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crime

Illegal amounts of overtime going on at 37% of Japanese companies in government inspections

46 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Japan is a hard-working society, and so workers are expected to be in the office and ready to get going on the day’s tasks by their company’s starting time. Japanese companies are notoriously less punctual, though, when it comes to letting workers go home at the official quitting time.

For many jobs in Japan, it’s not a question of whether or not you’ll have to work overtime, but how much overtime you’ll have to do. In recent years, however, there’s been a growing concern that such long hours are having a negative affect on the population’s physical and mental health, leading to new laws and initiatives that aim to reduce workloads to more reasonable levels.

Unfortunately, changing decades of ingrained business culture isn’t so easy. During the 2020 fiscal year (which ran from roughly April 2020 to March 2021), the Japanese government’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare performed 24,042 on-site workplace inspections looking for improper overtime work taking place, and found it at 8,904, or 37 percent, of them.

Those violations were either employees working overtime without a proper labor agreement covering the practice or the amount of overtime exceeding the limits specified in the arrangement. Out of the 8,904 locations where violations were taking place, the Ministry confirmed cases of workers doing more than 80 hours of overtime in the span of a single month at 2,982 of them (12.4 percent of the total sites inspected). They also confirmed cases of workers doing more than 150 hours of overtime in a month at 419 locations (1.7 percent of the total).

Even with regular overtime work being a part of life for many people in Japan for decades, those are some startling numbers, and online reactions to the ministry’s report have included:

“People are getting worked to death.”

“As workers do more and more overtime their productivity starts to drop, but even now there are a lot of companies that just try to power through things.”

“A lot of people are working from home these days, and I think they end up spending the time they would have spent commuting doing more work instead.”

“Is Japan going to be OK?”

The numbers paint a dark picture, but there might be the faintest glimmer of a silver lining to them. First, the ministry’s inspections took place at workplaces from which they’d received employee reports of excessive overtime or otherwise already had reason to suspect wrongdoing was taking place, which suggests the 37-percent violation rate among the inspected workplaces is higher than the number would be for a survey of all companies in Japan.

Also, while a 37-percent violation rate among the inspected workplaces is definitely cause for concern, it’s actually the lowest percentage the ministry has found since it began publicly announcing the annual investigation’s results following the 2016 fiscal year. So at least the number is moving in the right direction, even if it looks like getting Japanese companies to stop making their employees work such long hours is a job that’s going to take a long time.

Sources: NHK News Web via Otakomu, Nihon Keizai Shimbun

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Vending machines in Tokyo Station not getting restocked, exploitative “black company” to blame

-- Tokyo advertising company institutes mandatory lights-out time following employee suicide

-- Japanese companies want to monitor employees working overtime using in-office flying drones

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

46 Comments
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It’s not a crime! It’s culture!

The national limit of 100 per month is still utterly ridiculous!

17 ( +21 / -4 )

For a full time employee, overtime is unpaid! Job for life means you get job, company gets your life. I don't know why Japanese cling to this system.

25 ( +27 / -2 )

@Do the hustle

It is not culture, it is exploitation based on unequal power relations. We all need to ask why we have some degree of democracy in our civil lives, but don't demand this in our workplaces, which are run more autocratically.

22 ( +23 / -1 )

Many employees have the opportunity to leave work at a reasonable time. However most chose not to as to not be the first one to leave. They would rather stay and save face. This is definitely a cultural issue.

S

22 ( +22 / -0 )

The Japanese people are constantly exposed to exploitation in the work place just as they were in the brainwashed days of Showa militarism. Heisei ran, and Reiwa runs, almost like WW2 Redux. A cultural revolution coming from the grass roots woke is the only way to escape the loop of Japan's never-ending air-conditioned nightmare.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

It's ok, they will issue a new "guidance" "suggesting" that companies consider whether they "may" be requiring too much overtime.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

"37%". Thank you for my Thursday morning chuckle.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Doing overtime doesn't necessarily mean working.

18 ( +19 / -1 )

Maybe a bit off topic, but maybe not.

