A record number of Japanese people worked
themselves to death last year despite a government campaign to ease the
country's notorious office hours.
Some 355 workers fell severely ill or died from overwork in the year to
March, the highest figure on record and 7.6 percent up from the previous
year, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labour said.
Of the total, 147 people died, many from strokes or heart attacks.
Death from overwork grew so common during Japan's post-World War II
economic miracle that a word was coined for it, "karoshi."
The government has tried to address the problem by promoting
telecommuting and encouraging
workers to take leave when they start families or need to care for elderly
Critics point to the rising number of part-time jobs, saying new
employees lack the security that would allow them to resist pressure to
Another 819 workers contended they became mentally ill due to overwork,
with 205 cases given compensation, according to the ministry data released
Mentally troubled workers killed themselves or attempted to do so in
176 cases, of which a record 66 cases were found eligible for benefits,
the ministry report said.
The number of Japanese who killed themselves because of work jumped 52
percent last year, while work-induced mental illness also hit a record
high, according to Health Ministry official Junichiro Kurashige.
Japan's suicide rate is among the highest in the industrialized world.
More than 32,000 people took their own lives in 2004, most of them older
people suffering financial woes as the country struggled through a decade
of economic stagnation.
The Japanese government has earmarked substantial budget for
programs to help those with depression and other mental illnesses.