business

Death by overwork: Japan's 100-hour overtime cap sparks anger

49 Comments
By Natsuko Fukue

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© 2017 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


49 Comments
Login to comment

Wont matter if it was 50 or 80hrs, its just window dressing anyhow.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

100 OVERTIME hours per month? Is this correct? That would mean 25 hours of overtime per week, 5 hours onto each day, or a 7 day working week with no days off, and it would be legal?!

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Actually it includes Sat and Sun. Mostly retail managers and parcel delivery.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I worked in San Francisco and there are workaholics there in spades. The biggest differences are that in the US 1) generally hard work and long hours leads to more pay and position, 2) professionals putting in long hours have a lot of freedom to work from home, or flexible times, and 3) changing a job in case of a nightmare boss is much easier.

I would add that living in Tokyo I have a total commute time of 2 hours which on many days is like a herd of refugees. It is extremely stressful and feels at time violent. I never ever had such work commute stress in the US. Ghosh bless.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

How can a 100-hour cap be legal!!! When will be time for relaxing :(

5 ( +5 / -0 )

article: Rengo's president Rikio Kozu praised the scheme as "the first step taken toward eliminating karoshi."

Is this guy for real? 100 hours per month is by no measure a step towards eliminating karoshi. It is a BIG step backward but what can you expect when just being in the office is far more appreciated than efficiency and productivity?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

a 100 hours per month is still twice as much as it should be. If you have a job that requires you to work more than half your allotted 40 hours per week as overtime, you are either really bad at your job or the company you work for is understaffed.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

This overtime situation shows that they either need more staff or to stop taking on so much work. Human beings need rest, they need time away from work... we're not robots. My ex suffered from the stress of overtime at her job and it made her very ill... what way is that to live?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This is Japan. Why did anything think anything would actually change? What's more, this is only the legal limit (which is already illegal) for LOGGED hours. So, companies will just demand employees log less, but still work the same overtime. But let's say the "limit" is strictly adhered to at 100 overtime hours a month. If someone works a 9-5 job, Monday to Friday, that means they could be forced to work five extra hours every business day, meaning it becomes 9-10, or 13 hours. That does not include commuting time, nor does it take into the account that pretty much NO company in Japan allows staff to go home at 5:00 p.m.

This is simply lip-service, and very bad lip-service. It is government mandated slavery.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Only 100 hour limit? That's the same as not really putting a limit at all. And this is considered a "historic step"??

8 ( +8 / -0 )

It's tantamount to endorsing a limit that could cause overwork deaths,

To paraphrase one smart fella, welcome to japan. The place where easy things are hard and complicated things are impossible.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Making staff work long hours of over 100 hours per month is just pure greed. It means that companies even though they're making profits they are unwilling to take on more staff and instead make their full-time staff work longer and longer hours to the detriment of their health It's disgusting!Fall time staff work long hours as it is already.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Workaholic Japan has unveiled its first-ever plan to limit overtime, ...Overtime is viewed as a sign of dedication at many firms, even if Japanese workers' productivity lags behind that of their US and European counterparts. New rule: Whenever this topic comes up in the news, we need to stop talking about "workaholic Japan" and start talking about "ineptly inefficient Japan". Because if this country isn't going to respect its workers enough to give them time to recouperate, there is no reason for the rest of us to respect the abysmal GDP/hour worked the country generates.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They must stop this! More staff should be hired.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

All work and no play makes...company execs richer!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

recognised the problem. doubled the legal requirement, problem fixed. but try increasing politicions work hours then its a problem

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Working 100 hours overtime month in, month out is insane. Bad for the workers, bad for their families and bad for the companies. In the UK I knew many young doctors forced to work 100 hours/week and came home like zombies and mindless.

If a company needs so many hours of overtime then they are not employing enough workers. More workers not more overtime.

100 hours per month Monday-Friday, would be about 5 hours per day. Maximum overtime per month should be no more than 10-15% of the normal agreed hours. No weekend working unless part of the job, like doctor, fireman but then days off in the week.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What these knuckleheads don't seem to grasp is these long hours are counterproductive. Japan is the least productive economy in the G20. Work smarter not harder!