I had a student last year who got a job offer for after she graduated. The salary looked fair, but then she did a little more thinking. She looked at the monthly salary and the monthly required hours (regular work hours + "service" overtime hours + "miscellaneous" hours ) and divided the pay by the hours. Her hourly pay came out to be exactly minimum wage for Okayama prefecture - 700 something yen an hour! For a 正社員 position! She then informed me she was already making 980 yen an hour at her Starbucks part-time job. She, rightly, rejected the offer and entered management training at Starbucks. The overtime is just a way to rob people of labor and suppress wages.

20 ( +20 / -0 )

Those violations were either employees working overtime without a proper labor agreement covering the practice or the amount of overtime exceeding the limits specified in the arrangement. Out of the 8,904 locations where violations were taking place, the Ministry confirmed cases of workers doing more than 80 hours of overtime in the span of a single month at 2,982 of them (12.4 percent of the total sites inspected). They also confirmed cases of workers doing more than 150 hours of overtime in a month at 419 locations (1.7 percent of the total).

Call it what it is:Theft. On a massive scale, organized, institutionalized made into a tradition and almost unprosecutable in this context.

And undoubtedly this ministerial report downplays its true extent.

Treat it like they do the homeless stealing coins from the temple donation boxes: Sting operations and arrests. Then the "justice" system might start making some real contributions to society.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Ignore the false positive caveat. It's scandalous and disgraceful that over 400 companies were forcing (either actively or passive aggressively) workers to do more than 150 hours overtime in a month.

When will we hear of arrests and imprisonment; naming and shaming of these companies?

Oh yeah, we won't.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

the loop of Japan's never-ending air-conditioned nightmare.

Even that is an optimistic look at things; we once had proper air conditioning, but these days most companies keep things at 28 degrees indoors to save money. Oops, did I say money? I meant energy. Energy. We all know how environmentally conscious Japanese corporations are.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

People in Japan don't work hard. They just work inefficiently.

In my previous job, we used a certain internal SW system that tracked everything from SLAs, network and HW monitoring on endpoints, and users logged into that SW system. Everyone who came to work automatically logged into that SW via a thin client. And every step (e.g. network analysis, troubleshooting) was tracked and logs could be easily made according to different filters. At the same time, this recorded attendance.

Only, even so, the supervisor made reports which (of course) he sent in Excel. Only he had to rewrite them in Excel, the SW did the output in PDF.

Reports every other day and then at the beginning of the new week for the previous week. He was doing reports for all his subordinates, and thus had a huge amount of overtime, as many times there were human errors in the reports.

No one in our offices in other countries did this, they all made do with a clear PDF which included the charts generated. When someone from the US HQ sent him a question about why he was doing this, he replied that the bosses here wanted Japanese style reports...

8 ( +10 / -2 )

37%%%%%%%%%!?

It's much higher than that of course, it is a fact that almost all companies are NOT paying overtime labor, in fact many are not even paying the regular salary or the contracted salary on time, and may are FLAT OUT thieves where workers are never paid in full, always short few thousand yens.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

In USA, Managers do not get overtime pay. I have never been paid for overtime as I was put in a Manager's fixed salary for most of my life.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

It’s not about the quality of your work, but the hours you spend at your desk.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

In the west the union will provide some protection to the workers and guarantee certain right, In Japan the Union is actually part of the company and you are on your own.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

@thelonious For a full time employee, overtime is unpaid! Job for life means you get job, company gets your life

Have you ever been 正社員 or actually know anything about 人事労務? Because your statement is incorrect. I applaud your gusto, but the fact is that many companies offer paid overtime for full-time employees; how overtime factors into salary is up to the company and agreed upon in the employment contract.

I don't disagree that a lot of companies DON'T pay overtime, but it's certainly a false to assert that all overtime is unpaid for full-time employees.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What's the point in reporting it, if they aren't actually going to do something about it???

9 ( +10 / -1 )

90% of my japanese co-workers are working everyday up to 14 hours.

Reasons:

They have nothing else to do in their lives beside work.

They get paid for it.

Basically, I work my normal 8 hours. (Of course sometimes there are exceptions).

But I tell you one thing, I work more effective in my 8 hours, than my japanese co-workers in their 14 hours.

Most of their 14 hours day, they are in meaningless meetings, which I regular skip, because these meetings are a waste of time. Completely unproductive!

The japanese workers work longer hours than other countries workers, but they are NOT working more effective or more productive.

