Why are Japanese people working themselves to death?
"Karoshi" or deaths from overworking have been on the rise in Japan. Most recently, labor inspectors have ruled that the death of 31-year-old Miwo Sado in 2013 was caused by overwork. Sado, an NHK journalist, had reportedly worked 159 hours overtime in a month before her death. The Japanese government has come under increasing pressure to address karoshi. Read more about it here.
Government data indicates that a large chunk of Japanese companies make their employees work more than 80 hours overtime per month. This is significantly greater than how much employees work in other developed countries. Hundreds of Japanese youth have died from causes such as stress-related heart attacks and strokes while others have committed suicide. Declining job security has aggravated the situation.
The suicide of Matsuri Takahashi, a 24-year old advertising employee in 2015 triggered a national debate on Japan's work culture. She had apparently been working more than 100 hours overtime in the months leading up to her death. "I'm physically and mentally shattered," she had posted on social media before her death. The incident brought pressure on the Japanese government to address the issue.
The government has taken a few measures to provide workers with much-needed spare time. In early-2017, it introduced Premium Fridays to encourage firms to let their employees off work by 3 pm. The government also proposed to cap average monthly overtime at 60 hours, although it allowed for up to 100 hours during busy times, which could entirely defeat the purpose of the regulation.
Experts believe that the government should enact a solid legislation capping overtime working hours to make any real difference to the situation. Despite long working hours, Japan is the least productive among the G7 countries. Hence, the government should focus on a total re-haul of the work environment in such a way that employees can be more efficient and productive.