Japanese work culture again under scrutiny as NHK says death of employee caused by overwork

Japan’s work culture is once again under scrutiny following the admission by national broadcaster NHK that the death of a 31-year-old employee had been caused by overwork.

Miwa Sado, who died of heart failure in July 2013, had logged 159 hours of overtime and took only two days off in the month leading up to her death.

Masahiko Yamauchi, a senior official within NHK’s news department, admitted Sado’s death was not a personal matter but a “problem for our organisation as a whole, including the labour system and how elections are covered”, reported Tokyo-based news agency Kyodo News.

The acknowledgment came more than three years after a labour standards office had attributed her death to karoshi (death from overwork), primarily due to the wishes of Sado’s family.

The admission by NHK follows a high-profile Tokyo court hearing into the work-related suicide of 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi in December 2015.

An employee of advertising agency Dentsu, Takahashi had clocked 105 hours of overtime between 9 October and 7 November and committed suicide on Christmas Day 2015.

The president of Dentsu, Toshihiro Yamamoto, admitted in court this month that the company had allowed employees to work illegal levels of overtime.


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