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Japan’s Trying to Stem Its Death By Overwork Trend, But Few Are Buying It

The program has many in Japan wondering if the government is serious about changing the national work culture and improving work-life balance — or simply staging an easy publicity stunt.

The Japanese government has partnered with the country's most powerful business lobby to do something that, in theory, shouldn't be that difficult: make people work less and have more fun. And they're hoping to save lives in the process.

Karoshi, or death by overwork, has been a part of the Japanese lexicon and a legally recognized cause of death since the 1980s. Despite growing awareness, cases of overwork resulting in illness or death continue to rise at a rapid rate. The number of resulting compensation claims reached a record high in financial year 2015, when the government received 2,310 compensation claims for mental illness, brain disease, and heart disease caused by overwork.

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare also attributed 93 suicides or suicide attempts that year to working excessive hours.

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