Death by overwork is on the rise among Japan’s workers. The country is now seeing a record number of compensation claims relating to death from overwork or Karoshi.
According to Labor Ministry data, claims for compensation for Karoshi rose to a record high of 1,456 in the year ending March 2015. Most of the cases pertained to the health care, social services, shipping and construction industries.
It is really sad that “Karoshi”, which means death by overwork, has somehow become a global word. An unusually high number of Karoshi cases have been reported since 1980 and this issue reemerged recently as the major international medias have reported.
As for working hours, it is true that salarymen, which usually refer to middle-aged men who work for corporations in Japan work long hours. It is common for many of them to work until 8pm, then drink with colleagues or it’s their job to take their clients to hostess bar or restaurants for drinking until midnight and by the time they go to bed, it’s already 2am.
Then the next morning, you are still feeling really tired but have to get up at 6:30am to get ready to go to the train station. Japanese salarymen don’t always work until 12am but my father’s schedule was insane as a corporate executive.
There was no life work balance to my dad, and my mother was constantly worried about my dad’s high blood pressure. I do not believe that working long hours alone leads to sudden death. It’s the stress and other issues neglected as these salarymen don’t have the time to go to the doctor!
American employees in office setting clock in and clock out depending on their job but many Americans work very hard. I work very hard for my work. But life/work balance is maintained and we don’t have that level of enormous pressure from the top.
In Japan, they still practice a very rigid employment system so quitting is not just an option for many middle aged salarymen with family. That is understandable. On top of that, Japan is a shame based culture and employees are often subject to enormous pressure to represent the company well and if you screw up, you can sabotage the company’s reputation and some people commit suicide because of it.
It sounds crazy but I do think that there are various factors that cause Karoshi..not just excessive overtime.
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