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Karoshi in Japan, why does it continue to happen?

Autor: Langloo
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We all know that the Japanese are notorious when it comes to their work. In fact, there are cases when they will work themselves to death!

This phenomenon was first reported in 1969, with the death of a 29 year old male from a stroke. Now it must be said, how can a healthy 29 year old die from a stroke, especially one from Japan? They are known for their good health, and heart disease is very uncommon. So now the pathologists had their work cut out for them; to find a cause for a stroke victim that had had no history of heart disease.

After some digging, it was discovered that he was part of the staff of one of the biggest newspapers in Japan. The amount of stress that he was under must have been incredible, to actually develop a heart condition due to work; now that must mean one dragon of a boss. The Japanese then put this down to a one-off thing; which was a big mistake, as they were soon to find out.

During the Bubble Economy of the late 1980s, the media was introduced to a completely new phenomenon, when previously healthy people in high powered jobs were starting to drop dead like flies. These people all had one thing in common; they were all high-ranking business officials. The media then soon labeled this alarming trend Karoshi, which literally meant "death from overwork" - not the most pleasant way to pass on. People in the workforce then began to see this as a great menace and also began to worry about whether they would fall down and die over their morning coffee. By 1987, public concern became very strong, and the Japanese Ministry of Labor were forced to actually publish statistics on this whole thing.

Now, what on earth could cause something like this? Well, very simply put, these workers will work themselves into the ground for little or no overtime. These hard workers will usually pick up the slack from their lazier co-workers, or take over the job, while still doing theirs, from more sensible colleagues who have quit due to unsuitable working conditions. Their poor children are now being forced to pick them up, as they are scared their parents will literally work themselves to death.

Now the relatives of these deceased workers are taking matters into their own hands. There has been a steady increase of lawsuits against the various companies in which these deaths have occurred. It is the belief, and rightly so, of the relatives that these deaths could have been avoided. With stricter measures taken in order to prevent extreme overtime, many of these workers could have still been around to be with their families. This is one harsh lesson that many people have had to learn. The only problem with these suits is that the death needs to be proven to be work related, and this process can take many, many years, and could potentially cost more than the payout in the end. So this puts a lot of people off actually claiming what is rightfully theirs. These types of deaths should not be happening at all. It must also be said that the Japanese court system does really have the best interests of the bereaved families at heart. They are willing to take the cases that the Labor department rejects.

What are these companies doing in order to prevent these deaths? It does not look good for the company if their workers are forced into permanent retirement, with absolutely no perks! It must be said that they are catching a big wake up call, and are coming down harder on workaholic employees. Companies like Toyota are cutting down on their overtime hours to only 360 hours a year. This works out to 30 hours a month. They have also installed PA systems that after 7pm will make announcements proclaiming the benefits of a good night’s sleep. These announcements are played every hour, until the last person has left. Nissan will even offer telecommuting for employees with children and elderly parents who look after them. This has become a godsend for these employees. Many companies have also implemented an interesting system called a “no overtime day’. These companies will chase their employees out the door at exactly 5:30, and will tolerate no excuses for working late. Although there are some crazy workers that will actually take their work home, or actually work in a dark office - how completely mental! 2007 saw Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking come up with a plan that allowed workers with children and family to go home three hours earlier. To this day, only 34 of the 7000 workers have signed up for this plan. These people do not know how to relax at all, and many other people would love their companies to allow them to spend more time with their families.

The only way to prevent these people from working themselves to death, is to physically tie them down. Although they just might keel over from the shock of how good it feels to just relax.

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