‘Death From Overwork,’ or ‘Karoshi,’ is a Real Thing in Japan

22 percent of the Japanese workforce logs more than 50 hours a week.

In December 2016, Tadashi Ishii, chief executive of Japan’s largest advertising agency, Dentsu, declared he would resign to “take responsibility for alleged violations of Japanese labor law” after a young employee committed suicide in late 2015.

Officials ruled the suicide “karoshi” — the Japanese term for “death from overwork.” As the Washington Post notes, 22% of Japanese employees work more than 50 hours a week, “longer than any other country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development except Turkey, Mexico and Korea.”

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Dentsu has already begun implementing changes to address the culture of overwork, including mandatory 5 days off per year, turning the office lights off between 10p.m. and 5a.m. and removing a list of principles that advocated for an aggressive work ethic, including the line “don’t let go, even if you are killed.”

But as the Post points out, to change the culture of overwork in Japan will require not just policy changes but a major cultural shift.

Read more on the Washington Post.