HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Korea

Developed Asian markets could slash working hours by 2030

Technological advancements and higher incomes could fuel this change.

Employees in Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea may see shorter working hours by 2030 as they experience technological advancement and higher incomes, DBS Equity Research said.

As productivity in Asia improves, the bank believes that Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea may slash their work weeks by five hours, 4.8 hours, and 3.5 hours respectively. Meanwhile, Asian giant China’s work week could shrink by 2.8 hours on the back of productivity gains and the achievement of middle-class incomes.

“We observed that employees in Asian countries are working longer hours than their peers in the West, by 500 hours or more per year,” the firm commented.

According to DBS, this could be attributed to Asian employees taking fewer vacation days as well as their work schedules of around 7.5 hours or more per week.

However, DBS also noted that there are challenges to Asia’s journey towards a 35-hour work week which involve culture and mindset of policy makers, employers, and employees.

Compared to their US and Europe counterparts, employees in Asia work at least 500 hours longer on the average, according to the Total Economic Database cited by DBS. This is despite the fact that global work weeks have been shrinking over the past years.

DBS attributed this differences to cultural, institutional, economic, and behavioural reasons which includes Western counterparts having more paid leaves.

“European countries such as France and Germany legally mandate companies to offer a minimum of 20 days paid annual leave to their employees,” DBS explained. “In contrast, companies in Asian countries are only legally required to offer a minimum of 7 days of paid annual leave.”

In addition, DBS said that European countries have more labour-friendly laws.

“France, for example, has a regulated 35-hour work week while Germany’s IG Metall, Europe’s largest labour union, recently negotiated a 28-hour work week,” DBS said.

Moreover, DBS thinks that Westerners adopt a different approach to work compared to Asians with many European societies giving greater collective emphasis on work-life balance and commitment to wellbeing.

Meanwhile, working hours in developing countries remain the same.

“This is because many in developing countries are earning to meet basic needs in economies where productivity is relatively low, which keeps working hours long,” the bank commented. 

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