Saturday, February 07, 2015

Karoshi - Worked to death

Karoshi, literally means "working to death." Sociology Professor Scott North of the University of Osaka estimated that as many as 8,000 out of 30,000 suicides in Japan each year are work-related. On top of this, he believes that at least 10,000 non-suicide deaths occur because work-related exhaustion.

In Japan, long hours in the workplace are seen both as a necessity and a reason for honour. In a bid to reduce work-related cases of depression and suicide, the Japanese parliament is considering making it compulsory for workers to take five days of paid leave a year.

As full-time jobs have declined in relation to part-time positions over the last three decades, full-time workers have had to take on more responsibilities, especially as job definitions and workflow can be vague. Many workers fear resentment from their colleagues if they take days off, resulting in 2013 in an average of only nine paid leave days taken out of an 18.5 entitlement each year. Another survey found that one in six workers took no paid days at all. Accounts of men in their mid-40s working an average of 80 hours per week — and dying as a result of that — are not rare occurrences.

In 2011, a 22-year old English language instructor committed suicide in Kanazawa, after complaining of unbearable out-of-office hours. An investigation into her death estimated she was working 111 unpaid hours each month. In an email to her father, she said that it was painful that she had to continue her job even after she went home.


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