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South Korea has limited a working week to 52 hours, in order to stop overwork (weforum.org)
253 points by dsr12 44 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 189 comments



The amount of work we do is such a complicated issue. Here are a few primer questions to get you started:

How do we quantify amount worked on the continuum of knowledge workers vs. physical laborers?

How much are working hours determined by personal preferences and desires (getting promoted, actually enjoy job, etc) vs. demands imposed by management/project requirements?

How much of time worked depends on the culture (of a company, of an industry, of a country)?

How to quantify work "in the office" vs. at home "answering a few emails? Some people like being really flexible. I personally prefer very binary working/not working lifestyle.

How much should we work throughout our careers (I prefer the idea that we can "turn down the volume" on work during child rearing years, but this is in direct opposition to typical career advancement timelines)?

Is there any reasonable definition of a "full work week"? What is it (40 hours?)

Should we have a minimum wage at all? Does a minimum wage increase productivity by artificially making labor more expensive?


All of these come after the question: “What is life worth?”

In both the US and in most Asian cultures work is worth more than life for the vast majority of the average lifespan. Working long hours is considered a badge of honor. In the US you work towards retirement—that’s the goal. That’s the endgame.

The fundamental question is: is that right? Is it worth it? Should we spend 40 years trying to make as money as we can so that we can then do nothing? The entire system, from top to bottom, is designed for this. And we give little breaks in between those 40 years so people don’t become depressed and kill themselves.

Whenever I hear about people justify why they work so hard it’s almost always because they want to become rich so they won’t have to work. It makes me think of that line from Office Space, “You don't need a million dollars to do nothing, man. Take a look at my cousin. He's broke and he don't do shit.“

We do what the media tells us because we never stop to think about what we actually want.


> In the US you work towards retirement—that’s the goal. That’s the endgame.

To further your point, I think this is more a utilitarian societal lie (like cheaters get caught etc.) than anything.

The age of retirement is set to get non efficient people out of the market, and as people get fitter and fitter it gets pushed ahead (right now it is raised (or is discussed to be?) 65 in a number of countries for instance).

Doing everything one dreams to do during retirement is lunacy, chances are this time is spent in an hospice or retirement isn’t even reached.


I've been working towards early retirement for a decade now, but I've never thought about this perspective before. Seeing it from a devil's advocate perspective, you could consider retirement a beautiful dream that people will tirelessly work towards until they are practically spent.

Retirement age as the age where most people are not net contributors any longer, is a very different perspective than the age where most people have enough savings to live for the rest of their lives without working. Of course, there is no sinister cabal that deliberately shapes society in this direction, but there are certainly powers that would want (and probably try to) to pull society in this direction.

If most people could choose how to spend their time (working productively, working on stuff that no one pays for, not working) by the age of 40, there would be a smaller supply of in-demand specialists. And that would mean higher salaries and less return on capital!


> Whenever I hear about people justify why they work so hard it’s almost always because they want to become rich so they won’t have to work

I think most people want to work so they can afford certain things - depending on their values either a really neat place to live, a bunch of experiences, etc, but then find that in order to work to afford those things you get caught up in a cycle. There's plenty of people who aren't optimizing for retired life in their 60s and 70s - but at the same time recognize that after they actually CAN'T work any more they need to take some care of themselves.

We tend to talk about work and jobs as if they're always mind-numbing drudgery - I think that's what people buy into, especially by having families and needing to be a breadwinner. You don't need to have a family. You don't need a big house. But for a lot of people, they want a family, and they want a big house. I wish there were more society did to set up alternate lifestyles, but it is sort of the engine that keeps society going.


>There's plenty of people who aren't optimizing for retired life in their 60s and 70s

Is it ever reasonable to optimize for?

Go vacation to the most beautiful places you've ever been when your fitness level will be questionable?

Go spend a bunch of money on food when your senses will be dulled by age?


Counter point to the question "what is life worth?", which I think is a bit of sophistry in that it complects the discussion to tangential subjects like the price you would pay to save a life.

I would rather ask "what is the value of not working?" To me, an American and a male, work is the number one way I choose to be valuable. If I chose not to work, or to work less, I would unquestionably provide less value to my society and my loved ones. I like being valuable. I like doing, hard frustrating things so my loved ones don't have to. I like working, even if (and because) I fucking hate it sometimes. Therefore, I love that I work. It is the most valuable thing I do.


To me, an American and a male, work is the number one way I choose to be valuable. If I chose not to work, or to work less, I would unquestionably provide less value to my society and my loved ones.

Don't sell yourself short. Your loved ones love you too - for who you are, not for the money you bring in.

Quality time spent with your loved ones should be waaaay higher up the valuable list. Maybe ask them: If I earned 30% less, but had an extra day of time off per week with you guys, would you day that was worth it?

Of course, there's basic provision - providing enough that off time can be quality time. Providing enough that schooling can be decent... But your value is way greater than your income.


Yeah, that's just millennial nonsense. I spend time with my family AND I work. If I chose not to work anymore, my wife would leave me and my kids would remember me as a valueless deadbeat. And they'd be right. Unless I had a reason of course, like disability. Which I don't.

This also assumes I'd want to spend 30% more of my work time with my family. I wouldn't. It would drive me crazy. I can't handle that much emotional fuckwittery in a week. The workplace is nice because feelings don't really matter. It's refreshing.


You need to consider what work and, more generally, what society is. Society is fundamentally a group of people working together to satisfy each others needs and wants. Work, or productivity, is making progress towards this goal and is something we tend to reward with money, though not always.

I think a fair analogy for society's productivity is a grocery store. Imagine there was a grocery store, the only grocery store in existence that also happened to be the only way to get food. Everybody would come in and take whatever they needed, but you didn't necessarily have to pay. If only some people don't pay this isn't that big a deal - the grocery store as a whole eats the losses but continues working more or less fine. And for those that simply cannot pay at all, well - there's not really any other option. But then there are those that could pay, but for whatever reason, do not. If enough people did this - the store would eventually go out of business as it would not be making enough to sustain itself. If everybody just did as they want, society would collapse.

More generally here money is an indicator of how much you've contributed to society. People look at disbelief at how much Jeff Bezos is worth, yet somehow think nothing of how much Amazon has completely revolutionized the world of purchasing things as well as brought prices to lower than ever levels. The reason he's worth as much as he is is because he has contributed immensely to society.

Of course the system isn't ideal and some people manage to make enormous amounts of money while contributing next to nothing to society - people who deal with finance are the prototypical example here. And similarly there are also people that contribute immensely to society, yet never see much in the way of reward from it. Herman Melville is now seen as one of the more important individuals in our literary history, yet received no recognition during his life and died without his work ever really being recognized, let alone rewarded.

Yet for all of its flaws, our system does generally do a good job of creating a system where people who contribute to society are rewarded which creates a strong incentive system to contribute to society, even if only to make yourself rich in the process.


If Jeff Bezos' contribution to society is so immense that he deserves all the billions he has amassed, what about the scientists and mathematicians of the world who died in poverty, but on whose shoulders the modern world is built upon?


Can you give me just a few names of important scientists who died in poverty for reasons outside their own actions?


Tesla, Ramanujan, Gutenberg...

"Poverty" is a strong word. I could have used a different word.

What I really wanted to convey is that Gutenberg, Marie Curie, Enrico Fermi, Tesla, Gauss and plenty others deserved to be billionaires if Bezos deserves his billions.


Your choice of names is not compelling.

- Tesla was a multi millionaire during his life who decided to risk, and lose, his wealth pursuing ideas that did not work out.

- Gutenberg was granted royal title along with all the privileges of such including an endless stipend and industrial volumes of grain and wine during the 15th century. Works from his press sold, during his life, for what was years of salary per copy. He was almost certainly a millionaire, though my point was primarily related to capitalist societies. The 15th century was still more feudal come mercantalistic.

- Curie won the nobel prize which entailed a prize of hundreds of thousands of dollars and a solid gold medal - almost certainly totaling in the millions of dollars as well.

And so on. And in many ways a billionaire of today is what a millionaire of times past was. I don't mean because of inflation but in terms of relative scarcity and effective 'power.' Ramanujan is the closest to a reasonable example, but there are significant extenuating circumstances there. He was religious to the point of bordering on insanity, grew up in colonial India, and had no interest in anything other than the private pursuit of his mostly abstract mathematical works. Whatever he may have 'deserved', he certainly was able to live his life as he wanted.

The big point here though is that this is not a coincidence. When people contribute to society, they tend to be rewarded. There are certainly some exceptions, but the great thing is that they are now a days, without doubt, the exceptions.


"The big point here though is that this is not a coincidence. When people contribute to society, they tend to be rewarded."

Getting rich and contributing to society are very different things. A footballer is almost always going to be richer than a professor in a top-class university. Drug barons are rich, but I doubt they are contributing to society.

Bankers are getting richer. They created the recession and profited from it. The hardworking common man paid for their success. I do not think it is as simple as you say it is.

As I said, "poverty" was the not the right word. Otherwise, the examples are just fine. Curie in particular. She refused to patent Radium. It is hard to comprehend in an era where even simple geometric figures, colors and fonts are being patented.


