• Nov 30, 2007
We've all heard the horror stories of life in middle management. In Japan, the ill appears to be especially acute. So many Japanese workers die from simply being overworked that there's a name for it: karoshi. Wikipedia says, "The major medical causes of kar?shi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress." From March 2006 to March 2007, 303 people were claimed to have died of it with 147 of those cases acknowledged as accurate by the government.
Thirty-year-old Kenichi Uchino worked 60 hours a week for five months for Toyota in Japan, and then worked 70 hours a week for a month -- and then he died. His wife, Hiroko, filed for workman's compensation benefits after the death of her husband, and her claim was denied. The Labor Ministry said the death didn't come from overwork.

A court in Nagoya, though, had a different opinion, and has ordered the Ministry of Labor to pay benefits. His work schedule sounds brutal, although we know of people who put in the same kind of hours in the US. However, unlike in America, it's common practice in Japan not to pay for overtime. We don't know if that was the case here, but regardless of whether he was being paid, the operative word for any employee putting in those kinds of hours should be: help.

[Source: Detroit News]


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  • 36 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      I am surprised no one has mentioned that in this country resident physicians are forbidden by law to work more than an average of 80 hours per week. And that is just an average meaning that if you go on vacation next week you may be working 120 hours this week.

      Of course many times residents work more than 80 hours and simply report that they only worked 80 hours per week. The best part is that the residents that are most frequently required to fake hours are the residents in surgical specialties. So the people who literally take peoples lives into their hands are the ones most likely to be very sleep deprived.

      We didn't even have this law until a resident kill someone when he left the hospital to drive home so sleep deprived he fell asleep at the wheel and caused a fatal accident.

      Don't talk to me about work ethic. I don't care what your opinion of physicians is, these are kids, most of them in their twenties, who work for about $50k per year. (If that sounds like a lot to you keep in mind that they have been in school for at least eight years to become a physician.) I don't care how good Toyotas are, no one at ToMoCo takes their jobs more seriously than these kids.

        • 7 Years Ago
        I did 2 internships, 2 residencies and 3 fellowships. I have been deployed to Iraq and Kosovo.

        I am still alive and still practicing medicine. No one "forced" me to do the above. If I die at age 56, then I die at age 56. Should my wife blame my career and personal choices? Only in Japan.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The sad thing is that that law doesn't even apply to attendings, as some of the surgery attendings I know are "happy" to point out.

        I think the real problem with overworking physicians is precisely that they'll end up driving like crap and killing other people and/or themselves. I've fallen asleep while driving myself, and it's not particularly fun to wake up because you bit your tongue after hitting the car in front of you. I was unbelievably lucky when it happened to me since the guy in front was only going slightly slower, but I always think of the bazillion other ways that day could have ended much more horribly-if I had veered into oncoming traffic, or veered into another land I'd would be dead since traffic was going 60-70 on that road. As macho as "Dad" and other older physicians often are (they tend to think that the 80 hour week is a copout) it's not particularly smart to kill yourself and/or other people driving like crap and screwing up procedures because you're micro-sleeping every 5 minutes.

        Having actually fallen asleep driving before (and I had had a lot of coffee too), I'm gonna do my damned best so that I never drive when I shouldn't be-kind of hard when there's no other way of getting home, but a sleeping driving is just as bad as a driver blowing .38.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Did he smoke? Did he suffer from untreated high blood pressure? Did he drink in excess? Did he have a family history of heart disease? Did he have high blood cholesterol? Did he exercise?

      Gosh, work killed him!!!!!!!!!!
      far jr
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm one of those fools who works 75-80 hours per week on salary. I am on call 24-7 and get called in the middle of the night about 3-4 times a week. I get four days off per month (every other weekend).

      Trust me, those hours drain your body, run you down from lack of sleep, and damage your health due to lack of time to excercise and recreate. Even if you are not contantly grinding away all 80 hours. I despise the hours, the calls, the resposibilities (everything wrong is my problem). But most of all I miss watching my children grow up.

      Why do I do it? It is a very secure job that isn't going away due to a slow economy or cutbacks. It pays fairly well so my wife doesn't need to work and can raise our family. I have an OUTSTANDING retirement package coming at age 55 (assuming I live that long). And I get to work outdoors and love the type of work.

