’s wrong with this picture: France, which ranked second on the list producing $36.56 per worker, per hour, has a nationally legislated work week of 30 hours. Anything over that is considered overtime. Japan, the world’s second-largest economy, is globally recognized for its long hours and hard work. It came in a credible 18th on the list, producing $25.16 per worker per hour. Now here’s the rub.
Korea, which likes to think of itself as one of the hardest working nations on earth, produces a meager $15.91 per worker, per hour worked. This ranks South Korea 33rd overall, sandwiched between Slovakia ($16.06) and Latvia ($15.14).
Korea is the odd country out in the 30’s as the only Asian nation bunched in among the developing nations of eastern Europe and South America. Of the Asian nations surveyed, Korea ranked a distant last behind Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, all of whom produce more than $20 per hour, per worker.
It doesn’t take much to realize that Korea, while working long hours, is not necessarily working hard. At the very least it is not working “smart.”
I currently work in the communications industry and witness staff who dedicate themselves to ridiculously long hours to produce no more work than I do in my scheduled 50-hour week (as an Australian national this is the longest “scheduled” working week I have ever experienced ― Australia ranks 15th on the UN list, producing $27.91). Prior to starting at my current workplace, I taught English at one of the larger regional institutes where I saw the same lack of productivity in colleagues (and students). Sleeping on the job is still accepted at that institute (and many others across multiple industries) because you are still considered to be “at work,”despite not actually working.
President Lee Myung-bak has made economic reform and enhanced performance the centerpiece of his administration. I hope these damning figures give the new administration pause.
If people work less they will actually become more productive. And you only need to install a range of key performance indicators (KPI) to ensure increased productivity. In addition, working less will give workers more time to spend with their families, increasing happiness and well being. Most importantly, by creating a more productive workforce, when things become especially busy during peak periods, or in the face of crisis or opportunity, a productive workforce will be able to respond accordingly, better managing their time and resources for the betterment of the company.
Korea has one of the brightest and most sophisticated workforces in the world. As a foreigner working in Korea, it baffles me why this workforce is so inefficiently utilized.
Jamie Morse, Ilsan
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