Japan aims to reduce suicides by 30% in 10 years with measures to curb overwork

Office workers and pedestrians cross a street in Tokyo on May 31, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan aims to cut suicides by 30 per cent over 10 years, with the government on Tuesday (July 25) approving a plan which seeks to curb extreme work hours seen as contributing to one of the world's highest suicide rates.

Japan has the highest suicide rate among Group of Seven (G7) advanced countries and the government describes the situation as "critical" in a country where more than 20,000 people kill themselves every year.

The suicide rate - the ratio per 100,000 people - was 18.5 in 2015 and the government wants to reduce it to below 13 in 2025.

Suicides have fallen since peaking at 34,427 in 2003, with 21,897 taking their own lives last year.

The government in the plan cited measures taken nationwide over that time as being behind the drop.

The plan, approved at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, is reviewed every five years. The first one came in 2007.

It states that the government will push further for measures against work-related suicides, saying that cutting extreme work hours and preventing harassment by bosses are necessary.

Tokyo is ramping up efforts to tackle deaths from overwork following the suicide of a young employee at Japan's biggest advertising agency Dentsu, who regularly logged more than 100 hours of overtime a month.

The death of Matsuri Takahashi in 2015 generated nationwide headlines, prompting the government to come up with a plan asking employers to limit overtime to a maximum of 100 hours a month. But critics say this is still too high.

The labour ministry in May released its first nationwide employer blacklist, naming-and-shaming more than 300 companies, including Dentsu, for illegal overtime and other workplace violations.

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