You're conflating contributing with some sort of subjective utilitarian type view. People want drugs, drug barons facilitate their availability - this is a substantial and highly productive contribution to society. To emphasize how arbitrary value systems can be, you might consider an opera singer to be contributing to society. But they're providing the exact same product to society that a footballer does - entertainment.

But back on the scientists, poverty was not just the wrong word - it was the wrong idea. Most of the people you listed lived lives as pleasant as they desired and could have retired in complete comfort at various points in their career. Of course that would not make these sort of people happy. Instead they mostly lived normal lives (in terms of standard), and put their money back into furthering their research and in many ways right back into society.

The same is true, though in a different way, for Bezos. He will likely never, in his entire life, spend more than a tiny fraction of a percent of his wealth on himself and his family. The vast majority of it will end up going back to society working to do his part to try to bring humanity into the space age. This isn't to say he lives modestly, but rather it exposes an interesting difference. When most people think of being a billionaire most don't think of what they could create, instead they think of what they could buy. Yet the former mindset creates wealth and the latter destroys it.

When Bezos was in his teens he worked one summer at a McDonalds. He hated it. The next summer decided to found the 'Dream Institute' which was a 10 day camp for younger kids. He only got 6 signups, but at $600 a child he probably earned vastly more than he did at McDonalds and provided a great service to society at the same time. No doubt his idea was heavily incentivized by money and that's the beautiful thing about our system. When you create things, you tend to be rewarded. And on that note, I'm going to dodge the banker issue. I do agree with you there and while productivity tends to be rewarded, it's not an exclusive relationship. E.g. - those that are nonproductive can also find substantial reward at times. However, I think the issue with banks is far more complex than 'they create [and profit from] recessions so they're bad' or 'they lend money to create businesses so they're good'.


Finance contributes next to nothing? Finance is exactly how Jeff Bezos assembled billions of dollars to fund a company that had no profitability.


Imagine that grocery store getting cursed with every generation- the ghost of former grocery traders remain in the store helping out.

Now these politer-geists are everywhere, running the store- fully automated and ruining your analogy.


I'm not entirely certain what you're trying to suggest, but there is very little in society that it is completely automated. The vast majority of systems today require an immense amount of effort and management just to maintain, let alone expand, themselves. Those that do not, invariably rely extensively on systems that do.

Just look at your desk right now and think about all of the things on it and the path that they took to get from raw materials to finally ending up shaped to what's in front of you. Think about this site, and these messages we're exchanging and how many thousands of different components, products, and pieces that are required to build and then maintain the capacity that just let's us post some text to one another.

Think about all the maintenance you have to do in a year just to keep your house from turning into a dilapidated pigsty. Now imagine that on a global scale with immensely complicated and interdependent infrastructure.


My father in law worked nights and weekends his whole life with big plans for what to do after retirement. Then he passed away unexpectedly at 57. My father on the other hand just didn’t retire, because he loves working too much, but he goes on a lot of vacations.


> The fundamental question is: is that right? Is it worth it? Should we spend 40 years trying to make as money as we can so that we can then do nothing?

Consider that 100-200 years ago, you had to work your entire life just to stay alive. There was no retirement.


People knew there was no way out, so work style was different though (keeping work/life balance was not a phylosophical question).

Granted people working in mines for instance just had a shitty life all around.


> People knew there was no way out, so work style was different though (keeping work/life balance was not a phylosophical question).

Really? My grandparents and grandgrandparents told me an entirely different story.

Please provide references for your statement.


your grandparents are post industrialization as well.

I'm pretty sure the grandparent post is talking about the world before that point

also, if your grandparents are ~80 yrs old now, they would've started working around ~60 yrs ago. The specified timeframe was 100-200yrs ago.


Well, you "retired", but only if you had your family (siblings, cousins, children) looking after you.


Working with retirement as a goal seems like a very bad idea.


I still haven't found a more fun and rewarding thing than work.


I think most of us keep working because we are lazy to live a life.


The problem with being broke and lazy is that the quality of life totally sucks and that a single health emergency probably means you are going to die. Food for thought.

Also, it sucks but I can tell you firsthand that having a million dollars isn't that helpful. I don't worry about bills, but I can't really retire young. Well, I could, but I would never be able to travel, pay for my kids' college, or have any unexpected expenses for the rest of my life, which would totally suck.


I don’t see how wealth should effect an individuals ability to survive a medical emergency. In the US they really try and brainswash people with nonsense like this


"Should we have a minimum wage at all? Does a minimum wage increase productivity by artificially making labor more expensive?"

The goal of minimum wage is not to increase productivity, but provide a "safety net" for people at the bottom of the pyramid salary-wise.

Public education and healthcare also artificially reduce the price of these services, but the goal again is to provide a safety net to all those that otherwise would not be able to afford them.


The goal of a minimum wage is difficult to pin down, because laws are written by large groups of people with potentially differing motivations.

That being said, I hope it isn't about a safety net. What a minimum wage really does is outlaw jobs that provide less value than the minimum wage (eg, if I have cleaning work that requires 1hr of labour and generates value of $10, it theoretically will not happen under a minimum wage regime of $11/hr).

With this frame, there does seem to be much debate about the interaction between the market price for labour and the value-add of different work. People want to make decisions here and I suspect they don't consider have all the facts. Politics as usual :].


"The goal of a minimum wage is difficult to pin down"

In the most general sense it's straightforward.

Your salary is a function of your economic power vis-a-vis your employer - and nothing else. That power is usually derived as a function of the necessity (i.e. value creation) and scarcity of your skills, and possibly some other non-market forces.

Skilled workers have some modicum of leverage and can get a decent salary. Or have powerful guilds (like doctors).

'Capital class' will use their status as major asset holders, and non-market things like class, relationships, political patronage, lobbying, direct control of political systems etc. to manage their careers.

But unskilled workers have a problem. Basically, if there was no minimum wage (or other social intervention), workers would be paid the absolute minimum necessary to survive, and economies to support those very low levels would develop (i.e. 'Dollar Store' would be the '25 cent store) and there'd be favela like living conditions just as they already exist in advanced economies like Hong Kong and almost advanced economies like Brazil. (Obviously, if there is 'welfare' than the amount of welfare comp. would set the floor on this, i.e. 'work for the government and do nothing' would be the 'lowest alternative' to paid work.)

But especially without welfare, or non-market interventions in general ... that floor would be very, very low. Just take a trip outside of the 'rich world', it's easy to find workers working for 'a bowl of rice a day' whilst owners make considerably more, and by that I mean, there are definitely surpluses in the system to allow for higher salaries, but pure market power doesn't provide any impetus at all for employers to provide it.

So - 'minimum wage' is a non-market intervention, much like a 'union without membership' to establish a kind of meta collective bargaining.

Non market interventions are basically essential and they exist in one way or another in all advanced nations (either social services, welfare, min. wage. etc..). Should note that some argue that social intervention is correlated but not causal to wealth creation, but I disagree with this ... but that's for another discussion.


I think what you're saying is that there are jobs that are worth e.g. $25/hour but they only pay e.g. $5/hour because there are many people willing to do them for that price.

But that only happens when there is fairly high unemployment. Otherwise there will be an employer with a job worth $25/hour who can't find an employee for $5/hour and will offer $6/hour because $19 in net yields is better than none. Then the original employer will have to offer $7 because they don't want to lose their productive capacity either, and so on until the wage rises enough that employers stop raising their wages even if it means they can't hire someone.

For unskilled workers that doesn't really happen, because as a segment they typically have a high unemployment rate. But in that case you have a problem: Some of the employers paying $5 have employees who are worth $25, but some of them are actually only worth $5. Raise the minimum wage and the first group gets a raise while the second group loses their jobs.

It's basically a tax on hiring low wage employees where the tax revenue goes to subsidize the employee's wages. Which like any tax may cause the work to fall below profitability and cease to exist. But is especially distorting because the burden falls exclusively on employers who hire low earning workers, which is a very narrow base that makes the "rate" quite high -- if they have to pay $12 instead of $4 it's effectively a 200% tax on the original wage.

The better solution is a UBI, which is very similar on the "give lower income people some extra money" side but gets funded from broad based taxes so the effective rate doesn't get out of control like that.


>jobs that are worth e.g. $25/hour but they only pay e.g. $5 [...] only happens when there is fairly high unemployment.

That's not true though. Surplus value is produced all the time[1].

However, I agree with you about your conclusion on UBI

1-www.khanacademy.org/economics-finance-domain/microeconomics/consumer-producer-surplus


> That's not true though. Surplus value is produced all the time

What I mean is that the surplus isn't that large unless there is high unemployment. At low unemployment the marginal employer might pay a $24 wage producing $25 worth of value, not a $5 wage producing $25. In which case a) a low minimum wage does nothing because everybody already makes more, and b) you can't raise it to e.g. $30 or you're back to causing unemployment.

At high unemployment the employer producing $25 worth of value and the employer producing $5.25 worth of value can both pay $5. A higher minimum wage extracts more from the first but prices the second out of the market and causes their employees to lose their jobs. Which is quite silly when there are known alternatives that don't do that.


>the surplus isn't that large unless there is high unemployment. At low unemployment the marginal employer might pay a $24 wage producing $25 worth of value

That's still not true. You're confusing market price with value, and the more difficult to define term, worth.

What's the water you drink valued at? What's its price? There's a huge difference.

