Asia Minute: Looking for Balance in Seoul

Mar 22, 2018

Credit Joop / Wikimedia Commons

Work-life balance is a familiar phrase in the modern workplace. While it sometimes is more a theoretical goal than a practical reality, one city in Asia is taking steps to improve its chances. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Starting tomorrow, the city of Seoul is going to a new level to encourage its employees to cut out the overtime.

It’s not quite turning out the lights in the buildings to force people to leave, but it’s close. The city is turning off the computers.

The metropolitan government is going to shut down all the computers in City Hall at 8 PM tomorrow.

This will not be an everyday occurrence, they’re starting with Fridays—and ever so gradually. Next month, on the second and fourth Friday, computers will go down at 7:30. And then in May, they’ll go to 7 PM for the shutdown.

There have been past attempts at making people go home earlier—in part to help spark South Korea’s declining birthrates. Eight years ago, there was the “Family Day” campaign, with participating companies turning out their office lights by 7:30 PM on the third Wednesday of every month.

Seoul at night
Credit travel oriented / Flickr

Yonhap News says that was not a raging success.

According to a study conducted about a year and a half ago, South Korean workers are on the job for more than 2,100 hours a year. Compared to the average of the 35-nation members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Koreans put in working hours 20-percent above the average.