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Five Day Workweek Gives Hard Time for SME

Posted July. 17, 2002 22:26,   


The financial sector began the five-day workweek system starting from July 1. As big corporations are expected to follow suit, leaders and employees in small and medium sized enterprises (SME) are suffering from a `three-faceted difficulties`.

▽Low Morale

Employees working at SMEs, which are difficult to introduce the system, are falling in the sense of deprivation. Mr Lim, 32, who is working at a SME manufacturing mold, said, "I feel angry when I think that I have to work when people take Saturdays off."

Mr Lee, 40, who is working at a Seoul-based SME, expressed similar view, saying, "I just envy companies that introduced the system."

▽ Decline in Productivity

Company owners has also been in agony. Kim, 40, who owns a company producing and exporting aqueous pens, said, "Our company should operate the manufacture round the clock but employees in administrative part as well as in manufacturing part are disgruntled. I am concerned that the atmosphere at workplace might turn sour."

Park, 39, president of a molding company also said, "Our company is just a subcontractor. For us, even working seven days a week is not good enough to keep the delivery date. But I have to consider the morale of employees, which is directly linked to productivity. The five-day workweek system is really giving me hard time."

Park also said, "The five-day workweek system is a mean for the financial sector to solve its own problem such as excess personnel produced by the financial sector restructuring. I don`t understand why we should get damaged from the system."

▽Possibility of Manpower Shortage

Kim, senior official in a Seoul-based textile dye company, said, "My company often recruit new employees because we always lack human resources. Recently one lady came to be interviewed. She just walked away when I said our company does not implement the five-day workweek system."

Choi, 60, an Incheon-based SME, said, "Manpower shortage cannot be solved even though we recruit foreign workers. I am having difficulty in explaining the reason why we cannot introduce the system."

According to a study announced by Recruit, employment agency, an increasing number of people prefer working at a company that introduces the five-day workweek system. Companies in the financial and insurance sectors ranked 2nd, up by 3 notches from the previous year in preferences of prospective employees.

▽ Countermeasures

Experts, company owners and workers said that the five-day workweek system that ignores the reality at the manufacturing front would end up in failure.

Sohn Nak-gu, a senior official in Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, said, "First the government should take steps in order to keep productivity and wages intact by taking into consideration manpower shortage in and conditions of SMEs, most of which are suppliers of big corporations. The five-day workweek system should be phased in according to the nature of industries and the number of employees of companies."

Dong-Yong Min mindy@donga.com