When you buy an expensive toy and spend more money on it than your water, it's not because it has more value than you living beyond 3 days, but it's because you are spending until your marginal value-add reaches equilibrium with marginal price. Same thing goes with jobs, which is just a business buying labor.


> What's the water you drink valued at? What's its price? There's a huge difference.

Because water is not particularly scarce. If it was scarce (more demand than supply), the equivalent of low unemployment, then its price would approach its value, i.e. be much higher.


Consider your example and then walk along the demand curve for water at your new supply curve (your scarcity scenario). There is still surplus value created.

The price already approaches its value, but only at the margin.

I'm just trying to explain why this argument about surplus value that I always hear in this context is not accurate.


> Consider your example and then walk along the demand curve for water at your new supply curve (your scarcity scenario). There is still surplus value created.

It's not that there is exactly none, it's that there is relatively less.

Suppose it takes a unit of water to live and there are a thousand people and a million units. Then the price is near zero and the surplus is huge -- the value of not dying is maybe a million dollars for the average person and more for people with access to more money, and they all get it for free.

Now suppose there are still a thousand people but only a hundred units of water. The price of a unit rises to five million dollars. At the [new] margin the surplus has gone from five million dollars to zero. The surplus for the person willing to pay six million has fallen from six million to one million etc. Everyone has lost five million in surplus and everyone with less than five million in original surplus has been priced out of the market.

Now suppose you want a "minimum price" for water. If the market price is just under five million dollars and you set the minimum price to five million even, you aren't pricing many people out of the market who weren't already. But you also aren't doing much to raise the price.

On the other hand, if the market price is zero (or, say, $5) and you set the minimum price at five million, you're causing widespread economic harm and pricing lots of people out of the market.


Just to point out, for the record, that Hong Kong has had a minimum wage in operation for 7 years, and while of course there are people living in crappy conditions at the bottom end of society, "favela like living conditions" is a pretty loaded term...


I think that 'favelas' are better than the conditions those at the bottom of the HK spectrum are living in [1] though I can only speak from journalism, only having viewed some of this from afar myself.

At least favelas have some space, some basic amenities however hacky, some community, sunshine - and mobility at least during the day there are vast spaces for people to access including some of the world's best beaches.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2017/jun/07/boxed...


I think why people support a minimum wage is complicated and varied. Great Britain did not pass a minimum wage until 1998. I don't it was full of favela like living conditions throughout the 20th century.


"Great Britain did not pass a minimum wage until 1998. I don't it was full of favela like living conditions throughout the 20th century."

They had other non-market social interventions long before that.

And in early 20th century, many were living in favela like conditions.


"The goal of a minimum wage is difficult to pin down"

No, it isn't. The point of minimum wage is to outlaw jobs that cannot reasonably* feed people doing them. (*Subject to societal norms.)

Existence of such "jobs" is immoral, and is not very different from slavery. If the society cannot pay enough for some work, it simply shouldn't be a job (and should not be called such).

Despite what some economics schools try to make it, people are not apples. Apple doesn't care what is its market price. But a human almost always does. Survival of apple and human depends on their respective market price, but we as a society, I hope, value human survival more.


> The point of minimum wage is to outlaw jobs that cannot reasonably feed people doing them. (Subject to societal norms.)

OK, how does a society put a dollar figure on what a reasonable minimum wage should be, subject to societal norms, as you put it?

Keep in mind that what an unskilled worker 'll end up with at the end of any given week will be:

- agreed hourly rate x hours worked

If the unskilled worker ends up with pneumonia for that week, s/he essentially gets nothing since no hours were worked, so a minimum wage doesn't really insure against inability to work due to circumstances beyond one's control. That's a separate issue on its own.


> eg, if I have cleaning work that requires 1hr of labour and generates value of $10, it theoretically will not happen under a minimum wage regime of $11/hr

True, but I think the far more common scenario is this: I have cleaning work that generates value of $25/hr. Since the labor is unskilled and there is ample supply I can pay my workers the minimum wage and still find plenty of applicants. If there was no minimum wage I could pay them $5/hr and would still have plenty of applicants who would be even more impoverished.


I know a lot of people who make minimum wage (e.g. fast food jobs). When minimum wages rise (like when they got to 7.25 in the US), they don't get fired, they get a raise.

Just because minimum wages go up, doesn't mean humans are getting replaced. Instead, people often adjust their price limits (e.g. if cleaning was thought to generate $10, and then you don't clean for a while, you'll feel it warrants $11) and workers get better pay. The workers who do get fired due to financial constraints can now get a job elsewhere for more money.

I agree that there is a breaking point and that point does vary by company, but that breaking point (for the vast majority of things) happens to be far greater than zero


> The workers who do get fired due to financial constraints can now get a job elsewhere for more money.

or they drop away from employment entirely.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/EMRATIO


This is an excellent chart. Now match it up with the times when minimum wages increased - I used the following URL to figure out when those were:

https://bebusinessed.com/history/history-of-minimum-wage/

The big drop goes from June 2008 to October 2009 - which is indeed when we had not one but two increases to federal minimum wage.

However, look at all the other times when we had minimum wages increase - even when employment decreased, there was a pretty quick recovery. I'd argue that 2008 and 2009 minimum wage increases also happened during a recession, and that they were only part of the contribution to the large drop. Am I missing something?


"I know a lot of people who make minimum wage (e.g. fast food jobs). When minimum wages rise (like when they got to 7.25 in the US), they don't get fired, they get a raise."

This reminds me of someone who once argued that schools cannot reduce their costs when the number of students that need educating declines, because e.g. you can't stop renting a building just because there are 10% fewer occupants.

Is there a flaw in this sort of logic?


The motivator to give people raises is that you must meet minimum wage and that you still need those workers.

You don't need a larger building when there are less people in it, and you don't need more teachers when there are less students.

The argument you described is very different from mine. Mine is more like "schools say books are worth $10, but the prices of books raise to $11. Nevertheless, schools continue buying books"

If you don't believe this, there's data on the subject of minimum wage increases and percent employment. Look at this comment and my explanation below it:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17481847


"you don't need more teachers when there are less students"

You don't need fewer, do you? You can't fire a teacher because their class now has 27 people instead of 30 - those 27 people still have to be educated.

Do you think teachers are not essential to schools in the way that minimum wage employees are to restaurants? How does that work?

I'm not debating whether simplistic supply and demand analysis applies to the restaurant workers - clearly we have empirical results that say it does not.

I think that to understand something, you have to have data, but you also need to have a theory that is consistent and leads to further insight.


The theoretical argument would be that one teacher gets sacked and their 27 students get distributed amongst the other teachers bringing the student:teacher ratio back to 30:1.

Indeed, if this doesn't happen (which is fully possible) you get an interesting avenue of inquiry about market inefficiencies.

As an aside, I personally know of a case where a school needed to cut costs, and they did that by increasing the student:teacher ratio. That ratio is a metric that gets attention and consideration; at least in the Australian system it is not some arbitrary number.


Schools have fixed costs and marginal costs, just like everything else. Fixed costs consist of capital, like buildings. Marginal costs are like teaching time and books. Increasing your capital is usually relatively slow, e.g. buildings take a while to build and land takes a while to sell.


> I hope it isn't about a safety net.

Why, exactly- assuming that the reason you hope minimum wages are enacted can be both for your reasons and to provide a safety net?


Well, I don't believe that corporations should be required to create a social safety net. I think the government should do it directly.


I would say society produces a social safety bet, corporations aren't completely separate.

They would like to be, but they are heavily supported, between society educating their workers, providing them basic health care, the emergency services, allowing their owners limited liability, the odd massive bail out, etc. Etc.


they would need a non negative tax on noncorporal entities to afford that too


[flagged]


You're so confident in this opinion, it seems, that you won't attach it to a real account.

Many accomplished economists have publicly put their marks down both in favor of and opposition to minimum wage, so why not at least have the decency to own your own words and engage in a genuine debate?


Because they arent interested in an honest debate, they are interested in sniping ideological talking points even they dont really beleive in.


Fundamentally you have to choose. Does society serve the market, or does the market serve society?

I realize that legislating that it not rain on Saturday is ridiculous. But it is certainly reasonable to influence the market. Save in the good times, spend in the bad. Ensure market participants are well equipped to make informed decisions, tax what you don’t want and subsidize what you do.

I (think I) understand that the market is incredibly powerful, and should be harnessed for the advancement of society, like oil. But it requires careful thought. It’s not as simple as a u shaped harness for a horse.

Of course, I’m just here for the points, so feel free to disregard, rather than having an actual conversation.


Okay, but tons of educated economists who's entire job is thinking about this stuff and peer reviewing other expert's work suggest that evidence doesn't back up the claim that minimum wage kills jobs at scale.

They cite as evidence a full time labor demand thst does not seem to contract in anything but a temporary manner when minimum wages are altered. We've got lots of examples of this all over the world.

But what do I know, I just listen to experts and read their papers and articles.


I see you're clearly not a fan of Card and Krueger.

But it's deeper than that. I'm happy to vote away minimum wage if (and it's a big if) there's something we replace it with that continues to serve society. what would you like? basic income? some complicated tax credit scheme?

