Daily Management Review

Excessive working hours become a deadly threat in Japan


Japanese advertising giant Dentsu will have to pay a penalty for excessive hours its employees spent at work. Overtime has long been a serious problem in Japan, and the government has repeatedly criticized this practice. In many cases, including in the case of Dentsu, excessive hours cause death of the Japanese.

On Friday, the Japanese advertising corporation Dentsu - the fifth largest in the world - was fined $ 500 thousand ($ 4,4 thousand). The Tokyo court ruled that its employees work more than the statutory rate. The situation in the company attracted the attention of authorities in 2015, after one of the employees, Matsuri Takahashi, committed suicide.

It was found that suicide was associated with overtime. Japanese media reported that from October to December 2015, excessive hours of 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi and three other employees exceeded the limits established by agreement with the union. The girl spent more than 105 hours at work in one month. A few weeks before her death, she wrote on social networks: "I want to die. I am physically and morally killed."

During the trial, Detsu president Toshihiro Yamamoto admitted that the company had been practicing overtime work. He took the blame for himself, apologized to the relatives of the deceased employee and said that the company would not allow this in the future. "We have not fulfilled our social obligations," he said then. A lawyer, representing interests of the deceased girl and her family, called the court's decision on the fine for Dentsu historical, but noted the symbolic size of the fine.

Last week, the Japanese TV and radio company NHK told about the death of its employee, related to processing, in 2013. A month before his death, 31-year-old reporter Miwa Sado worked overtime 159 hours. For all this time she had only two days off. The cause of death was heart failure.

The Japan language even has a special term for deaths associated with overtime - "karosi". According to official figures, there were more than 2.3 thousand such deaths only in 2015. In the 12 months to March 2016, more than 2,000 Japanese people committed suicide and dozens more died of a heart attack, stroke and other diseases caused by overtime. 

At the same time, according to the Ministry of Health of Japan, in 2015, the Japanese used an average of only 8.8 days from their annual leave, which is less than half of the vacation. For comparison, employees in Hong Kong use 100% of their vacation, 78% - in Singapore.

Moreover, working Japanese sleep the least in the world. According to a survey conducted by the US National Fund of Sleep Problems, the Japanese sleep an average of 6 hours 22 minutes a day during the working week. Only 8% of respondents could say that they sleep more than 8 hours. The average night sleep rate for Canadians, Mexicans and Germans is more than 7 hours. Because of this, many Japanese companies have introduced 20-30-minute breaks in the middle of the working day specifically for sleep.

The scale of the disaster intensified a wave of public outrage, thus prompting the Japanese government to submit a draft law requiring employers not to exceed the 100 hour limit of overtime hours for one employee per month. However, this bill will enter into force not earlier than 2019.

At the same time, the Japanese government, in conjunction with the Japan Business Federation, launched an initiative called "Premium Friday", which called on companies to let employees go home at 15:00 on the last Friday of every month. However, according to the data for July, this initiative was supported by slightly more than 500 companies.

Following the above measures, in May the Ministry of Labor of Japan published a list of 334 companies that violate labor laws, primarily in terms of processing employees. Among these companies, along with Dentsu, were also Panasonic and Japan Post.

source: bbc.co.uk