WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Japan’s NHK television broadcasted the death of a 23-year-old man who committed suicide due to unbearable long hours of work.
- The man, his name withheld, logged 190 hours of overtime in just one month before taking his life in March.
- The Japan labor standard office has determined the suicide as related to karoshi, a Japanese term for death from overwork.
A young Japanese worker’s suicide was linked to karoshi as records indicated that the man worked overtime for 190 hours in one month. He worked at Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium construction site.
The threshold for karoshi is 80 hours overtime for one month. The victim’s family’s lawyer, Hiroshi Kawahito, said that the man also recorded 160 hours of overtime in January.
Japan’s construction giant, Taisei Corp., led the new stadium construction project.
The man’s body was discovered in the central Japan mountains in April, weeks after he disappeared. They found a suicide note with him saying he was “physically and mentally pushed to the limit.”
His death was publicized in July when his family asked the Japanese government to certify him as a karoshi victim. Labor officials in Tokyo ruled the victim’s death stemmed from overwork, and his family eligible for government compensation.
Both the government and private company officials say they are monitoring their labor force for signs of overwork. They have also taken measures to further improve the working environment.
The Tokyo labor officials investigated around 800 subcontractors of Taisei in September. Illegal overwork at nearly 40 companies has been found. 18 companies had their workers do overtime exceeding 80 hours per month, and some of them even exceeding 150 hours.
However, the construction sector is excluded from the government’s watch of overtime limits at the moment. In Japan, the construction sector was one of the most karoshi-prone environment in 2016, with 16 karoshi victims acknowledged by the government.
Earlier this month, the Tokyo’s summary court ordered Dentsu, a Japanese advertisement agency to pay a 500,000-yen ($4,500) fine over Matsuri Takahashi’s suicide in 2015. The 24-year-old employee leaped to her death from her apartment building on Christmas day after doing 100 hours of overtime in a month.
Weeks before she died, she posted disturbing messages on Twitter saying: “I want to die.” Another message read: “I’m physically and mentally shattered.”
Meanwhile, NHK disclosed that its reporter Miwa Sato, who died of heart failure four years ago was certified as a karoshi victim in May 2016.
The labor standards law sets 40-hour work per week for most workers. An exception however makes this law forceless as it allows companies to establish their own ceilings for overtime.