Japanese workers die early from being overworked

  • Latest reports state that more Japanese employees die because of over-working
  • “Karoshi” or death by overwork started in Japan in the 1970s to increase salary earnings of employees or ensure job security
  • Karoshi victims, often in their 20s, are mostly male, but the number of affected women is also increasing

Japan’s trend of working more than the prescribed 40 hours in a week threatens the lives of more Japanese workers, latest reports said.

Experts point out that a big number of Japanese employees suffer this problematic norm leading to “karoshi” or death by overwork. Other workers, according to Washington Post, suffer serious ailments like heart attack, stroke or even suicide that is triggered by overworking.

Japan’s trend of working for more hours started in the 1970s as a way to increase salary earnings or to ensure job security.

Japan Labor Ministry has recorded 189 karoshi cases last year. Karoshi victims, often in their 20s are mostly males, but the number of affected women is increasing.

Secretary General Hiroshi Kawahito of the National Defense Counsel for Victims of karoshi hit the government for its insensible stand on karoshi being a pressing issue on the state’s workforce.

The government may host a lot of symposiums and makes posters about the problem, but it clearly appears as a ‘propaganda,” Kawahito said. “The real problem is reducing working hours, and the government is not doing enough for this,” he added.

An article published in Wall Street Journal refers to karoshi as among Japan’s workforce issues which also include labor shortage caused by an aging population, gap in skills and immigration curbs.

Koji Morioka, a professor from Kansai University, on the other hand, explained that the set up in Japanese workplace considers overtime work as almost part of scheduled working hours. “It is not forced by anyone, but workers feel it like its compulsory,” she said.

A “bait-and-switch” system is usually implemented by unethical employers, which attracts applicants by advertising full-time positions with sensible work hours. If it becomes unsuccessful, a candidate is given irregular contract which asks him to work for longer hours.

The job culture also includes social time with superiors in job, which may sometimes be rendered without compensation.

What’s worse is that most attempts to run after entitled compensation for families left behind end up unsuccessful.