Japanese TV reporter Miwa Sado died from overwork after doing 159 hours of overtime in only one month. Authorities said the 31-year-old woman died of heart failure.
Her employer, public broadcaster NHK, said she took only a couple of days off in the month leading to her death, July 2013. The Japanese even have a word for working oneself to death: “karoshi”.
NHK made public the woman’s death earlier this week, but the revelations could prompt lawmakers to change work standards as “karoshi” is not an isolated case in Japan.
In 2016, a young employee of an advertising agency died from overwork, and a year prior, Matsuri Takahashi, 24, committed suicide on Christmas Day after logging more than 100 hours of overtime. On social media, the 24-year-old wrote she wanted to die because she felt “physically and mentally shattered.”
Monthly Overtime Capped to 100 Hours in Japan
Following the 2015 tragedy, the government capped overtime to 100 hours and threatened to fine companies that encourage workers to overdo it just to prove commitment. A 2014 study revealed that Asian workers usually sleep 6 hours and 22 minutes per night, which is the lowest level in any country in the world.
In 2016, the government found that 20% of Japan’s workforce face a high risk for “karoshi”. The document also found that between January and March 2016, 2,000 Japanese workers committed suicide because of pressure at work or died from strokes or heart attacks.
NHK said that it took them four years to release Sado’s actual cause of death out of respect to her grieving family. The woman’s colleagues said she overworked herself so much because of an ongoing election.
NHK acknowledged that the woman’s death was caused by many factors including organizational issues, labor laws, and how the country’s elections are covered by the press.
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