Work-related stress has been flagged by the Japanese government as a threat to the country’s workforce. In the government’s first investigation into karoshi, or death by overwork, a recent study found that 23 percent of Japanese companies have employees that log at least 80 hours of overtime each month, and workers putting in more than 100 hours of overtime was found in 12 percent of corporate Japan. To curb the rate of overwork, a stress test law was introduced to require companies to provide annual mental health checks for employees. The first deadline was on Nov. 30.
A high-profile criminal investigation into the suicide of a 24-year-old advertising employee revealed the woman had been subject to illegal overtime, a practice labour officials say is routine at many companies. In spite of government crackdowns and awareness campaigns, karoshi is still largely cited in cases of depression, heart failure, and suicide among employees who work more than 100 hours of overtime.