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South Korean government to employees: Stop working so much

South Korean president Moon Jae-In has endorsed measures to reduce the working hours of his country's citizens. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

With the average South Korean clocking in almost 53 hours per week, lawmakers in the country are taking measures to change their "culture of working overtime."

Earlier this month, parliament passed a bill reducing the cap on workweek hours to 52, down from 68. The government in Seoul, the nation's capital, has even announced that it will soon begin to shut down the computers of civil servants at 8pm on Fridays, forcing them to go home.

The measure will be introduced in phases over the next few months, eventually resulting in a stop-time of 7pm on the last day of the workweek.

But the idea is not being embraced by South Korean workers, with 67.1% of government employees asking to be exempt from the new rules.

South Koreans typically labor 1,000 hours more than the average worker in other developed countries, at 2,739 hours in total. By comparison, the average US worker puts in 1,783 hours of work annually.

The industrious nation's work ethic is causing concerns among its leaders, with President Moon Jae-in endorsing initiatives to grant workers the "right to rest." Longer hours at the job site are being blamed for having a negative impact on the country in certain ways, namely resulting in low birth rates and reduced productivity.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the only two member countries whose workers clock more hours than South Koreans are Mexico and Costa Rica. In spite of a maximum weekly cap of 48 hours, the rule is largely ignored in Mexico due to weak labor laws and unemployment concerns.

The OECD also pointed out that Germans work the least amount of hours of the 35 countries they studied — but the average German worker is also 27% more productive than British workers.

An increased risk of stroke, heart disease, depression and weight gain are all linked to working long hours, according an study posted in The Lancet medical journal.

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