SEOUL, July 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's industry minister vowed to expand financial support for companies that cut employees' working hours and share their jobs under a new working hour scheme aimed at promoting work-life balance.
Starting this month, companies with 300 or more employees have been forced to reduce the maximum working hours to 52 hours per week from the current 68 hours. Companies will be given a six-month grace period.
Paik Un-gyu, minister of trade, industry and energy, said the government will closely communicate with companies to help them cut back working hours without sacrificing productivity or leading to a fall in salaries for employees.
"I encourage more companies to participate in reducing working hours that can promote work-life balance and increase employment," Paik said during a visit to a medium-sized semiconductor company in Hwaseong, southwest of Seoul. "We will expand wage subsidies for companies that create jobs and make efforts to help the new system take root in the early stage of its implementation."
Under the new system, companies with over 300 employees will be eligible for up to 600,000 won (US$538) in state support per new employee. Smaller companies that voluntarily reduce the weekly working hours would receive up to 1 million won of monthly wage for each newly hired employee.
The new work-week system, one of President Moon Jae-in's main election pledges, is aimed at cutting what are often called "inhumanely long" working hours in South Korea.
The reduced working hours, while benefiting some sectors, could be detrimental to others, some market watchers say. There have been worries that manufacturing, construction and certain parts of the retail sector could suffer a setback, at least in the short run.
(U20 World Cup) S. Korea going for historic title vs. Ukraine
(U20 World Cup) S. Korea's Lee Kang-in wins Golden Ball as tournament MVP
BTS dazzles 25,000 fans in Busan
(LEAD) Moon suggests trust-based denuclearization, peace
Thousands of S. Koreans ask gov't to approve their trip to Mount Kumgang