Does Working Long Hours Cause Marital Dissolution?

Evidence from the Reduction in South Korea’s Workweek Standard

Working hours
Work–family conflict
Men’s overtime work
Instrumental variable
Asian Population Studies. 15(1). 87-104.

Erin Hye-Won Kim*

Changjun Lee



Despite its important implications, little is known about the possible impact on marital dissolution of workweek standards, which set the maximum working hours for full-time workers and may, therefore, reduce their likelihood of working long hours. Moreover, evidence on the effect of working hours on marital dissolution comes predominantly from non-causal studies on Western women’s work status. The Korean government reduced its workweek standard from 44 to 40 hours between 2004 and 2011. A discrete-time event history analysis of longitudinal data from the 2000 to 2015 Korea Labor and Income Panel Study shows that this reduction lowered male workers’ risk of divorce. The estimated effect is large in absolute size, and we speculate about possible explanations. We cautiously call for further attention to be paid to the plausible causal link between men’s overwork and marital dissolution in the work-oriented and gender-divided East Asian societies.