I think minimum wage workers in general aren't good at negotiation, and as such they're paid below the actual floor of supply and demand. they're not capable of extracting fair compensation the value they provide. The other possible effect is humans aren't regular market objects. They make a little more money, their life is stable, they do better work. One example might be falling recidivism rates when compared to minimum wage. [1] crime is expensive. probably not as expensive as bumping minimum wage a dollar, but has the effect of making everyone a little safer.

But again. you enjoy your papers, i'm just here for the points.

[1] http://newsstand.clemson.edu/mediarelations/minimum-wage-can...


> Does society serve the market, or does the market serve society?

None. The society is the market, and the market is society.


> Minimum wage ensures the most marginal at risk employee becomes unemployed.

Working as intended. Now they can look for jobs that treat them like human beings, instead of being forced to work ten hours while a toddler is waiting at home just because they physically can.

It's the job of the government to keep these people from starving while they are unemployed.


> forced

Who is suggesting forcing people to do anything? You are so confident in what is the best interests of the poor. You are actually suggesting it is better for people to live in squalor feeding their children breadcrumbs than to work below minimum wage.

How about letting people decide for themselves what jobs they want to work and at what wages instead of coming in here mandating what "should" be done without any evidence that it will actually benefit the people you claim to care about?

You are the only person in this discussion interested in forcing and mandating people to do anything.


Your post commits a common oversight, the fact that coercion beyond agreements perfectly a rational Homo Economicus would make is a reality.

Picking a different job isnt an option when ALL of the jobs require that, the situation in SK really is that extreme, and thats why this law was brought in.


In your libertarian model society, poor people can choose for themselves... between working 10 hours a day to earn less than minimum wage, with no time left for learning new skills or searching for a better job, or not working and starving.

If you want give people the power to choose for themselves, they should be able to take a break. They should be able to take risks, without equating losing (or quitting) a job with financial doom. Otherwise the "choice" poor people have is only on paper, in the same way the old joke plays: in America people have the freedom to criticize the American government, and in Soviet Union people had the exact same freedom - to criticize the American government.

What you derisively call "breadcrumbs" is the foundation of modern welfare society, a recognition of its duty to each individual in the society.

(I'm not saying South Korea is a model society: clearly it isn't, when it has to tell business owners to stop overworking people. But we're moving in the right direction.)


Without min wage laws, the most disadvantaged person (low skill etc) has more OPTIONS to choose from. Wanna "take a break"? Sure, she can try choosing that. Wanna work below min wage? Sure, its their choice.

You are saying its "better for them" if we take options out of them. Now, how is that even possible..?

ps. I won't point you at anything, but try looking for historical reasons behind min wage imposition. They simply wanted to exterminate those "disadvantaged persons" (because most of them were blacks, and those who imposed this law were racists).


> Economic illiterarcy on full display

What’s your plan to fix that?

The school of hard knocks? Public education?

I mean, as long as it exists, people are going to be exploited. Specifically not paid fair market value.


Thats precisely why reducing a complicated multi dimensional space in a single metric measuring time is completely wrong in concept.



I was just having a dumb convo with a friend about how JUST a simple 3-day weekend can make you way more productive for like the next 2 weeks.

Refreshed, on top of personal life stuff, and ready to go. Why do we work 5 on, 2 off? How did that naturally become the standard.

I'd argue that if our economy did a rolling 5 on, 3 off for everyone the whole output would net MORE productivity overall


>How did that naturally become the standard.

It didn’t. People fought and died for this and many other protections, engaged in massive disruptions of their workplaces and society at large. If history and the developing world are at all examples, businesses would rather work people to death and use every form of coercion possible to drive down the price of labor.

The degree to which we forget that this and are unwilling to do the same is the degree to which these rights will be eroded.


To add to that...in the country I live in (a developing country in Asia), 5-2 is NOT the standard.

If you work for a western company or have a skilled white collar type job you work either 5-2 or 5½-1½. That is, you work a half day every Saturday. It is so common that every commercial lease I've seen covers it. e.g. "we provide air conditioning from 8am-6pm Monday to Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturday".

Everyone else -- which is probably 90% of the country -- works 6 days a week. That is, they only get 1 day a week off. 4 days a month. (And it is common for people to work 10 hour shifts.)

As you say, 5-2 only became the standard because originally it was 7-0, which then became 6-1, which then became 5-2. Each of those transitions took decades. In Australia, the 5-2 work week didn't become a thing until 1948. It took a 2 year court case to change from a 6-1 schedule to a 5-2 schedule. At the time employers said, "Australia is committed to an unnecessary and dangerous experiment".

Hong Kong only implemented the 5-2 schedule for government workers in 2006. Before that, they were expected to work on Saturdays.

In Saudi Arabia, I believe that government workers still work 6-1 schedules.


Which country is that?


Totally agree. I worked at a company that gave us the option of working 4/10s (Mon-Thurs, 10 hour shifts) or what we called a 9/80 where you would Mon-Fri the first week, but only Mon-Thurs the second week (9 hour shifts). The 9/80 was the most productive schedule ever. Having a 3 day weekend every other weekend helped me recharge and really improved my work:life balance.


I am currently working every other Friday off, did every Friday off from last October to April this year. It's the biggest quality-of-life improvement in my career. Well worth the pay cut. Everyone should have the option of doing it.


I think this might work for cognitive-based works like programming but not for muscle-based works like doing constructions.


Yep, true


Well I'm already bored after one day of week end. On the contrary I wish I could work half day every day


Have you tried making that happen? I don't know your work situation but maybe it's worth a shot giving it a try.


I work a full time job and a half atm, but when I'm done cashing money I will pursue such workloads, which both my jobs allow.


Hopefully a tighter labor market will result in higher wages for workers, reducing the necessity of overtime. There's some evidence that in the united states that employers are so powerful that even the tightest labor market in years isn't increasing wages.

EDIT: However, can you imagine such reforms being implemented here? This is the power of a leftist coalition capturing the state. As mild a reform as this is, it stretches the imagination for what is possible here.


What evidence do you have that it's employers who are powerful holding down wages? Being a small business owner in America sucks. You can barely afford to employ anybody.


Honestly, that's what says any employer in any part of the world. I am currently in a SW-EU state and I hear the same exact words every day, and here the work market is far more heavy regulated and taxed.


Because they've been found guilty of it. Apple, Google and others were found to be colluding to keep salaries down and recently the same thing has been found in the animation industry with Pixar, Disney and others.


Look all over this thread.

The american additude towards employer-employee relationships is totally fucked.


but the largest employeers destroy unions, and have more bargaining power than a single employee


The productivity-pay gap.

It might not apply to small businesses, but we're talking about the whole economy, not just small businesses.


Hasn't made a huge difference in the EU though in non unionised companies - but I think anything would be an improvement.

A minimum statutory leave policy would make more of a difference say 4 weeks minimum.


They have already increased the minimum wages and consumer prices have started to creep up. Outside of the Chaebol's (ie: Samsung, Hyundai, LG, etc) there are a f-ton of small businesses. Source: I live and work in Korea.


Part of that is artificial price controls due to insurance.

In markets controlled by insurance payouts, higher demand doesn’t allow the business to increase the price service.


It is one thing to enact a policy and another to actually see to that it is enforced.

And I feel that it will be particularly hard to enforce the reduced working week in the South Korean culture that often puts group ahead of individual. Perhaps any movement to follow the regulation will be construed as a selfish as attempt to defy the common good of the group.


Large companies actually enforce this fairly well.

For instance, there is software on employees' computers which will hard shutdown the computer after a couple warnings. Companies which offer transport for employees have curtailed bus service from last departure at 12am to last departure at around 9pm.

It is implemented in a fairly interesting way though. Before the new regulation, the overtime policies were calculated on a weekly basis. Now it is done on monthly basis. I think this is done to allow you to 'burst' above the 52h limit in some weeks while staying in compliance on monthly basis.

Note that companies will deduct an hour a day for breaks whether you use it or not. So even a 52h week can mean 52+5=57/5=11.4h per day. So 5 straight nearly 12h days is technically not considered overtime.


From the article; it's a 40-hour week plus 12 hours of overtime, so under your model, 5 straight 9-hour days is not considered overtime, and anything more is.


> Being forced to soften the rollout of the policy indicates how much the plan was driven by the government, rather than workers themselves that rely on overtime to earn enough money.

That changes the story, doesn't it? With so many of us ineligible for overtime in the US, being "management", we may wonder why anyone would work quite that much.


It seems that in the US that having to pay more for overtime is hurting people more than it helps them at this point. Especially people on the lower end of the wage scale. If you want/need to work more then usually you have too have two jobs with all the extra commuting and scheduling. It would be better if people could work 60hr for one employer instead of two.


Shouldnt we be focusing on the fact that people need to work 60 hours rather than accomidating the system that enables it.


> Shouldnt we be focusing on the fact that people need to work 60 hours rather than accomidating the system that enables it.

"Need" is relative. Programmers don't "need" to work 80 hour weeks, but if it's the difference between getting paid $80,000 and $160,000, some people will choose the longer hours, and there isn't inherently anything wrong with that.

So why is it wrong when someone whose base salary is $25,000 makes the same choice?


because the programmer has a real choice to choose to make less money, and not work as much, at a different job.

The person who's base sallary is $25,000 has no choice to work a different job for less money, esp when every job is making the same demands (you could be 100% certan every service job would be)


How does the lower wage person not have the same choice? Working 40 hours pays $25,000, working 80 hours pays $50,000. Why should a person not have this choice?


