08/17/2006, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Seoul has longest working hours in the world

Study indicates the South Korean capital holds the official record for working hours ahead of 70 other capitals. But more hours do not always mean better wages.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – People in Seoul work the longest hours per year in the world, says a study by the Swiss financial group Union des Banques Suisses (UBS). In a recent report, UBS says that Seoul residents spend more than 2,300 hours at work each year. That's the longest among 71 world cities surveyed.

Based on a 42-hour workweek, the average South Korean worker puts in about 60 days a year more than their peers in Paris who spend just 1,480 hours on the job, the world's lowest. Only official contracts and work schedules were considered,

"My official work hours are from 9 in the morning until 7 in the evening. But due to a heavy workload, I go home at around 8 or 9 about three times a week," one Seoul office worker said.

"On average," he added, "I take off at 10 or 11 p.m. about three times a week. I do this for my company's success and for my own sense of accomplishment. Fortunately, I have my family's full support and understanding."

But longer hours do not mean necessarily better salaries. In fact, in South Korea, dedication and sacrifice come before monetary pursuit, though money is often seen as a measure of success.

The survey ranked Seoul residents only 32nd in wages per working hours. Using New York's salary level of 100 as the benchmark, Seoul had a score of a mere 44. Tokyo led Asia in salary at 18th with 78 points. Topping the list, meanwhile, were the northern European cities of Copenhagen and Oslo.

But salaries must be measured against cost of living. For example, it takes 29 minutes of work for Seoul residents to buy a Big Mac burger, less than the global average of 35 minutes.

Overall, Seoul was the 24th most expensive city in terms of cost of living excluding rent. Oslo topped the list, whilst Kuala Lumpur was at the opposite end of the scale. (PB)

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