Karōshi (過労死 : excess – labor – death) is a Japanese word that means “sudden death caused by excess of work”. This specific word only exists in Japanese, but it’s starting to be exported to other countries like Korea where the same problem is arising.
After the Second World War, Japan was able to recover very fast and became the second economy in the world in less than three decades. There are many reasons that helped Japan to recover so fast, one of the reasons was the effort that Japanese did working as much as they could. At the end of the 60s working 12 or more hours a day was considered normal. In 1969 the first case of “karoshi” occurred, he was a young employee (less than 30 years old) who suddenly died after working more than 40 days in a row.
The problem became more common at the end of the 80s when executives working under lots of stress started dying at their work places. Nowadays the Ministry of Labor has “karoshi deaths” public statistics. During the last years the average is 1.000 “karoshi” deaths, this is not a lot but if you put it together with the 10.000 people who die because of “stress/excess of work”, and the 30.000 people who suicide (mainly because they are not happy with their jobs) it starts to be scary.
One friend explained me how one of his workmates died from “karoshi”. One day, when they arrived in the morning to the company they found him “sleeping” in his workplace but when they realized that he was not waking up after some hours… He died from hear attack and he was only 27 years old!
Reading “National Defense counsel for Victims of Karoshi” I found more terrifying examples:
Miss Yoshida, died when she was 22 years old after working during 34 hours as a hospital nurse.
Mister Miyazaki, died after working during 4320 hours during his last year.
Mister Yagi, he used to work 70 hours a week and spent almost four hours a day commuting. He died when he was 43 years old. In his personal diary he wrote “At least slaves had time to eat with their families”.
Many people do not die, but the number of people who is really stress and ends up suffering mental illnesses is very high. A recent example is well known by everyone, prime minister Abe suffered from stress and lots of pressure from bureaucrats and the “Japanese dark side”. The day he resigned he was hospitalized in order to be treated from “stress related problems”.