The Effect of Adult Children’s Working Hours on Visits to Elderly Parents

A Natural Experiment in Korea

Working hours
Time support for elderly parents
Work–family conflict
Men’s overtime work
Instrumental variable
Population Research and Policy Review. 38. 53-72.

Erin Hye-Won Kim*

Changjun Lee

Young Kyung Do



Despite its significant policy implications, little is known about the impact working hours have on how often workers visit their elderly parents. Evidence is particularly lacking on men’s overtime work and workers in Asia. We examine the causal impact of male workers’ working times on parental visits, using a natural experiment to eliminate potential endogeneity bias. In 2004, the Korean government began reducing its legal workweek from 44 to 40 h, gradually expanding it from larger to smaller establishments by 2011. Using annual longitudinal data from the 2005 to 2014 Korea Labor and Income Panel Study (N=7005 person-waves), we estimated an instrumental variable (IV) fixed-effects (FE) regression model. Our IV was an indicator variable of whether an individual full-time worker’s legal workweek was reduced to 40 h in a given year. The results showed that working one additional hour a week lowered the frequency of visits by 6.5% (95% confidence interval [−13.0%, 0.0%]), which was not apparent in a FE model without the IV. Working long hours has implications for workers’ interactions with their elderly parents, and the failure to consider endogeneity in actual working hours may understate the negative effect. Reducing work hours may serve as an effective policy intervention for improving the well-being of older adults in rapidly aging Asian countries in a work-oriented and family-centered culture. We also highlight the need for further attention to men’s work hours, which are often considered much less important than women’s work status in population research on intergenerational support.