Japanese working to death more than ever
JAPAN: A record number of Japanese people literally worked
themselves to death last year, the government said, despite campaigns to
ease the countryâ€™s notoriously long office hours.
Some 355 workers fell severely ill or died from overwork in the year
to March, the highest figure on record and 7.6 percent up from the
previous year, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labour said.
Of the total, 147 people died, many from strokes or heart attacks.
Death from overwork grew so common during Japanâ€™s post-World War II
economic miracle that the country coined a word for it, â€śkaroshi.â€ť
The government has tried to address the problem by promoting
telecommuting and encouraging workers to take leave when they start
families or need to care for elderly parents.
But as the worldâ€™s second largest economy posts a record-long
expansion, critics point to the rising number of part-time jobs, saying
new employees lack the security that would allow them to resist pressure
Mikio Mizuno, a lawyer who has long fought to stop karoshi, said that
the growing number of part-timers has also increased the workload and
pressure on young full-time employees.
â€śThose in their 20s and 30s, who still have some physical strength,
tend to push themselves beyond the limit,â€ť Mizuno said.
â€śThey can suddenly come down with an irregular pulse or a heart
attack. As for what triggered it, you canâ€™t think of anything else but
The labour ministry said it rejected nearly half of the record 938
worker claims filed in the last financial year seeking compensation for
suspected illness or death from overwork.
Among the 355 cases of worker compensation approved, the largest age
group or 141 cases are those in their 50s, the report said.
But the number of such workers in their 30s shot up by 31 percent
from the previous year.
â€śWe saw that the trend of people in their 20s and 30s being most
prone to mental diseases was particularly strong in the past year,â€ť said
labour ministry official Takashi Amano.
â€śThe working environment still remained severe for workers,â€ť he said.
â€śIn many cases, workers faced so many demands while receiving limited
support, putting strenuous pressure on them mentally.â€ť
A total of 819 workers suggested they became mentally ill due to
overwork, with 205 of them given compensation, according to the ministry
data released Wednesday.
Mentally troubled workers killed themselves or attempted to do so in
176 cases, of which a record 66 cases were found eligible for benefits,
the ministry report said.
Among applicants seeking worker compensation for their mental
problems, those in their 30s account for the largest number at 40
percent, followed by those in their 20s at 18.5 percent.
The occupational group most prone to death or disease from overwork
was the transport industry, which accounted for 27 percent of all the
applicants found eligible for compensation.