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Death from overwork – Can it be prevented?

Death from overwork
The Japanese are working themselves to death. Labor activists have been trying to draw attention to the problem of karoshi, or death from overwork, for decades. Reliable statistics can’t be found, because it’s hard to prove causation in the case of someone who, say, worked 36 hours in a row several times in the same month and then died of a heart attack.

The related problem of karojisatsu, or suicide because of overwork, is similarly hard to confirm without a suicide note specifically blaming the job. Still, the government is at last considering legislation to address the problem. Unfortunately, the law’s draft isn’t very ambitious. It says nothing about limiting working hours, mandating days off, or punishing employers who flout labor laws. Instead it “relies on moral suasion” by “calling upon the government to make karoshi prevention a duty.” The vagueness means the law will be “less a solution to a social problem than official recognition that the problem exists.”

It’s a first step, but only that. The fight for workers’ rights will be a long battle. After all, “nothing is more fundamental to capitalism than employer control over the pace of production and the length of the working day.”