One in five Japanese workers faces risk of death from overwork

TOKYO • A fifth of the Japanese workforce faces the risk of death from overwork, according to a new government survey into the country's notoriously strenuous working culture.

Hundreds of deaths related to overwork - from strokes, heart attacks and suicides - are reported every year in Japan, along with a host of serious health problems, sparking lawsuits and calls to tackle the problem.

The survey was part of the nation's first white paper on "karoshi", or death from overwork, endorsed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet on Friday.

While the popular image of Japanese salarymen toiling long hours for the company before taking the last train home is changing, many still spend far more hours in the office than counterparts in other modern economies.

According to the paper, 22.7 per cent of companies polled between December last year and January this year said some of their employees logged more than 80 hours of overtime each month - the official threshold at which the prospect of death from work becomes serious.

  • 80

    Number of overtime hours clocked per month by 22.7 per cent of firms polled between December last year and January this year.


    Average number of hours worked each week by at least 21.3 per cent of Japanese employees.

The report added that approximately 21.3 per cent of Japanese employees work 49 or more hours each week on average.

This is well above the 16.4 per cent reported in the United States, 12.5 per cent in Britain and 10.4 per cent in France.

The survey concluded that Japanese employees also reported feeling high levels of stress related to their work, pushing officials to call on companies to improve working conditions.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 09, 2016, with the headline 'One in five Japanese workers faces risk of death from overwork'. Subscribe