They are just longer present at the company!

Normally my japanese Co-workers here don't need to work 14 hours.

But like I said above, they have nothing else to do in their lives beside work, and they get paid for it.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

the headline would be more correct by saying "illegal amounts of overtime found on 37% of the companies" It is unbelievable the amount of effort being done in some places not to prevent the overworking of the employees but to hide it, it would be naive to think all companies exploiting their employees were found in the inspections.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@Monty

exactly this! it's wholly inefficient! they are wasting human and physical resources by sitting in the office for so long. wasting electricity and life.

It's honestly disturbing how many Japanese people I've met who don't have any hobbies or know what to do outside of work aside from drinking.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

If the Japanese people are so hard working as written in the article, then why is overtime even needed?

My personal experience is that they fake being hard working and very good at faking that, which I find sad.

When I used to get my assigned work done and approved I left. Bosses thanked me. Did not want a raise nor be promoted as I would have to remain all day.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Monty said it all.

If asked why they have to work overtime, a Japanese will answer "I have to".

Empty words for empty lives for a very large portion of workers.

Personally, I had reported officially overtime in my first year. Then I was explained unofficially it was a bit abnormal to report so.

As a foreign on a 3 year contract, I stopped because I was already very well paid. In exchange of staying late at office in general (I did not care much overall as I was living on my own during weektime), I was enjoying long 2 hours or way more lunch break nearly everyday at my weekday home 4 minutes home away, and anyway was leaving earlier when needed at least once a week for my badminton session.

My poor fellow workers were for many losing time in long journeys to home/office by train, and could hardly ever discuss of any hobbies indeed.

Apply for your rights if you are an adult, or shut up and be a slave. Not my cup of tea for the latter ;)

Work for a foreignly run and organized company would be my advice.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Robert: the supervisor made reports which (of course) he sent in Excel. Only he had to rewrite them in Excel, the SW did the output in PDF.

Think I could replace this person in less than a week of coding a few scripts. Sometimes the best answer is to fire the boss making ridiculous demands.

When I worked in Japan the first time, they had a tag-team of employees to stay with me - a translator, team members who worked in the morning, then some different people who showed up a 3pm for the evening shift. It was a 9a-11p type work week for me, though 1 evening we all left around 7p for dinner, drinking and complaining about the boss. You know what I mean.

The 2nd and later trips (I was going over about 15 times a year), my contract was very clear that 8 hours/day was the amount of work they would get. No other parts of the SoW boilerplate changed. They tried to do the tag-team thing, but I got up and walked out after 9+ hours on the first day. The next day, there was a meeting where I help up the SoW contract. Also, any little requests they'd usually make were not handled immediately if it wasn't in the SoW, unless it really was trivial and only after the SoW work scheduled for the day was completed.

It was a bad day for my interpreter, since he got to explain it to the managers.

I like to think that the people I directly worked with got to leave earlier too, but ...

4 ( +5 / -1 )

theFuToday 11:24 am JST

Robert: the supervisor made reports which (of course) he sent in Excel. Only he had to rewrite them in Excel, the SW did the output in PDF.

Think I could replace this person in less than a week of coding a few scripts. Sometimes the best answer is to fire the boss making ridiculous demands.

And that's exactly it. Our supervisor had his own job, but he also just had to do these reports slavishly. Reports that his superiors only wanted here in Japan. No one in the foreign offices required any printed reports, because everyone could generate them themselves, e.g. in PDF in the internal software based on various filters. From attendance, through who did what and how much, etc.

Only, the supervisors here, who were originally another company and merged with us (long story), just wanted Excel reports. And they wanted them to be done manually (supposedly for "control").

So the supervisor, in addition to his job, spent most of his time and overtime just doing things around those reports. And to make sure our branch didn't have such a high overtime for the US HQ, another person was hired to split the main work with the supervisor (who did the reports).

A complete waste of time and money by hiring another person, just because someone here wanted something that was already available.

It was a similar situation with meetings, where even within the foreign branches they did video meetings (because it is difficult to have all the people in one meeting room due to different schedules). But here it was mandatory to attend the meetings - so instead of working remotely, one had to go to the company and attend the face-to-face meeting. This meant he lost time for his work and had to work it off later - unpaid overtime.