I work in finance in the US, but because I am not a manager I am overtime elgible. i average 3-5 hours OT a week which adds about $10k a year to my pay. And this comes on top of my generous 4 weeks paid vacation, to which I am able to purchase 1 additional week. That enables me to spend 3weeks in Japan every summer with my family and still be able to have off for the holidays in the US. BTW, all that free time makes it much easier to make babies! Time to get a clue Japan!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Son in law just had a baby, and was given 1 day off to be made up in the future. Asked for a reduction in the overwork but was told NO? Thats a strange request? Currently printing out the Labour Laws but me thinks that the paper its printed on is worth less than toilet paper.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Now, the sad part is that we all know that, be it 15, 100, 200 or 2500 hours a month, it's all talk and no action whatsoever.

Nothing but a little candy to keep the hopes up and avert eyes from any scandal.

Why do i think so? Well, I've been hearing the talk about this miraculous overtime reform for as long i am in Japan, since Hashimoto, and, nothing ever left the paper.

Perhaps they should create the "Miraculous Santa Klaus Reform", which Santa would bring billions of dollars as donations for the corporations, so they spare their footmen for a few hours of a the month. That would work as well, pretty sure.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It just goes to show that the government don't really want change, and care much, much more for business than they do people.

It's pathetic. Laughable.

How could this seriously be tabled as a progressive option in any well-balanced, sensible society?

Oh, wait.....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The question is what percentage of overtime workers do it because they have to or they just want to? No life outside of work or to avoid going home.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

100 hours a month limit! Insane!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@TigersTokyoDome

"That would mean 25 hours of overtime per week, 5 hours onto each day, or a 7 day working week with no days off, and it would be legal?!"

The logic, insane thought it might be, is this: you're at work for 13 hours, plus 2 more hours for commuting, which leaves you with one more hour to eat and bathe, and you can still get eight hours of sleep (which, despite what any Japanese boss will claim, really is what the human body needs). So if you work those hours, you aren't in any physical danger even if you will have all kinds of mental problems. I worked longer hours than that when I first arrived in Japan and found the 12-hour days to be infinitely less miserable than the 14-hour ones just because sleep deprivation hurts more than anything else.

What makes me angriest about the number in this plan is that it "anchors" the discussion at a level that is so high that it makes other numbers (like the 40 unpaid hours that my employer demands) look reasonable. How can you complain about only working 40 extra hours when the "standard" is 100? I wish the labor lawyers had pushed back harder against Abe and Dentsu; this is yet another huge victory for Japan Inc. and a big loss for the poor beleaguered salarymen, who can't ever catch a break.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Two of Japan's critical problems: A decline in population and a slow economy - can be fixed with a simple law: No more than 25 overtime hours per month for salary-men.

If you can't figure out how to get your job done in 9 hours, then you're doing it wrong. If you can, and you're just doing more of it; then your life is out of balance.

Those simple fixes - along with a complete overhaul and modernization of the antiquated and, quite frankly, embarrassing gomi/waste management system (which prevents people from buying new things because throwing the old thing away is too much of a pain in the oshiri) will begin turn Japan into the first world nation it's designed to be.

Then they can begin to focus on the housing crisis - 1 in 5 houses is abandoned.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

100 hours cap!!

This is like a sick joke.

Or more like a vicious trap that catches and slowly destroys the poor workers.

It really makes me angry... it's just stupid and wrong.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

That's a cap?   Inconceivable. I don't think it means what you think it means.

It's just failed management to not hire enough people versus DEATH.  You can't make this up

0 ( +1 / -1 )

...a sign of dedication at many firms, even if Japanese workers' productivity lags What a travesty. Sadly, there is no collective will to improve productivity in a shorter amount of time. However, there are solutions even if no one wants to consider them:

Get rid of interminable meetings and pre-meetings to decide what the meeting will decide. 2. Get rid of lally-gagging around and the culture of "looking busy" until the boss says you can go home (even though your tasks are completed). 3. Get rid of the obligatory drinking with the boss and cohorts after work.

Implementing the following would help reduce hours greatly.

Set time limits on meetings and expect attendees to be prepared to contribute ideas and make decisions. 2. Get busy and do the required work in the set amount of time knowing that work completed on time will be rewarded in some tangible way (bonuses or time off). 3. Send workers and bosses home to their families to enjoy much needed recuperation at a set hour.

