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‘Karoshi’ – death by overwork

“Karoshi” is a Japanese word (ka excess + ro labor + shi death), and means “death by overwork.” Karoshi is a legally recognized cause of death in Japan since 1980s, and it is on the rise.

Hundreds of deaths related to overwork – from strokes, heart attacks, suicides – are reported every year in Japan. A 2014 law designed to prevent karoshi had not changed the prevailing work culture of devotion and self sacrifice, even at the expense of employees’ health.

Despite attempts by some firms to establish a better work-life balance, Japanese workers still spend much longer hours in their working place. Japan has the worst standards for long working hours among advanced nations.

According to its first white paper released by the Japanese government recently on Karoshi, one in five workers was at risk of death from overwork. Claims for compensation for karoshi rose to a record high of 1,456 in the year to the end-March 2015 according to labor ministry data, particularly in industries such as health care and welfare that are experiencing labor shortages.

According to the paper, 22.7% of companies polled between December 2015 and January 2016 said some of their employees logged more than 80 hours of overtime each month – the official threshold at which the prospect of death from work becomes serious.

Karoshi was brought to international stage on Christmas day 2015 when a 24-year-old employee of the advertisement giant Dentsu Inc. leapt from the company dormitory and killed herself. She reportedly logged 105 overtime hours in the month before she developed the mental condition. Her death was later recognized as a Karoshi. After her death there was a massive public outcry about the corporation who exploits the workers. The president of Dentsu stepped down a year after her death, and sparked calls for Japan to overhaul work culture. (Floro Mercene)

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