Yes, but there’s no obvious way to solve that problem.


Some people just don't have anything significant value to offer for the society. IQ follows a normal distribution, half is below 100 and 15% is below 85. These are not the people that can produce any products or services that you would be interested in enough to pay them a lot of money.

It's not the "system's" property, just a natural consequence of what products and services we want.


acting like the system we have now is some kind of natural inevitability is a real laugh.


That was certainly my experience. I used to ask if I could just report only 2/3rds of my overtime hours to get the same effective rate. Of course, I had no awareness of the software that would be flagging the 'ineffective manager' if I showed up as getting paid the higher rate, regardless of reality.


Being a workaholic is not much different from being an alcoholic. These are different forms of addiction. All workaholic societies are destroying themselves due to health complications and declining birthrates. Also, the problems of poverty and absolutely ridiculous wealth distribution patterns seem unsolvable. What more is needed to understand that the economy in its current form does not work in the long term?


Unless they have also come up with a solid definition of "work", this will be meaningless. Does it include work done from home? Work done on your own time? Will it allow us to turn off the cellphone all weekend?

I say this as a government worker spending his Saturday night doing an online course I need to complete before a training day on Tuesday. I'm on salary and so do not get overtime. But to compete I have to pull the rabbit from the hat and somehow get everything done. That means doing work-related tasks in my own time. (This is a busy month. Things will get easier later in the year and everyone knows it. Nobody is complaining.)


Having worked 5 years in Korea I'd say the worst offenders don't let people work from home anyway. The main issue is that there's typically already a maximum overtime per week you can clock in. But this doesn't stop anyone to work beyond the limit and not claim those hours.

Edit: HN is funny sometimes, I'm downvoted for stating simple facts. At least you could elaborate on how I somehow offended you.


Not to mention company outings/excursions during the weekends and additional courses/education after work. Japan is usually coming up when talking about crazy work hours, but South Korea appeared to be just as bad, so I'm curious how such regulation would actually apply if all those extra hours are not being counted to your actual work hours.


I'm not super familiar with Korean culture, but often it's similar to Japanese culture. In Japan government pronouncements are either almost completely followed by people (spirit as well as letter of the law) or completely ignored by people. It's a consensus mentality and if the consensus is formed, then the social pressure to follow along is huge.

In Japan, we've been getting more and more public holidays because people actually take them off (as opposed to their vacation time). We're up to 17 days now. In addition, a few years ago the government insisted that every government worker take 5 days off around Obon (Buddhist holiday usually in August). When I was working at the school, it was taken seriously and people were shipped off even if they wanted to work.

Other things just don't get the consensus. For example, after a fairly recent overwork death, they instituted the idea that every second Friday should end at 3:00 pm. I think that was completely ignored.

As far as effective measure like this, it's not so much crafting a law that describes what should happen, it's more about throwing spaghetti against the wall until it sticks. In other areas, I was around when sexual harassment was an unfortunate, but mostly accepted thing in business. Then one day the government said, "Don't do that" and it just changed over night. It's not like the government had been doing nothing before that, or that the introduced laws were particularly good -- it's just that for whatever reason the society was ready to accept it at that time.

In the context of that kind of culture, I applaud the Korean government's actions. It may or may not have the desired effect today, but if they keep at it, it will probably just improve overnight. Also, the fact that this hits the news is good for other similar cultures like Japan. They see it and the people think, "Maybe we're backwards for following this old way of working". When enough people do that, then it just changes. Very, very, very different than the west.


>> Does it include work done from home? Work done on your own time? Will it allow us to turn off the cellphone all weekend?

It certainly should. I have a policy of not working from home except under rare circumstances. Not do I work on my own time. I don't carry a company cell phone or check email when I'm not there. I never set up the VPN to enable this kind of abuse either. Set some boundaries, it's good for you and contrary to what most people think you will probably be respected for it.


I have work email on a pull system at home, and do have VPN access set up. Knowing that I can be contacted if my company desires it means that in return they are flexible with me. It's a two way street.


Goldman Sachs limits intern day to 17 hours haha

https://www.salon.com/2015/06/18/goldman_sachs_reduces_inter...


Many just starting out in the finance industry are pulling 80-100 hour weeks with no overtime. If you calculate per hour wages - a waitress gets paid more. BoA intern collapsed and died at work from over working not too long ago. Life goes on.


Many waitresses and bartenders especially at high end places get paid more than almost any other profession, so it's an unfair comparison. My friends who have these jobs pull $200-400 a night in tips, so probably equivalent to $600/night if we include their hourly salary and that they don't pay taxes on it.


Why would one pay taxes on tips? A tip is a gift to the person getting the tip, not to the government. If tips were taxed I would certainly not tip.


It is legally required to pay taxes on tips in the US, whether cash or non-cash.


From what I understand, if you're a waiter in the US you have a flat rate tax plan regardless of the amount of tips you receive. Otherwise how is the tip registered for taxing purposes? You just declare the tip amount as tax and the IRS takes your word for it?


I might be legally required, but it really doesn't happen.


I would presume this is mostly limited to hourly work. It's not like this could ever be enforced for salaried workers because, as you pointed out, you usually don't get overtime and your hours are likely not even logged anyway.

When talking about hourly work, the distinction is pretty clear as your hours are already getting logged. Legally, you are required to be paid for any work you do, including "work done on your own time". (Of course, that's largely true for the US. That may be less true in South Korea I suppose. And of course, they can get mad at you for working extra hours, but they still have to pay you for it).


Note this varies a lot around the world. In plenty of places salaried workers working beyond their normal working hours are entitled to compensation for overtime (and are still subject to maximum working hours restrictions, minimum rest periods, etc.)


Technically salaried roles manage their own work ie work late one week next week take Friday afternoon off to play golf which one team leader I know did at BT in the uk (played of a 6 as well)


Time off in lieu, like that, is one way of compensating overtime.


An aside to the main content of the article, I found interesting that Mexico topped the list - Mexicans seem to uphold the stereotype that they’re super hard workers.


Japan is listed lower than the United States, and even New Zealand, so I can't really tell how valid this information is.

Japan culture for working long ours is insane, you simply do not leave the office before your boss, people sit at the desks doing nothing until the boss leaves. This mindset exists in Korea too.


This probably includes more than just office jobs.


Seems like this could have dramatic effects on some professions where 60+ hour workweeks are typical even outside of Korea, e.g. being an early startup employee or adhering to the strenuous pro gamer practice schedule. While it's probably not healthy to work that much, in the short-term, throwing more time at a job depending on the profession can sometimes optimize your reward function.


The modern work week is a sort of (21st century version of) indentured servitude for some, and a fantastic opportunity for learning/advancement for others. Unfortunately, you don't really get to choose and must try to coax yourself into believing the latter if you really want to be an FTE. In nowhere is this more obvious in tech where over the course of 15+ years I've experienced:

"This is NOT a 9-5 role, we expect you to do what it takes to keep things running"

"You're a highly paid engineer, therefore you should expect overtime"

"This is a 24/7/365 shop, and everyone is expected to be available at all times"

"This is a startup, and everyone is expected to be available at all times"

"This is a financial company, and everyone is expected to be available at all times"

(fellow team members) "Yup, this is a tech role, what do you expect. That's just the way it is"

And so on and so forth.

My thoughts on this are:

1) Some people like working long hours, some people don't, but all must conform to the long-hours lowest common denominator. Without realizing it, we're conforming to an ideology that benefits senior management/founders/shareholders. Is that good or bad? It depends on your position in life, but let's call it what it is.

2) Employment contracts don't contain hours, so sometimes you don't know you're going to have unpaid overtime in the form of on-call or crunch time until several weeks after you've started. This is indentured servitude because while you CAN quit the job (unlike the 17th century variant), you lose health care and ability to pay your mortgage/rent.

3) Salaries are high in tech, but if you take someone making, for example, $200,000 US, which is considered a lot, and you divide it by someone working 50 hours a week, they're only making $77 an hour.

4) I decided to become a consultant, which means I make significantly more than that, I get to keep myself physically fit because I have time to do so, and I'm a much happier person as a result. Want me to work overtime? With pleasure.

5) When you're a consultant, people think twice before putting you on-call or asking you to work 50-60 hours. When you're an employee, however...

[Edit:] My philosophy in life is: you can make more money later, but you can NEVER get your time back. Keep that in mind before signing dotted lines.

* Everything I've just said is US-specific. Europeans have slightly better laws to protect against certain abuses.


It's clear by reading comments who here has children and who does not. If work is more fun to you than spending time with your children then there's something wrong. When I see comments like "I can't imagine anything more fun than work" I tend to think about my personal reflection upon my own standing in life in relation to work, which is "if I didn't have to work, I would spend all of my time being the best dad that I can be". Lucky for me I am home all day so I count my blessings already. I work so I can have a more comfortable home for myself and my family. Sure, sometimes - a lot of times that work is fun and addicting but nothing compares to the joy of being around my son.


Children are optional and expensive, which makes them a luxury. Not everyone chooses to spend their time and money on luxuries such as children.


Children are optional on an individual basis, but not on a societal basis. A society that does not produce sufficient numbers of children now will collapse in a few decades when the ratio of retirees to working age adults becomes too high.