We had offices in almost every country, the company culture and procedures were the same everywhere, only the Japanese office was different. Being a large IT company, the US HQ tried to transform the Japanese office procedures (and stuff) several times, but it always went back to the same tracks or was dealt by a human proxy.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

You can’t have everything at the same time. Maybe the low unemployment rates here are a little hint. Everyone does a little bit for a little money and all do it all day long even in additional overtime. Or you have an ultra effective company in another country with very few staff working hard and only the contract time, only very few overtime and only obligation to be available for phone calls in free time, but then those elite employees have to jump over quite some homeless when commuting or someone less successful and unemployed takes some higher wages or even life from them one day sooner or later. Same workload, same money sum involved, but the whole system and social structure differs in details, not so much in general economic outcome. Inefficiency very widespread, but still economically number three in the world isn’t that bad as a result.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Japan is a hard-working society

NOPE.

You work for free, the profit goes to the company owners/shareholders. They like to use the "loyalty" card to guilt you into doing unpaid overtime.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I am in the over working boat. (1000 percent) Always have been

I get maybe 4 to 5 days off a month. Work starts 9:00 am sometimes runs to 8:00 pm or even later.

This is what is required. Even if I report the company. The only thing that will happen is. I will irritate the board and the CEO. I am expected to work as our Japanese co-parts. And for me it would even be a more volatile situation as a I carry the title GM (Jomu). I am supposed to push that narrative. Work first everything else in your life second. I have often thought of a case where a certain English school chain a National one in Japan got a Union involved and scores of payouts in over time where handed out too its Japanese staff but (NOT) the foreign teacher. Thats right. No payouts for them. Just no over working. Its a National case that can be easily discovered with some digging.

Being I am the only foreign staff here. I think the blow back for me would be quite severe. There is already a power harassment culture here from the CEO when employees fail to execute the position your in flawlessly or without fail to meet sales quotas and every aspect of your job and more.

Also, I have been denied my right to take yuku after years of dedication and loyal work. It seems my bosses can not imagine a day without me here moving metal for the company by their side. I am in my twenty second year with perfect attendance last 5 years which is never easy at my age. (50).

As an Italian American growing up in the height of the American Italian Mafia in NY/Boston. I always think to myself of the oath of Omerta those new rook Mafiosi would take for Gotti or Big Paul, The Chin, others. It would be said are you must willing to put your own blood family on hold. Even if your Mother is dying if the boss calls you must go. That the family must come first. I am being a bit dramatic. I apologize, but when these articles here on JT surface it strikes a nerve to here all the good things the Labor standards act over site wants to implement and achieve. What a joke!

The family ( my company )

Omerta. (No paper contract) you agree at this level where I am on a bow and spoken Japanese that the company comes first. Preform "働き, はたらき" & "あなたの働きに応じて賃金が支払われる"。I am made to say in our shaze in board meetings. (as this saint burns in your hands) During the Monthly Chore.

Company wide meetings. These are not complaints, Its just the way of life at this point. It just motivated me to make an alternate plan. The big exit without notice out of Japan. Just be done one day and soon at that. But be close enough to come back to file for nenkin in two years.

There is no big pot of gold in Japan when your done working here. Get an exit plan. Stack money.

I do miss the days of the simplicity of being an ALT.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The meetings is what frustrates me the most.... for every petty decision (i.e how should we word our chaser email to client) requires a meeting where they always need to arrive at a consensus decision... and the brainstorming is done during the meeting - noone does any prep beforehand!! why can't they think and act more independently .... i've had thoughts of jumping out the window during these meetings!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The planet needs to slowdown. Why are we rushing to get stuff done, just to turn around and do the same thing the next day? What is it all for? To make boardmembers that don't give a crap about you more money???

1 ( +1 / -0 )

. Her hourly pay came out to be exactly minimum wage for Okayama prefecture - 700 something yen an hour! For a 正社員 position! She then informed me she was already making 980 yen an hour at her Starbucks part-time job.

Great post; it shows how the JGov is complicit with JInc for coercing people into these positions.

With the slightly higher hourly wage job she is paying all of those regressive pension, health, and city taxes out by herself at the end of the month. The salaried position contributes some to that payment.

It is an extortionate scam.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

FYI

GDP per hour work

Luxembourg.US$93.4 No 1.

