Gov’t establishes perks to reduce working hours

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Gov’t establishes perks to reduce working hours

Starting in May, civil servants will get off from work at 4 p.m. on the last Friday of each month - in return for working 30 minutes longer from Monday till Thursday.

It’s all part of the government’s plan to encourage Korean workers to spend more time with their families.

State-run companies were asked to adopt the same measure as soon as possible, according to the Ministry of Employment and Labor on Tuesday.

The ministry also said it would provide incentives to encourage private companies to offer similar leisure-promotion schemes.

“The policy changes came as the fourth industrial revolution is approaching, and more people are interested in improving the working environment in the country,” said Koh Young-sun, Vice Minister at Labor Ministry.

“Many workers at large companies have been able to work more flexible hours while not many at small and mid-size companies have been able to enjoy the same benefits. We will expand the idea of people leaving early on the last Friday of the month to the entire workforce in the country by having public institutions adopt it first, while giving more benefits to private companies that agree to do so.”

The government is considering benefits for private entities that allow workers to leave early on the last Friday or offer other flexible working hours to employees, such as lower interest rates on loans or better credit evaluations by the Industrial Bank of Korea.

“There are about 1,828 companies in the country that are categorized as family friendly companies, who offer flexible working hours, and we hope the number will go up to 2,800 this year,” said Ha Chang-yong, a director at the Labor Ministry.

Currently, the government gives benefits to small and mid-size companies that offer flexible working hours or allow employees work at home. They give some companies up to 5.2 million won ($4,673) per person a year. The same benefits will be given to mid to large-size companies starting this year.

All companies that offer remote working opportunities to employees will receive up to 20 million a year to develop or establish the infrastructure for such working environments. These benefits will last for three years.

Meanwhile, Koreans worked 2,071 hours a year on average, which is the second highest among the OECD member states after Mexico with 2,346 hours. The government data showed that 43 percent of Korean employees worked overtime more than three times a week.

Employees at larger companies enjoyed more flexible hours than at smaller companies.

“We will offer consulting services to companies with fewer than 500 employees to improve their working environments and will continue to conduct inspections or monitor sectors that tend to work longer hours such as IT, games and publishing industries to improve their working conditions,” said the Labor Ministry.

BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]

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