That’s okay. Societies that continue to have fucktons of children will also collapse in a few decades, but in a markedly different way, with a lot more suffering.


I don't make much by developer pay standards and have not found having a child as being that expensive. Food, shelter, clothing, education - all within my limits right now. I guess it depends what your standards are.


How does this work exactly?

If you are an employee and your boss calls you and asks you to work the 53rd hour, what do you do?


Grumble about illegal work practices on the subway ride to work, one would assume.


Your response is presumably somewhere between: (1) what you'd do if your boss asked you to murder someone (2) what you'd do if your boss asked you to make them a coffee.

(In all seriousness, you probably just go to their labor board website and fill out a form or something.)


I guess my point was that it's complicated from a relationship point of view. Let's say I've worked 3 years at a particular job. This law goes into effect. The following week my boss asks me to do 53 hours of work.

What do I do now? I don't want to do the 53rd hour. Do I say no to the boss? Sure maybe he can't legally do anything punitive, but that doesn't mean he won't. What happens to my relationships at work? What happens when my peers decide to do the 53rd hour of work and so they are seen as more valuable to the company? Do management folks start seeing me as less of a team player?

What if I go to the labor board? Now the company is chastized for asking me to work beyond 53 hours. What does that do for my relationships at work? My reviews? Promotion prospects?

Let's say I move to another job. Word gets around that I'm a litigious sort of guy who goes to the labour board when I'm asked to work more than 52 hours.

Does this law protect me in a practical way? Is enforcing this law possible in a practical way, which does not cause other problems for the employee?


Changing cultures requires courage - if you can’t be the one putting themselves on the line then the least you can do is not be the one oppressing them for doing so.


What if I want to work a lot? For example, if I want to do something with my life and my job fulfills that need. Do they just force employers to pay overtime or am I not allowed to work beyond those hours anyways?


This is ridiculous.

It all depends on the person and the job. Some people can work a lot more than others. Likewise, some jobs are less demanding than others.

This is just as bad as minimum wage laws.

How do these people come up with such absurd laws?


> How do these people come up with such absurd laws?

52 hours per week is 7.5 hours every day, including weekends, or 10.4 hours every day assuming you work Mon-Fri. If the society (or the mythical free market) could regulate itself so that people don't have to work this crazy hours to earn living, we wouldn't have this "absurd" law.

Unfortunately, the South Korean society has failed to regulate itself. Hence the law. The very fact that some pundits and employers are crying loudly shows why this law was necessary.

You know, when you go to any restaurant (in the US), "Maximum Occupancy 140" signs look just as absurd. What will happen when the 141st patron walks in? Will the building crumble down or what?

...Except that these regulations were written with people's blood.


AFAIK, maximum occupancy is based on how quickly people could be safely evacuated in the event of an accident such as a fire. IMO, they're not comparable.

I could totally imagine someone working 40 hours a week and then more than 12 hours working on related projects for entertainment or educational purposes, or if you're a founder and very passionate about what you're doing. Maybe you have a big presentation lined up and you want to get a great demo ready in time. It's probably not sustainable for a long-term period of time, but you should still be free to decide how you want to invest your time.


If Koreans really want to work less, then some company would reduce the work week to 40 hours and get flooded with all of Korea's best employees.

The fact that this hasn't happened means that something else is preventing the market from regulating itself.

Perhaps people prefer to work longer hours and possibly earn more. Perhaps the market is very competitive and this is the only way to stay relevant. Perhaps something makes it difficult for companies to hire more employees. Perhaps Korean people can work 68 hours with little diminishing return. Perhaps the taxes are too high. I don't know.


> If Koreans really want to work less, then some company would reduce the work week to 40 hours and ...

... another big company that deals with them will call them on 5 pm Friday, request an extra shipment by 10 am next Monday, get angry ("What do you mean? Weekend? Do I look like your friend?") and cancel the deal. The company goes bankrupt.

You don't know much about Korean work culture, do you.


Few countries have the workplace mobility required for such an experiment to work: There are countries where the social expectation is that you start in a company as an intern or apprentice and leave it to retire some 45 years later.


Are you familiar with the working culture in Korea? I only spent a few months there but it became clear from what I heard from professionals and students that 60+ hour work week is the average. Sure some jobs may be more than that in a healthy market, but it didn't seem like it was healthy.


I don't deny that there's a problem. I argue that the proposed solution is short-sighted and inadequate.

What are the incentives for companies to decrease work hours?What are the incentives for people to work less? What should people do with their time that's more beneficial than working? What compromises will these people have to make now that they're earning less (assuming their overtime was paid)? How will the productivity of Korean companies be affected by this 25-40% drop in employee work time?

Hopefully companies will realize that increased work hours have diminishing returns and/or invest in automation to cope with the lack of resources. Hopefully the government doesn't then introduce even sillier laws (such as taxing automation).


The issue is largely cultural from my understanding. There is a "seniors in charge" mentality in Korea that causes workers to get in before their boss and leave after. This artificially increases the work day while probably not increasing productivity that much.

I'm certainly not close to an expert in it, and I don't want to pretend to be, but I don't think the government can do much to solve the problem other than put caps in when it is as bad as it is. It's a deeply rooted cultural issue that I hope this will be a reason to stop.


I can think of other ridiculous solutions to the problem you described:

- Prevent employees from knowing when the boss comes in and leaves.

- Force the boss to work fewer hours.

- Force employees to arrive after their boss and/or leave before their boss.

- Force employees to work X hours less than their boss.

- Force employees to take long breaks in the middle of the day.

- Remove bosses altogether.

I don't see how limiting the work week to 52 hours will solve that. Will the boss show up later and/or leave sooner? If so, are employees be expected to guess the new schedule of their boss? Won't they still show up before and leave after their boss, and just take more breaks during the day and/or not report all their work time?

I unfortunately suspect that employees will have more unpaid hours than they did before.


>How do these people come up with such absurd laws?

This is an interesting question. How they come up with, get agreement on it and get support on it by the population?

The problem is certainly democracy, where people think that interventionism will ever do any good. This is probably because they can't foresee any firm life improvement for the future (due to interventions already made on the market -- e.g. central banking+inflation), and given the lack of economic understanding, they embrace such ideas. The endless battle of interventionism solving the problems of interventionism, and so the state (bureocrat's power) keeps growing.

Such interventions would probably be a net-profit for corporations who already invested in mechanizing/automating some jobs, and their potential competitors would get a disadvantage from the new law, so they get to charge a higher price than they would otherwise. This is usually true for specific/specialized interventions, but a generalized on such this, this is unlikely.


6.5 8-hour days, huh? Welp ... guess that's a tentative start.


[flagged]


Solution: work 50 hours one week and 45 hours the next.


those hours are insanity. Your life is worth more than this.


How should one spend their remaining 60+ hours in a week?

What about all the time spent commuting, taking care of children/family/pets/friends, grocery shopping and cooking, cleaning the house/clothes/dishes, learning things (at school or not), etc? What makes these things so different from work? Should the government put a weekly limit on these things too?

Why should a narcoleptic crippled 50 year old, single-earner, single parent, with 4 young kids, a house, continuing education, narcolepsy, 2 hour daily commute and minimum wage job, have the same working week limit as a single 20 year old with no outside responsibilities who loves his fulfilling job and have an employer that takes care of most of his needs?


Are you implying the 50 year old should be allowed to work more because they need money more, or the 20 year old should be allowed to work more because they are more capable of working long hours? Why not both? But then why are you juxtaposing the two?


I'm implying that:

- 50 year old overworks at 52 hours a week

- 20 year old underworks at 52 hours a week

This leads me to think that this 52 hours is arbitrary and likely inadequate.


they're really not insane, especially if you're enjoying what you're doing and being compensated for it.


Not really many studies have shown that after 35 / 40 hours of work in a week has negative effects. maybe like Japan Korea has a presentism problem ie people stretch out work or bike shed to look good.

Anyone who has pulled an all nighter knows that after about 36 hours awake you start to see things and can make serious mistakes.


I'd recommend reading Lordon's latest book, "Willing Slaves of Capital: Marx and Spinoza on Desire", which attempts to get to the very heart of this - how come employees enjoy their work, and sometimes even willing to forgo compensation? It uses Spinoza's theories of desire to augment and transform Marx's idea of the basal desire within a worker for material reproduction. Lordon describes quite elegantly how levels of management within the modern capitalist firm work to enforce strong feelings - not only of hope (joy) but also of fear (of losing one's job). Here's an excerpt:

>At each rung [of management], the desire to keep the advantages associated with one’s own position can only be satisfied at the price of a supplementary effort exacted by the rung above. Everything else remaining equal, the probability of success diminishes. The injunction coming from on high and propagating through the thick of the system diffuses in that very propagation an effect of fear, that ‘inconstant sadness, born of the idea of a future or past, things whose outcome we to some extent doubt.’ By the very logic of desire, fear and hope are its nearly permanent backdrop once taking hold of the object is postponed, and the time that separates desire from fulfilment ‘necessarily’ creates (from the point of view of the agent) some uncertainty. This temporal tension in desire gives the pursuit of its object its ambivalent passionate coloration (fluctuatio animi, the vacillation of the mind, as Spinoza calls it), since the joyful affect of hope (success) is (logically) accompanied by the sad affect of fear (failure). The ‘external’ conditions under which individuals pursue their desires determine the particular balance between hope and fear in each case, hence the dominant affective tonality that accompanies their effort.