Japan. US$41.19 No. 20

Iceland is No. 19

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It is appalling here tbh !

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@ Monty - I can definitely relate. I think I'm the only one in my company who actually writes a "To do" list and gets things done with less hours, compared to my Japanese counterparts. It's their life if they choose it. My wife (Japanese) tells me that Salaryman usually have meetings that only amount to 20% at best of value. The rest is just wasting time. In the end, I say, "It's their life."

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For a full time employee, overtime is unpaid! Job for life means you get job, company gets your life. I don't know why Japanese cling to this system.

yes my brother in law had the same type of job, the yearly salary was actually pretty good but when you add the 100+ hrs of overtime into the equation it worked out that hes was lucky to make the hourly minimum wage. he would have been better off working at Mcdonalds

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My first Jp company had a contract with 40hours of overtime build into the base salary. So you would not be paid any overtime until you reached 41 hours per month, the base salary was low anyway.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have commented previously about this situation.

More people die from overwork than COVID, the government can do something, they choose not to.

Japanese are not any more hard working than other countries, they spend inefficient time at the workplace. It is well known (and proven by Microsoft in Tokyo) that after around 8 hours people make more mistakes, leading to ever increasing inefficiency. Microsoft demonstrated that efficiency increased by 40% when working hours were restricted.

The culture is more about staying at the office longer as a means of pleasing the manager or employer, custom dictates that if you are the first to leave then you apologise. Shameful beyond belief.

The effect of long hours on the individual and their extended family is immeasurable, the increase in demands at home, domestic violence, lack of affection all affect the wider social problems that Japan faces.

Go to a cemetry, take a photograph of the tomb that has the inscription, this stone is dedicated to this person by xy12345 inc. because they worked 14 hours a day......then you understand, you are a commodity.

As the companies are owned by investors, you are simply slaves in an environment that makes the rice, richer.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The dysfunctional work-life balance in Japan starts from the Asian culture of tatemae imbibed with mother's milk which feeds the affliction many Japanese suffer from: a ubiquitous, endemic imposter syndrome almost impossible to shake for fear of losing face in a conformist shame culture operated by narrow-minded bullies pulling rank.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And tho we don't get bonuses, per say, this is why many people work for themselves. None of this overtime bs. Yes, we work long hours, but because we want to and we get paid for it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've always thought that if the Japanese worked as hard as they said they did, they'd be home an hour early, not four hours late.

And as long as your average Japanese salary person lacks the stones to tell the boss to go eff themselves, nothing will change.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And as long as your average Japanese salary person lacks the stones to tell the boss to go eff themselves, nothing will change.

Keen understanding of Japanese business culture there . . .

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Keen understanding of Japanese business culture there . . .

I'm going to assume you're being sarcastic so I'll draw you out... you don't think that things would change if, en masse, Japanese workers started to punch out at five every day and refused to do any unpaid overtime?

It's not going to happen of course, but I'd love to see it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

you don't think that things would change if, en masse, Japanese workers started to punch out at five every day and refused to do any unpaid overtime?

This is classic game theory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory). An example of game theory is the police separating two guilty suspects. The police offer each suspect a deal if they rat on the other. For the suspects, their best bet is to both stay silent. More often than not though, at least one person will generally break.

The best option for the people would be for workers to unite, and the people to refuse to step up to work if one of those uniting workers was let go for uniting. This would create an environment in which management would be forced to re-think their working structure, due to a lack of willing workers with their current requirement of overtime.

However, it only takes the unwilllingness of the workers to unite, and/or others willing to step up to work when workers get fired, for the management to win and set the rules as they see fit. Power begets power, so once the management has power, without any kind of balance/regulation, they get all the power. This is what has happened in Japan. Employees don't really have an option, as their employers will just let them go and fill the position with someone who is willing to work, and there aren't many other options, why is why there are so many willing to (aka having a necessity to) work.

This is why government needs to set regulation to prevent the overreach of power of employers/corporations over their employees. Capitalism is a great system in order to inspire motivation, but as with everything, when taken to an extreme, the "side-effects" end up creating a negative imbalance over the positive effects being aimed for.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Strangerland,

Thanks, great response.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Stand up for your rights J inc slaves!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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