Death By Overtime – Japan’s Skeleton In The Closet

Japan is well known for being one of the most advanced countries in the world; home to millions of incredible world-renowned businesses such as SONY and Mitsubishi. Japan and Japanese workers are also well known for being extremely hard working. But are they working a little too hard?


A Hidden Death of a Journalist

It came to light last week that a Japanese journalist, by the name of Miwa Sado, had actually died. She died after working almost 160 overtime hours within a single month back in July of 2013. The young 31 year old only had 2 days off within that month, leading to eventual heart failure.

death of japanese woman

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The journalist worked for Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, who were the ones to finally disclose her death last week. The Tokyo labour standards office attributed her untimely death specifically to overwork, or “karoshi” (which literally means ‘death by overwork’). The Japan labour standards office stated “It can be inferred that she was in a state of accumulated fatigue and chronic sleep deprivation.”.

The reason for her overtime was to cover elections in the month before she died. She was the company’s journalist for local government affairs. She clocked a staggering total of 59 hours and 37 minutes in overtime in the month of June 2013.


The Company’s Reaction to Her Death

When challenged with her hidden death, NHK stated: “We refrained from making Ms Sado’s death public because the bereaved family initially indicated that they preferred it that way, but we decided that we needed to disclose it as we are pushing the program to reform the workplace and a way of working, which was spurred by Sado’s death.”

company hiding the truth

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This, however, is not the only case of Japanese staff being overworked. More than 2 years later in October of 2015, Matsuri Takahashi took her own life after working over 100 hours of overtime. She was a 24 year old who had been working for advertising agency Dentsu Inc.

The overtime forced her into a state of depression, something which was undetected and unaddressed by her employers. Dentsu have now been given a fine of 500,000 yen ($44,000) after a court ruled it had made employees work overtime beyond legal limits.

Although these cases are extremely severe, many of us in the UK are also putting in more hours than we should be. Worse still, we’re not getting paid for it.


How Does Overtime Affect Us in the UK?

A recent report from CV-Library found that the average employee in the UK puts in an extra 13 working days every year. With a worrying 64% admitting they often work longer hours than they’re supposed to.

overworked employees

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If that wasn’t shocking enough, 1 in 10 UK employees work 7 days a week. But even when we’re sick, 70% of us still go to work – putting the business before our own health because we’re afraid that our workload will increase and pile up while we’re away. So many of us do this that there’s even a term for it – presenteeism (as opposed to absenteeism).

These pretty shocking statistics then give way to the idea of more flexible working and even a 4 day working week. A concept that has been around for a long time, but has never really come to fruition; despite its popularity.


How Does the UK Feel About Flexible Working?

The same report by CV Library found that 58.6% of employees believe that the traditional 9-5 is an ‘outdated’ concept. It also found that 3/4 of workers think that a 4-day working week would be beneficial to them.

employee wellbeing

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Needless to say, we shouldn’t be working ourselves to the bone. Wellbeing of employees is extremely important to both the individual and the employer (if not for the reduction in sick days due to stress) and a better work life balance can make you far more productive.

What do you think about working overtime? Should there be a cap on the amount of hours you do? Should employers enforce better rules for overtime?
Let us know what you think by tweeting us at @CCC_Finance.

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