Why was this comment downvoted?


Well people are not paid for working more in Korea.


In the UK its the average hours worked over a 17 week period must not exceed 48 hours - I suspect this is how it will end up working.

Of course what the article doesn't touch on is are there any "Spanish" practices around over time that happen in Korea eg deliberately going slow and holding back work to get more paid over time - or similar tactics that usually where solved by an under the counter brown envelope.


This is bad regulation. Moving on.


It will work for sure since bureaucrats always know better how to make everyone happy.

Maybe workers will get less net income (and on a per hour as well) since employers will have to robotize or spend time training newcomers, but we can attack evil employers so who cares.


The best limit for something like this would be to just move to hourly pay. If people were paid for each hour worked, it would be self limiting.

I've heard that in some countries, such as France, they actually post police outside of office parks to arrest people who work "too many hours". Makes it hard to start a business when you're limited in how much sweat equity you can put into it.

And I'm sure police have better things to do than to prevent people working.


These are the same people who overpay for BTC and, if I remember an HN article from a little while ago, have "death ceremonies" where their employees are made to imagine their own deaths to prove loyalty to the company.

Make of that what you will.


What if John McCarthy or Richard Feynman had been limited to 52 hours a week? Or more recently, pg or sama? Or less recently, Albert Einstein or Alan Turing?

Edit: I posted it without reading the article, but it's worse than expected. Execs can go to prison.

Edit 2: Having a working hour limit applied across the board could result in knowledge workers having to track their time, which works great for some but not for others.


I don't think it's wise to be against this law because some people might be limited; by and large, this is a good thing - it means that workers are exploited less, it means that there will be consequences for those who force workers to work so much overtime in a culture in which you're not seen as being dedicated enough if you refuse to do overtime.

I immediately thought "the people you've named would just continue to work anyway, because they're 'the greats'", but I also realised that some of them would need specialised equipment, the sort that would be closed off outside of the hours permitted. Perhaps there should be some system in which such people can apply to use the eqipment outside of hours. But it could be that bosses (or even employees themselves, feeling pressured) would apply to use them, citing personal reasons rather than "work reasons".

But in the end, I really don't see it as a bad thing that "execs can go to prison"; I think that unless there are serious consequences, and the law only has monetary fines (which matter less and less so long as they aren't large proportions of revenue) then the law will be skirted or simply violated.

In the end, I really think this law does more good than it does potential harm. Overwork is a serious issue, but your proposal that we shouldn't have it raises important questions. Employers discovered in the 20th century that it would be efficient for the direction of the employee's conatus aligns with the company's, such that the employee will feel joy and even want to work longer hours - this of course being more effective than the older system (usually employed in manual labour with few levels of management) of taking advantage of the basal desire for material reproduction. With longer hours, it's easier for an employer to push this desire to the employee.

And by the way, I was much more convinced of your argument with regard to people like McCarthy, Feynman, Einstiein and Turing than our friends pg and sama :-)


> I don't think it's wise to be against this law because some people might be limited; by and large, this is a good thing

I don't like infringing the freedom of individual workers to contract as they see fit. Pursuit of happiness and all that...

(I'm also opposed to minimum wage and pro-sustenance-UBI.)


Although I doubt we'd come to any agreement (I don't subscribe to liberalism nor the same ideas of contextual freedom you do), I'm curious: what would you say about the freedom to sell oneself into slavery? Is there such thing as "voluntary servitude" to you?

I think a more nuanced view is required: how do these freedoms arise, what makes one person work for another, is the subjecitvist-individualist philosophy the end of liberal politics, how do desires form and conatus aligns under modern capitalism, and does the pursuit of happiness entail the requirement for the desire to employ others for a goal that they don't have an interest in (in the Spinozist sense of desire), what is the role of money (or money-capital) (and its pursuit) in the desires, and what role does the education system play in nurturing such desires? All these are questions of interest, and I don't think they can be whisked away with a sentence accusing the law of "infringing freedom". There are much greater injustices with regard to our freedom right in front of us in this mode of economic organisation.


Stopping me from choosing to work 60 hours a week in order to get myself and family ahead seems quite different from stopping me selling myself into slavery, so I'll assume the question was merely exploratory.

I don't believe that selling oneself into slavery ought to be legal.

I do think that educational loans are fairly close to "voluntary servitude" and that educational lending ought to be legal.


Of course it's different to sell yourself into slavery, but it still asks the question: are you in favour of "the freedom for individual workers to contract as they see fit", or are you not? I'd say that the qualitative difference between longer and longer work weeks ("freely contracted", as you might say) and slavery tends to zero. The fact that you need to work 60 hours a week to get you and your family ahead is precisely the problem that the law is trying to solve - and any social law, for that matter. It's a worker's rights law, set amidst late capitalism in a modern "democratic" country, as such it will target two things: allowing employers to keep employing people (but not excessively) and allowing employees to survive (but not "for nothing"). This is the goal of any capitalist mode of organisation, and this is but a tug of the rope in favour of labour rather than capital, but capitalism is characterised by the endless tug here and there between capital and labour.


If you put a gun to my head and force me to choose between "individuals can freely sell themselves into slavery" and "individuals do not have freedom to work as hard as they want", I'll choose the former.


> what makes one person work for another

higher income [of goods and services] due to specialization, division of labor and goods/services liquidity.

see: "The Story of Money and Trade" [10min] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFbHw7VsNlI

Forget about money, think of higher-folded exchanges. A restriction into direct exchanges (the lack of any kind of money) would prevent a tremendous amount of wealth creation: we would spend most of our time working on various basic goods, and when trading would be factually required, we would spend most of our time looking for a trade-want coincidence (I want what you have while you want what I have). To put into perspective, it could take me a couple of decades to buy a telescope from someone with a direct exchange only.

Indirect exchange save us time. Time saved that we can spend with our loved ones, stuff like that. Even without a single type of "money", people engaged in dealing with indirect exchanges (trying to save other people's time) and profiting in return. That's how money emerges: a product for indirect exchange for indirect exchanges, some kind of higher indirect exchange product. And people took the risk of "reaching" such emerged consensus, some must have failed during that process (that exists constantly, even today -- on every single choice anyone make).

Now, money combines perfectly with specialization and division of labor, they enhance each other. Starting from Stewart Mill (I think), each person from a group can be wealthier if that person engage in specialization and trade with others. That's it. If you want to impoverish a subset from a group of people, simply isolate their trading options without their consent. Tariffs etc simply prevent some wealth creation. This is easy to visualize nowadays: isolate a state, or a city, or a neighborhood, or a house, or a person from trading/specializing.

> what is the role of money

So the role of money is to move human effort and resources around towards urgent needs. When some disaster happens, like a tornado, the impacted place suffers from water, for one. The price tends to rise. What is this? That's a toot. It's an alarm trying to ring, signaling to profit-seekers that this is urgent. The higher it is, the more urgent it is. It's like a symptom asking for treatment. A higher water price DOES MAKE water appear in that place rapidly. People will tend to save on their consume, and water from nearby unaffected places will tend to be taken into the affected one, since profit-seekers can make a profit when doing so. (sure, the water may rise a little on areas nearby the affected place, since water would be exported from them and be imported into the affected place) -- and this process would unfold for each next area, until, without a ruler, water would simply arrive into the affected area and the water price would finally be allowed to drop. But that would be because that resource would not be SO urgent.

Now, if I were an evil psycho, I'd simply outlaw water price increase. That's exactly what bureaucrats do.

For this price and coordination thing, see: "What If There Were No Prices? The Railroad Thought Experiment" [6m40] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkPGfTEZ_r4


>higher income [of goods and services] due to specialization, division of labor and goods/services liquidity.

My question was more oriented around the idea of how people are convinced to perform an action that they have no interest in doing. By "interest" I mean an affect from oneself rather than simply by direction of another. You're addressing the factors which come after that, which already assume the fact of employment.

>A restriction into direct exchanges

I never argued for this, and I don't think it's a good idea; money is inherent in capitalism and indeed necessary, but at the core of capitalism is the commodity and a "simple" commodity economy too. Those who direct criticism at money don't go far enough, they need to reach the level where we critique the commodity in general, the use and exchange value complex.

>So the role of money is to move human effort and resources around towards urgent needs.

Is this motivatation ethical? The fact that we have to use the system in which money "moves human effort" conveniently neglects to mention it does so completely uncritically (by most people) and most people regard it as a natural fact. In fact, it's a kind of fetishism.

To me, the reason why people work for others in exchange for money is simple: firstly, we use Marx's idea of material reproduction, fulfilling the basal desire to survive (a 'sad' affect) and combine this with the more modern emphasis on consumption (a 'joyful' affect); these two affects work together to give us an incentive to work. But they are forms of control in the end. We shouldn't be asking ourselves about money (that is, if the alternative is simple commodity exchange), we should be asking ourselves about desire and conatus in post-capitalist society -- what would it look like?


> My question was more oriented around the idea of how people are convinced to perform an action that they have no interest in doing. {...}

This is a voluntary exchange and an action. All actions, as Von Mises put it, aims to achieve a "happy" future. For being a voluntary exchange, both sides are moving towards this, what they (each one) believe, to be a "happy" future.

