Japan: Woman Dies After 159 Hours of Overtime In a Month

Morning commuters make their way to work in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, May 20, 2010. Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

Japan’s work culture is under fire after a 31-year-old journalist died from overwork at NHK. Miwa Sado, who was working at the largest broadcasting organization in Japan, logged 159 hours of overtime. The overtime was 59 hours more than what’s been proposed by the government.

She took only two days off in the month and her death happened back in July 2013. Ms. Sado died from heart failure over four years ago but her case was made public just a few days ago by NHK.

Labor inspectors ruled that her death was from overwork. In recent years, the government has been trying to change the long hours of work. The death of the journalist will add more pressure to the government, which recently proposed a limit of 100 overtime hours.

Last year, a similar ruling also put Japan’s work culture under fire. Labor officials ruled that the death had been a suicide and that it happened after she worked more than 100 hours of overtime. The government has proposed a 100 hour overtime limit. Experts say the 100 hours are still too much.

Overwork is a major issue in Japan, where more than 2,000 people killed themselves last year due to stress related to work, according to the government. The government has also proposed fines for companies letting their workers go over 100 hours of overtime. Recent studies show that Japanese people work longer than people in other countries. Other countries such as China and South Korea are also facing the same problem. Last year, the death of three workers in China sparked a debate. South Korea has also seen calls for overtime limits.

Kyodo News reported that a senior official of NHK said the organization waited years to make her death public out of respect for her family. The official also admitted that her death showed a problem for their organization as a whole.