      Nobody that works these hours really enjoy the schedule, we just haven't found anything better yet!
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think it's not actually about the hours worked but the mental and emotional stress the Japanese put themselves thru. Many Americans can not understand their culture. Not many Americans would kill themselves if they didnt get a job done by deadline. They would just say eh, i cant do it and move on. I believe he did die from work, but i doubt it was the long hours alone.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Not to be an ahole or to diminish this man's passing, but 60-70hrs a week is not that bad. Jobs such as investment banking and management consulting typically work this much. Hell even graduate students work that much for years on end.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Well, I mean, its not really the hours, its the stress that you get during those hours. One hour of a bomb squad man's job when he actually has to do it near a bunch of schools where they can't evacuate the children is probably going to be equivalent to maybe 40 hours of a "regular" office job.

        It just all depends. In Japan, they are pretty much crazy with their work ethic. I watched this PBS documentary a long time ago about the children crisis in Japan - namely, that they're not having enough children to continue the population, mostly because no one has any *time* to raise children! It's not uncommon for the man of the household to leave at somewhere around 4-5 AM, and only come back home at 11 PM -12 AM. Everyday.

        What a sad day in our development, wouldn't you say? Despite all our advancements, we are working *more* than when we didn't have electricity, running water, computers, supermarkets, etc.

        Working so much that we are dying from it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        60-70 isn't that bad for my chosen profession either, lol. I mean they had to pass a law to limit residents to 80 hours, and it's still widely ignored.

        Not that we're not miserable =(
        • 7 Years Ago
        That that is probably 70-80 hours that he is *supposed* to work.

        You need to realise that in japan, almost no one actually arrives or leaves their job when they are supposed to. Most workers would be "expected" to arrive at least 1-2 hours early, and leave anywhere from 1-4 hours *after* their work day is supposed to be over.

        So when it says he worked 70 hours, it probably means that he was *at* work for about 90+
        • 7 Years Ago
        Just a comment to respond. My husband works for Toyota building cars. The employees that work on line, work at a constant, fast pace. They do not have extra guys walking around looking for work to do. They run a very lean ship. They have very strict quality controls. They run the line very quickly with no time to talk to your buddy beside you or go for a walk just to get a change of scenery.
        Shift work is extremely hard on the body. The change from days to nights is too hard to adapt to and therefore it can cause severe health issues. Sleep apnea(which can cause death when you stop breathing,right?), Gaining weight(irregular eating habits eg. on nights they eat at 11:00 pm),inability to sleep because of your inner clock being confused and all of these cause the functioning of one`s body to be very stressed. These are actually Doctor documented conditions in my home. AND it does make them cranky as they usually get really just about 3-5 hours of sleep as a rule. I know it is a hard job, so yes, I totally believe Kenichi died from working too hard. No disrespect to anyone and I am not trying to attack anyone BUT this is just my opinion. Thanks for listening
        • 7 Years Ago
        Yup, considering my mom worked 80 hours a week for a decade to support my family, I'm sharing your view, a little odd.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Japan also has the largest suicide rate of any country in the world, and most of this is due to work related stress. This isn't really surprising at all.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I`d buy American cars. I sleep good good at night knowing I don`t support slave labor.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Very interesting article on professional working ethics..."worked 60 hours a week for five months for Toyota in Japan, and then worked 70 hours a week for a month -- and then he died".

      Perhap's the popular vintage song "Gloomy Sunday" was playing in the beautiful-peaceful gardens.

      In today's environments, I think people work hard because they have too. While some of us enjoy our work...others are not as lucky.

      I think the ultimate goal is to find a comfortable working environment...find out what our passionates are and find a way to get paid for our hard work. Professional business ethics are always welcomed. Some bosses-working environments are ethical...while some are not!

      I have worked with many hard working and diverse people over the years...learned a lot.

      Hmmm...very interesting article on professional working ethics.
      • 7 Years Ago
      man, i worked 60hr weeks for a year and a half, and i know plenty of people who work way more for a lot longer. the key is to not take your work home.

      stress will kill you. them japs just need to learn how to chillax.
      • 7 Years Ago
      One could write volumes on the Japanese work ethic and it's cultural and societal implications. It's fascinating and crazy... just like so many aspects of Japan.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think that this is far more common in the US as well. It is not uncommon for people here to work 60+ hours a week for months on end (especially on special projects). Additionally, unless you are an hourly worker - I think that most salaried employees do not get paid for overtime.

      As far as why you would do that... not everyone is blessed by rich families or are independently wealthy. Some people actually work hard for a living and are interested in succeeding - moving forward, promotions, success. Different people define this all differently. Some times, this means working hard for a large corporation.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This is exactly why we have created a service just to address these over worked situations.

      Visit us at

      HELPONTHEHUDSON.com
        • 7 Years Ago
        please stop spamming your crappy concierge services....heartless assholes
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