Seoul will turn off workers’ PCs to curb excessive overtime

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South Korea has a serious problem with overtime. A typical government worker puts in 1,000 more hours per year than their equivalents in other countries, which could easily affect their long-term health. Seoul's Metropolitan Government may have a s…
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South Korea’s Solution to the Plague of “Overtime Culture”: Shut it Down

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In South Korea, it’s not abnormal for workers to slave away for 12 hours a day. Workers burn themselves out to show they are diligent and dedicated. The country’s crazy work culture fueled South Korea’s economic boom, but it’s now taking a toll on its people — birth rates have plummeted (Korea stands at the bottom of the OECD countries for fertility rate), while suicide rates have risen.

The government has decided that things need to change. It’s already reduced the maximum working hours per week from 68 to 52. And now, the government has launched a mandatory shutdown of all employees’ computers at the end of each week the ultimate target is for all computers to be shut off by 7 PM every Friday,  the BBC reports.

The report doesn’t mention how, exactly, offices are supposed to implement the plan, nor penalties for employers and employees that don’t comply. But the measure, which will be rolled out over the next three months, doesn’t exactly seem draconian. So, what’s all the fuss about?

For comparison, let’s glance at some stats about workers in countries like Germany, Denmark or Norway. There, workers spend between 1363 and 1424 per year at the office. For workers in South Korea, however, that time at work looks more like 2069 hours. So for them, starting the weekend at 7 in the evening is a big shift.

Yes, South Korea’s situation is somewhat extreme. But it’s not the only nation that could do with a hard look at its work culture. Employees in the U.S., for example, spend an average 1783 hours at work every year. That’s more than the 1713 hours of the average worker in Japan, which is often labeled a “workaholic” society.

In the U.S., Amazon is free to impose “mandatory overtime” and push its employees to work up to 60 hours a week, according to numerous Glassdoor reviews (the policy came under scrutiny in countries such as the U.K.). The U.S. is also the only country in the developed world that doesn’t grant paid leave to new mothers, who face discrimination or financial hardship if they decide to take time off after giving birth.

Keeping people at the office for so many hours doesn’t mean they’ll actually get more done. After your productivity peaks, research shows, you get tired, are more likely to make mistakes, and may even get sick. But if the message isn’t sinking in, it’s mostly for cultural reasons.

In many countries, working longer hours is an indication of a better worker. The fact that you may just be spending half of your day on Facebook (or other social media site of your preference) doesn’t seem to make a world of difference to the average manager.

The post South Korea’s Solution to the Plague of “Overtime Culture”: Shut it Down appeared first on Futurism.


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Overtime gets $9.5M to build a new style of sports network that young people will actually watch

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 ESPN may be going from a sure-fire cable bounty to something that needs a little more flexibility in a cord-cutting era — like launching a new streaming service in 2018. But an even more troublesome trend may be emerging among younger sports fans, according to Overtime CEO Dan Porter: they just aren’t getting the content the way they want it. Indeed, a recent study by the NCAA… Read More
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Apple Acknowledges ‘Illegal Overtime’ Employment of HS Students

No fewer than six high school students were “routinely required” to work 11-hour days assembling Apple’s iPhone X flagship at the Foxconn-owned assembly plant in Zhengzhou, China, according to a damning new report published by the Financial Times this week.

The students, whose ages range from 17 to 19, told the paper they were informed that a “three-month stint” working on the iPhone assembly line was a “work experience” requirement they had to fulfill in order to graduate from Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School.

“We are being forced by our school to work here,” said Ms. Yang, an 18-year-old student who requested that her real name be withheld for fear of punishment. “The work has nothing to do with our studies,” Ms. Yang added, noting that she’s currently training to become a train attendant. She claims to have typically assembled up to 1,200 iPhone X cameras a day.

In the wake of the shocking allegations, both Apple and Foxconn have respectively confirmed “instances of students working overtime,” according to the report, which added that both companies are currently taking action steps to remedy the situation.

“We’ve confirmed the students worked voluntarily, were compensated and provided benefits, but they should not have been allowed to work overtime,” Apple noted in a statement following its internal audit of the matter; while Foxconn in its admission echoed those sentiments, noting that while “all work was voluntary and compensated appropriately,” the interns “did work overtime in violation of our policy.”

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Apple and Foxconn have been called out for their unsavory employment practices — which have historically focused on the schedules and otherwise impure working conditions faced by Foxconn’s factory workers in the Far East. Citing comments from one former assembly line worker, for example, the report added that at the height of iPhone manufacturing season, there can be as many as 300,000 workers assembling 20,000+ iPhones a day.

While certainly damning, the report also highlights the need for Apple and its partners to implement additional measures to protect their workers. For its part, the Cupertino-company has published an official supplier responsibility report, in which it specifically requires its partners like Foxconn and Pegatron to both limit working hours to 60 per week, while also providing workers one whole day off every seven days for rest.

Foxconn noted that its policies prohibit interns from working more than 40 hours per week, however the iPhone-builder acknowledged the policy violation and said it’s working with Apple to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.

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