A journalist in Japan died of overwork after putting in 159 hours of overtime, reported her former employer four years later.
Miwa Sado, 31, worked for the NHK broadcaster’s center in Tokyo, who made her regularly stay late and work on off days. Sado covered the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and had been reporting on elections in June and July 2013. The journalist had put in 159 hours of overwork in the month before and had taken only two days off, said the labor standard office on May 2014.
That means her overtime averages more than five and a half hours a day over the course of a 28-day month.
The grueling work hours triggered a heart failure which killed her at the age of just 31.
The labor standard office attributed her death to “karoshi” — death from overwork — but her case was revealed by her former employer four years later out of respect for her parents.
Masahiko Yamauchi, from NHK’s News Department said overwork was “problem for our organization as a whole.”
“Even today, four years after, we cannot accept our daughter’s death as a reality,” said her parents and added they never wanted to see something like this happen to anyone else ever again. “We hope that the sorrow of the bereaved family will never be wasted.”
The conclusion that Sado’s death was caused by overwork has once again renewed scrutiny of the work culture in Japan, which has no legal limits on working hours.
Research shows that Japanese employees work considerably longer hours than workers in the U.S., Britain and other advanced countries. More than two percent of Japanese employees work 49 hours or more each week. In addition, leaves for holidays often go unused by employees. In 2015, Japanese workers used less than half of their leave time — about 8.8 days a year, according to the health ministry.
The labor ministry recognizes two types of karoshi: death from cardiovascular malfunction linked to overwork and suicide from mental stress.
In Christmas 2015, 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi, an employee of Japan’s advertising giant Dentsu, committed suicide, after she clocked in over 100 hours of overtime.
Following her death, the CEO of Dentsu, Tadashi Ishii resigned and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced they would start to seriously seek ways to curb workplace burden on employees.
But Japan’s reluctance to accept immigrants and it’s rapidly aging population leaves the island nation short of workers and it could put serious pressure on employees.
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters, Yuya Shino