For example, someone can work to pay for their kid's education, because the worker thinks this is the best way to reach the happiest future situation.

>> A restriction into direct exchanges

> I never argued for this

Yes, it was not my intention to say you argued that. But I think it's elucidating to understand what money (and capitalism) is.

>> So the role of money is to move human effort and resources around towards urgent needs.

> Is this motivatation ethical?

Yes, it is. All voluntary interaction are ethically good/correct. Also, defending oneself from involuntary interaction is also ethical. To see more on this, which I find very hard/complex, see Hoppe's "Argumentation Ethics", such as the one he explains in this video: "On Man, Nature, Truth, and Justice" [1h] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=in3sacFHcck

> In fact, it's a kind of fetishism.

It is not a fetish. It's humility to acknowledge that one don't know and don't pretend to know what everyone else knows (what they need, what they want to do or become), and the available tools, such as price indications, must be used for orientation. The opposite would be to participate in involuntary interactions and force people around, like totalitarians leaders/populations, such as in this "minimum working hours law".

You can easily see that money is a coordination+relocation tool. Imagine that someone accumulates 10 billion dollars in cash. Then let's say this person burns all that cash. Now: is anyone poorer after that single event? The resources spread among society, did any of it got affected, at all? ..that's one way to separate money(cash) from wealth.

> To me, the reason why people work for others in exchange for money is simple {..}

Well, for this I recommend Hoppe's (again) essay "Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis": https://mises.org/system/tdf/9_2_5_0.pdf?file=1&type=documen...

And also think more about that of specialization and division of labor. Participating on it does increase everyone's wealth. I know this would be "impossible" by marxist analysis, since wealth would be a zero-sum game, but this Adam Smith's view on cost/price/wealth was getting outdated by Carl Menger's subjective valuation of goods/services (and Marx was alive and quite young by then, during Menger's writings).

> what would it look like?

You are expressing "what if people wanted different stuff/goals", but this must always be left for each one themselves. Each must be free to choose. Now, I agree that there is a consumption impulsion unto society as a whole, but it's not from capitalism, but from the government. Central banking and forcing the usage of that ever inflating currency is basically melting people's money away, preventing savings and longer term thinking (on average). This induces consumption, a colossal amount of consumption. But again, that's on socialism (government), not capitalism.


>This is a voluntary exchange and an action.

And yet it is necessarily conditioned; it takes place within a context in which many of these interactions happen simply because people on at least one end must engage in it in order to survive. Liberal philosophy, perhaps best espoused by Mises, aims for complete ignorance of the causes leading up to an action, an "infinite chain" as Spinoza said. For if they were not ignorant then they would realise that the conditions of a particular action, a particular choice, are not freely determined at all. It would be the end of liberal philosophy. Lordon, on the other hand, makes an important point from Spinoza and Marx: the difference between consent and coercion is in effect a matter of judgement, whether one's mind experiences a joyful affect from this chain of actions and conditions, or whether one's mind experiences a sad affect.

>Yes, it is. All voluntary interaction are ethically good/correct.

What is a "voluntary interaction"? Does something count as "voluntary" in the case where the interaction is wholly dependent on factors determined outside of one's control? Of course that's inescapable, but if we're only focusing on the final decision being made then the same standard of "voulntary" can be used, for example, when someone puts a gun to your head and demands you do X, and if you don't then they shoot you. You do, in a technical sense, have a "voluntary" choice to make here - it is, in fact, the conditions of the choice which make us uneasy with this.

>The opposite would be to participate in involuntary interactions and force people around

It has been argued that the market may be considered creating a dystopia without a despot; the idea that there must be some dedicated group is very strange. Alienation, as it is laid out by Marx, is actually to be chained down to something other than oneself, in this case, chained down to "the market", abstract labour and the sad/joyful affects created. by (neo)liberal business management hierarchies.

>You can easily see that money is a coordination+relocation tool.

I can; that doesn't mean that I automatically approve of its use, as the utility of an object or action is insufficient for me to make a moral comment.

>I know this would be "impossible" by marxist analysis, since wealth would be a zero-sum game

Not at all; Marx doesn't consider capitalism a zero-sum game, nor is his theory of value incompatible with the theory of subjective value. Marx's ignorance of marginalism isn't a very convincing point given how Marxist and post-Marxist scholars have considered both neoclassical and Austrian economics in their writings.

>Central banking and forcing the usage of that ever inflating currency is basically melting people's money away, preventing savings and longer term thinking (on average).

This is absolute rubbish, it has nothing to do with central banking and everything to do with the social psychology of capitalism, which contrary to the 19th c. could not afford to only use the sad affect of depriving one's means of material reproduction and now instead focuses on the joyful affects of consumption to induce "voluntary servitude"; consider how most arguments for removing the minimum wage or increasing work hours appeal to the joyful affects, in a rather devious (consciously or not) psychological trick. Our identity as consumers is exploited over our identity as workers to push (neo)liberal ideology. Unfortunately you have done no different in your comment.


> And yet it is necessarily conditioned {..}

I partially agree. I agree that we don't exist from any kind of "null initial state", there is always context. But we are able to reason about how are the initial state between two individuals' interaction. It's obviously possible that they never did anything bad towards each other, in physical-agressive sense.

Sure, let's say A has a sick kid in urgent need, and B hasn't. Sure they have different backgrounds and urgencies, but still, we can say A owns nothing to B and back-and-forth.

Assuming that the sickness is natural, A can't blame B for nature's reality. B can't be blamed for nature's reality that everyone must eat and drink to survive, etc. B can't be blamed that others do have urgencies.

The fact that people do have needs and do have to sacrifice something is reality and always will be. And this doesn't change anything at all on libertarian ethics. This fact is not ignored, on the contrary, it's part of the philosophy oh Von Mises' "Human Action".

> the difference between consent and coercion is in effect a matter of judgement, whether one's mind experiences a joyful affect {..}

As I said earlier, you had the wrong assumption that human action (a mises) ignored specific urgencies. Sure context may have a great great impact on the goals and means pursued by individuals, but they are actions nevertheless. Survivalist, auto-destructive, careless, loveful, joyful, hateful, wrongful, whatever. They are all misesian's actions.

Consent then is just a distinction between initiation of force, or not. Charity vs Robbery, Romance vs Rape, Employment vs Slavery. If and only if both parties agreed and there were no usage of force by any side, nor the threat of force usage, it is consensual.

By definition, all consensual agreement IS joyful, as a psychological effect, as something desired, wanted, perused. Because if it were not, the agreement would be declined (and the expected consequences from the lack of that agreement would possibly happen). It was never assumed that the world and nature would stop working by a non-agreement and the lack of some interaction. But this has no affect on consent on itself.

> Of course that's inescapable, but if we're only focusing on the final decision being made then the same standard of "voluntary" can be used, for example, when someone puts a gun to your head and demands you do X, and if you don't then they shoot you.

Surely, consent must depend on "chain of states" of interactions between the parties. The interaction started (assuming precisely an initial state condition of interactions) when one party (the "Bad") pointed the gun at the other. From this moment, Bad party lost the argument for it's life. It can't argue that it ought to not be killed, or Bad party enters in an performative contradiction ("by pointing the gun, Bad party performance proves that for Bad party, it's 'ok' to kill anyone; so this can be applied back to itself. It cannot arguably defend it's own life, thus can be ethically killed"). -- that's how libertarian ethics works.. [see Kinsella's Estoppel or Hoppes' Argumentation Ethics if you need more info]

> Marx's ignorance of marginalism isn't a very convincing point given how Marxist and post-Marxist scholars have considered both neoclassical and Austrian economics in their writings.

This was unknown to me. But I can't really comment on anything since it's also unknown to me the arguments..

> This is absolute rubbish {..}

Really? Central banking and massive inflation has nothing to do with consumption, in/outdoor warfare etc? reeeally??

> consider how most arguments for removing the minimum wage or increasing work hours appeal to the joyful affects

what? virtually 100% of people around me are in favor of minimum wage or it's increase, all having no clue of why it was imposed in the first place, or it's consequences. It's all for some form of ignorant joy, as I think you put it.

I mean that what you just described is simply unreal for my context, so I really don't know what you are talking about.


>by and large, this is a good thing - it means that workers are exploited less

then just fire them already, huh? zero exploitation!


What if Einstein's job at the patent office had been 60 hours a week?


That's a good counterpoint. A carefully constructed law might be needed, but this one sounds like it's only based on the size of the company, and has harsh penalties.


I dont think a revolutionary would have taken that sitting down.

They find solutions to everything.


Academics and entrepreneurs don't get paid by the hour.


Not all countries have certain types of salaried employees exempt from overtime and overtime pay. South Korea doesn't appear to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_hours_in_South_Korea#D...


That's fine, but then "hours worked" at best measures how much time was physically spent "at work", and will be entirely disconnected from how much time guys like McCarthy, Turing, Einstein, and Feynman thought about their research. They weren't doing it for the overtime pay.


I picture a lot of them living at their office, like Richard Stallman was in the Free as in Freedom [1]. If their managers had to worry about going to prison, they'd probably be prohibited from working at their offices.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_as_in_Freedom


So:

>Intellectually slow workers will be replaced/fired

>Good workers will be working more to compensate for less labor output in the country

>Outsourcing former SK jobs to other countrys with less oppressive laws.




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