South Korea's maximum workweek, which had been called "inhumanely long" at 68 hours, has been cut to 52. President Moon Jae-in had vowed to cut the workweek during his campaign; also this year, he oversaw a 16% minimum-wage increase. South Korea's National Assembly passed the workweek law, which takes effect in July for large companies and will later be applied to smaller companies. Companies with fewer than 50 employees won't need to comply until July 2021. In addition to improving quality of life and creating more jobs, lawmakers hope the move will boost the country's birthrate.
A "workaholic culture" became the norm in South Korea when the economy started booming in the 1980s, the Guardian reports, and the birthrate fell fast. Last year, it hit record lows. The country's gender equality and family minister has blamed the long work hours for the country's aging population. But businesses opposed the move to reduce work hours, which could cost them an additional $11 billion per year to maintain productivity levels, the Korea Times reports. South Koreans work around 400 hours more per year than those in the UK and Australia. (Read more South Korea stories.)