Work Shorter, Be Happier? Longitudinal Evidence from the Korean Five-Day Working Policy

Abstract

This article uses detailed longitudinal data from the Korean Labor and Income Panel Study for the period 1998–2008 to analyze the happiness impact of working hours reductions on workers and their families. The major contribution to the literature is the use of an exogenous reduction in working hours, due to the Korean Five-Day Working Reform, in a subjective well-being (SWB) model. The findings indicate that reductions did not have the expected positive effects on worker well-being. While satisfaction with working hours increased, reductions had no impact on job and life satisfaction. Thus, long working hours might not be as negatively related to worker well-being as predicted by theory. Moreover, positive SWB effects might be offset by rising work intensity.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    E.g. Alesina et al. (2004), Booth and Van Ours (2008, 2009), Clark (1997, 2003), Clark and Oswald (1994), Di Tella et al. (2001), Dolan et al. (2008), Frey and Stutzer (2002), Luttmer (2005), Pradhan and Ravallion (2000), Winkelmann and Winkelmann (1998). In the Korean context, SWB measures have been used by Han et al. (2012), Kang (2010), Koo and Suh (2011); among others.

  2. 2.

    Akerloff and Kranton’s gender identity hypothesis opposes Becker’s (1965) gender-neutrality hypothesis that predicts that labor division in the household does only depend on an individual’s comparative advantage in executing different tasks.

  3. 3.

    The retention rate was 88 % in the second year (1999), 77 % in the fifth year (2002), and 76 % in 2007.

  4. 4.

    Kang (2010) shows that potential biases produced by sample attrition are negligible in KLIPS.

  5. 5.

    Note that in the below analysis only very few men are in age cohorts exceeding 54 since cross-partner variables used in all models require information from both partners. Hence, couples’ person-year observations are excluded from the analysis as soon as women’s age is above 54 or the couple has no child in the household.

  6. 6.

    This is in line with Jang et al. (2009) who show that Korean men suffer much more from depressive symptoms than their female counterparts when unemployed, early retired or out-of-labor-force.

  7. 7.

    A more technical introduction of the different estimators is given in the longer working paper version which can be obtained from the author on request.

  8. 8.

    Regressions of hours and job satisfaction include controls for job type (1 = wage; 0 = non-wage), as well as ten occupation dummies, and sixteen industry dummies.

  9. 9.

    Note that the part-time (1–30 h) coefficient is higher than the 30–40 h coefficient. However, Wald tests do not indicate a significant difference using conventional significance levels.

  10. 10.

    Moreover, while being marginally insignificant, both husbands and wives seem to be less satisfied with their own working hours when the partner works long overtime hours (60+ h).

  11. 11.

    I also ran the estimations adding controls for the number of girls and boys aged 0–3, since this age group might be particularly time-consuming for parents. This however did not change the main findings. Results do also not change if five-year age cohorts are explicitly controlled for.

  12. 12.

    I reestimated results in Table 6 using linear fixed effects and the FF-estimator in a robustness check. Results are reported in a longer working paper version which can be obtained from the author upon request. In general, results do not differ significantly.

  13. 13.

    A more detailed description of the identification strategy is provided in the longer working paper version available from the author.

  14. 14.

    Note that the findings on satisfaction with working hours are in line with results obtained for leisure satisfaction. When estimating the impact of working hours reductions on leisure satisfaction, I find robust positive significant effects. Results of leisure satisfaction are not displayed in the paper but are available from the author on request.

  15. 15.

    As a robustness check, I reestimated models in Table 7 for all full-time wage-workers, including unmarried or married without children. The results from Table 7 are confirmed. The same is true when I estimate the effect of only the first year after the reduction, not of three years as done in Table 7. Thus, results are not driven by hedonic adaptation.

  16. 16.

    See Table 8 in the Appendix.

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Acknowledgments

This paper benefitted from helpful comments from and fruitful discussions with Sung-jin Kang, Stephan Klasen, Carola Gruen, Jan van Ours, Seo-Young Cho, Nick Powdthavee, Maximilian Riedl, Insill Yi, Jaeho Keum, Kyunghee Chung, Stephan Litschig, and participants of the conferences “New Directions in Welfare” in Paris in 2011, the “Singapore Economic Review Conference” in Singapore in 2011, and the AKES conference in Seoul in 2012.

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Correspondence to Robert Rudolf.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 8.

Table 8 Change in work intensity after reduction in regular work hours

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Rudolf, R. Work Shorter, Be Happier? Longitudinal Evidence from the Korean Five-Day Working Policy. J Happiness Stud 15, 1139–1163 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-013-9468-1

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Keywords

  • Exogenous working hours changes
  • Happiness
  • Work-family conflict
  • Gender
  • Interdependent well-being