Shinsegae adopts 35-hour work week

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Shinsegae adopts 35-hour work week

Employees at Shinsegae Group will only work 35 hours a week starting next year, five hours less than they currently work, but their salaries will remain the same.

Korea’s leading retail giant announced Friday that it will implement a 9-to-5 working hour system starting from January. It is the first Korean conglomerate to reduce the working week to 35 hours. Currently, standard working weeks are 40 hours.

An employee’s exact working hours will depend on their position. For some jobs, employees may work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Roughly 50,000 employees and executives at 12 of Shinsegae’s affiliates will be affected by the new system from the start of next year. However, the 8,000 employees at affiliates including Shinsegae Food and Starbucks will need more time to implement the system, an official explained.

“Shinsegae’s latest move is expected to give momentum to a turnaround in the working environment in Korea,” the company said in a statement. “We want to make a corporate culture where employees can concentrate and relax,” the company added.

While working hours will be cut by an average of one hour per day, employees’ wages will not be affected at all.

“Shinsegae is not going to cut employees’ salaries. Better yet, we are going to continue with our annual pay raise that we have been doing regularly once a year,” the company said.

Korea is known to have a rigid working system compared to other OECD countries.

According to the association, Korea ranks second last in terms of annual working hours, totaling 2,113 hours a year. Most OECD member states set their working hours below 1,800 hours a year.

Shinsegae’s rival Lotte has also been attempting to improve the working environment for its employees.

Lotte Group announced Thursday that it will expand its so-called PC-off system to all of its affiliates starting next year. The PC-off system, which is currently installed in selected affiliates, automatically shuts down computers 30 minutes after the working day finishes, as well as on holidays and weekends. If an employee needs to work overtime they have to get approval from a manager in advance.

Lotte also said it will implement a mobile-off system, forbidding managers to give instructions to their team members outside of office hours through smartphone messaging apps.

“We have been coming up with the reduced working hour system for the past two years,” said a Shinsegae official.

“As much as we are reducing working hours, we are going to establish a healthier working environment where productivity will enhance significantly,” the official added.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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