If the actual work/production cannot be completed in the time limits, require companies to hire more workers rather than working those they do have to death.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Sorry--under the new effed-over revisions of the comments section, the above quote is incorrect. My comment starts at "What a travesty."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

100 hours of overtime a month is absurd. I work in the USA. To have that regulation permitting such in the USA would be construed as slave labor!! Japan wonders why they are seeing a sharp population decline. It is because Japanese culture is not family centered, but business centered. Who can have a family, or wants to have a family, when the Japanese worker is married to their job instead of their spouse? How can any Japanese worker have quality family time when working 100 hours of overtime a month is seen as acceptable? 100 hours of overtime approximates 25 hours a week or 5 hours a day. Add that to an average 8 hour workday and a Japanese worker would be working 13 hours a day!! It is time for the Japanese population to speak up and say enough is enough. Your elected politicians who seem to be more interested in what benefits Japanese companies and industry need to be voted out, for politicians who will represent you, and your families. Of course those companies probably contribute large sums of money to the politicians that want to continue to enslave you. Only you have the power to change the intolerable situation the government and Japanese industry have placed you in through your vote.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I was once told by my ex father in law in japan that work is number one and the family or children comes the second. Now you know why so many broken homes and kids gone astray in Japan. Due to workoholic system, Japans population is sinking. OVERTIME? Are the paid more for the overtime? Follow what USA did. No overtime for regular employees because the pay for over time is high. So they hire part timers. Wise and smart idea bcuz the pay is low compared to the regulars. IMHO

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If it weren't for Japanese docility, this type of abuse would have ended long ago. Waiting around like proles for the government, keidanren or the toothless collaborative rengo to deliver you from wage slavery and other abusive practices is why the majority of Japanese suffer through decades of despair-inducing work, having no lives outside of the office, no time for their loved ones, who are largely alienated from them.

With fewer workers to go around, now is the time for Japanese to find common cause and use the only practices that have ever led to significant gains in wages or benefits, strikes and actual functioning unions that treat their employers not as benevolent daimyo but as the exploiters they indeed are.

But of course, I could be wrong, several more years of the LDP politely requesting their corporate bedfellows to raise wages or to stop being mean might just do the trick.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

if they said full time workers should work a total of 100 hours a month, I would totally be on board that progressive agenda.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Abe is basically celebrating the halving of wages and the halving of productivity or whatever percentage it is. Overtime, no extra pay, a country of suckers!

Believing Japanese will strike for a better life I realize will never happen. No backbone. It's hilarious for me to watch from the outside, but I feel sorry for the futility of Japanese working life while it plods along toward its demographic cliff

I agree with the above, make it a total of 100 hours a month. You need more, hire.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What this means is you can only record (and get approved to be paid for, hopefully) 100 hours per month. Over 100 and the company is free of any responsibility. A lot of Japanese workers don't even record their overtime, because it often requires prior approval from higher-ups to do so. So it's hard to know how many hours people really work, since it's not often left on paper or recorded by the company/individual. There is often a very feudal business atmosphere going on that creates extreme pressure to conform to this, but it starts in elementary school. Businesses (especially the typical shain culture) are basically just an extension of Japanese schools/sports clubs.

It's not like in individualistic countries where people are taught to value themselves as an end in and of themselves. In Japan your value is decided by your efforts to contribute to and be a functioning part of your team/class/department/organization. There is extreme judgment and hatred for the "lazy" who refuse to work like everyone else.

Some people here seem to find a lot of fulfillment in this way of business and their company is their comfort zone and family basically. But it's not going to change anytime soon by just shuffling some laws and papers around.

Getting rid of lifetime employment and replacing it with part-time and contract work will probably be the only thing that can change these values unfortunately.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The upper limit of overtime is agreed between the employer and the labor union. 100 hour is the upper limit of the agreed upper limit. The upper limit at the workplace I work at is a lot lower than 100 hours.

Ask your labor union what your upper limit is. You will find this whole debate on "the upper limit of the upper limit" is almost irrelevant to your life.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

My old company contract said that overtime up to 70 hours a month was unpaid. Then from the 71st hour you could start getting OT payment. This was because 70 hour OT was supposedly included in your salary already. I wonder at some of these companies that are killing people, do they even pay them for the OT?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Just put in place better support so civil action taken by these people relative that do die form overwork have the ability to sue for massive amounts like 10 million usa if proven that the death was cased by overwork.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Blacklabel Today 11:35 am JST My old company contract said that overtime up to 70 hours a month was unpaid.

