The freedom to work

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The freedom to work

“I have never heard of any case in which companies check their employees’ work hours in Silicon Valley!” fumed Chang Byung-gyu, chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, last Friday at a press briefing on the committee’s 180-page recommendation to President Moon Jae-in. Chairman Chang strongly attacked the liberal administration’s uniform application of a 52-hour workweek for depriving individual workers of their right to work without time restriction.

Chang’s comment translates into a sharp criticism on government policies which helped the economy plunge to an unprecedented growth rate of less than 2 percent. He highlighted merits of creating high value through working free of time limits. “In the world of start-ups, employees often work — voluntarily — for much longer than 52 hours a week. So the government must improve the rigid system to embrace ever-diversifying needs,” he contended.

His argument could sound sour to the labor-friendly administration, as its 52-hour workweek policy backfired across the board despite the government’s promise to give workers more time to spend with their family. Income of workers actually decreased due to their reduced hours, and companies increasingly have trouble ratcheting up their global competitiveness.

As Chang says, there is no limit to work time in the ecosystem of the Silicon Valley. Workers at Facebook and Google develop new software without any time limit. China is no exception. Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei allow their employees to work at any time they want.
Chang, founder of online gaming company Krafton, famous for shooter game “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” knows the field well. “In the gaming industry alone, Korea is on the verge of losing to China. If we lose, a great number of jobs will disappear. The government must redesign the rigid 52-hour workweek policy,” he underscored.

The report also emphasized the autonomy of universities if we desire to survive the fourth industrial revolution. “By the same token, the government needs to give leeway to colleges to decide their tuitions,” he said, pointing to adverse effects of the government’s freeze on college tuitions, as seen in the continuous weakening of Korean universities in terms of international competitiveness.

President Moon was briefed on the committee’s recommendations, which were formulated by 100 experts. He must accept them immediately to help revitalize our economy. Chang said he had to bell the cat. The Blue House must listen to his advice before it’s too late.
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