If a person works more than 8 hours a day, the employer must pay additional wages for the hours over 8 hours. So, if your regular working hours is, say, 4 hours a day, and if you work additional 4 hours a day as overtime, the total working hours a day is still 8 hours and the employer does not need to pay for the overtime.

Overtime must be paid if

the employee works more than 8 ours a day or the employee works more than 40 hours a week. Any agreement between the employer and the employee that is more beneficial to the employee is valid and any agreement that is more beneficial to the employer is invalid.
0 ( +0 / -0 )

Transportation service group Yamato Holdings Co. said Tuesday it will pay about 47,000 employees ¥19 billion in unpaid overtime for the past two years.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@CH3CHO: Thanks for the info! That wasnt what they were doing at all. Work hours were 8 hrs per day, 40 hrs a week. If you worked 12 that day then you were +4 hours for the calendar month. As long as you werent +70 by the end of the month, you got paid no OT payments at all. Even if you worked a 6th or 7th day a week, those hours just got added to your monthly total. The contract said it was included in monthly salary. I guess there are lots of ways companies use to get around all of these rules.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I used to work 12-13 hours or more a day, and sometimes on weekends, and I went through a pretty severe bout with depression because it. It seemed like the only reason I went home was to sleep and eat dinner. Went to work at 6am and came home at 9PM, eat dinner, then sleep. This was my life for nearly 9 months, until the depression set in, and I no longer felt like a person anymore. I can't even imagine how people can live like this for years on end.

The sad part is, even with amount of time I spent at work, this would all still be legal. The new law does NOTHING to curb overtime. 100 hours a month is extreme. I think 50 hours a month should be the legal limit. That would be a 9AM to 8PM shift (minus 1 hour for lunch) every day for a month, which is more than reasonable and acceptable amount of time anyone should be allowed to work. Any more than that, the company should be flagged as a black business or a sweatshop.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Blacklabel Today 03:34 pm JST @CH3CHO: Thanks for the info! That wasnt what they were doing at all. Work hours were 8 hrs per day, 40 hrs a week. If you worked 12 that day then you were +4 hours for the calendar month. As long as you werent +70 by the end of the month, you got paid no OT payments at all.

I think you should see lawyers. They will make your employer pay for the unpaid overtime, though the complaint must be filed within two years of the occurrence of the unpaid wages.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

CH3CHO, one trick these companies pull (mine only demands 40 hours compared to Blacklabel's 70) is to lower your base salary by a certain amount and then say that your salary consists of the new base plus an "overtime allowance". This way, you can't make the claim because part of your salary was already earmarked to pay for overtime.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Perhaps the only way to tackle this issue would be to force companies to pay astronomical sum for any overtime. In other words make it very painful for the company to have the employees do overtime. If paying overtime is equivalent or worse then hiring new staff, then companies wouldn't want their employees to do overtime. Any adjustments made with salary combined with overtime should be illegal.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

ThonTaddeo Apr. 20 10:23 pm JST

I think you should see a lawyer. The law says that the wage for the overtime must be calculated by the following formula.

overtime wage = overtime hours x normal wage per hour x 1.25

"normal wage" is the wage the worker receives if he/she works regular work hours. "overtime hours" is the hours that exceeds 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week

What you call "overtime allowance" is included in the "normal wage" and the employer must pay overtime wage in addition to "overtime allowance".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What most people don't realise is that here in the UK most lorry drivers are clocking up these sort of hours every week to, and there are lots of other jobs that demand long hours, does any one in Japan just get up put there coat on and say, "well i am off i will see you tomorrow?" at 5.30, its not just about changing the law, you have to change attitudes, this is probably harder than changing the law

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Being born in Japan is one of the unluckiest starts in life you can get in the developed world.

An education system and culture that means that you will never speak a foreign language and will probably mean that you are imprisoned in Japan. But at least you do not get to see what you are missing out on, such as:

holidays - Europeans generally have 20 to 25 paid vacation days a year and usually take them off, including a 2-week summer holiday.

shorter working hours - there are not many who work much over 50 hours a week, with most doing about 40 hours.

Yet despite these working hours, the rest of the developed world has a standard of living comparable to Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I was going to comment, but I don't have time. I have to go to work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites