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Dentsu received labor bureau warning 4 months before employee’s suicide

24 Comments

Advertising giant Dentsu has revealed that it received a warning from the Tokyo Labor Bureau in August last year for illegally forcing its employees to work long hours. Four months after this warning, however, a new female employee killed herself due to fatigue due from overwork. The bureau has been investigating the case to see if Dentsu continued to make its employees work long hours even after its warning, Sankei Shimbun reported.

According to Dentsu, the graduate employee, Matsuri Takahashi, aged 24, committed suicide in a company dorm on Dec 25, 2015, after having been forced to work more than 100 hours overtime a month. She had joined the company in April that year.

The case has been in the media all week and was also brought up during Diet discussions, with some lawmakers calling for Dentsu's labor practices to be thoroughly investigated.

After the warning, Dentsu introduced a “no zangyo (overtime) day” while encouraging its employees to take paid leave. In a statement on Takahashi's suicide, Dentsu said: “We regret the lack of attention to the fact that she was a new employee and that there was a rapid increase in her the workload.”

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24 Comments
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Regret is not enough. Heads should roll. Severe damages should be awarded. Criminal prosecutions should strongly considered, if not begun.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

One "no overtime day"...one measly day? What the heck are they thinking? The entire corporate culture needs to be revamped, in my opinion.

Although he cherry picks his data, Michael Moore's documentary "Where to Invade Next" was a refreshing look at how other countries work! Even though the film is aimed at American gov't and culture, I felt there were some great lessons for Japan, Inc. to learn, too!

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Poor woman. It's sad that she grew up and lived in a culture where she saw no other option to get out of a really bad situation, other than ending it all at such a young age.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Put the management in jail. It wont happen though. If the Diets response is that Dentsu should be "thoroughly investigated", then there is no chance of anything changing.

What makes me laugh, though my own experiences at a Japanese corp and from family members, is that overtime working here is basically sitting at your desk waiting for someone else to do something and sometimes working through the night just to be able to say 'we worked throught the night'.

There was no rapid increase in workload. There was just a rapid increase in hours.

RIP.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Xmas Day ffs.

Really glad I wasn't born Japanese.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

If Dentsu employees regularly have to work in excess of even 40 hours a month in overtime that points to only two conclusions. Incompetent management who have no idea how to control workflow or maximise output and a shortage of staff which is also a failure of management in capacity planning.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Zed, definitely not a shortage of staff. And you are spot on with incompetent management with no idea how to maximise output during regular working hours. Certainly a surplus of underpaid staff forced to do ridiculous hours of overtime just to fit into the system.

The labour unions are just as culpable as it was supposed to be their responsibility in Japan for decades to put a stop to this overtime nonsense. They have known exactly what is going on and they have ignored it.

This poor girl was only 24 and probably studied really hard at school and university to get a prime job with a corporation like Dentsu. It is a crime.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Arrest those responsible and file charges against them. Simple as that.

The population is getting tired of business executives getting away with murder, sometimes quite literally.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Dentsu introduced a “no zangyo (overtime) day”

One whole day. Sadly this is not only at Dentsu. Zangyou is ingrained in the Japanese culture and will be hard to get out.

If Dentsu employees regularly have to work in excess of even 40 hours a month in overtime that points to only two conclusions. Incompetent management who have no idea how to control workflow or maximise output and a shortage of staff which is also a failure of management in capacity planning.

This!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Overtime "work" what a joke - as if anybody is doing anything they couldn't have done during regular working hours. But I don't think the "overtime=good/hard work" mentality will change anytime soon.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Another poor, young soul wasted who saw no other option than suicide because the only way to make her living is to be enslaved in an unpaid, hopelessly overworked job, thanks to reckless corporate greed. Heads must roll among the resposible people and Japanese need to finally wake up and change their minds that work isn't the holy grail of life!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Ripped Dervish

as if anybody is doing anything they couldn't have done during regular working hours.

That was exactly the case in the only 100% Japanese company I ever worked for... Which is why, being "Flex time", I chose to go in extra early and leave at a reasonable time - just when the Japanese had started working...

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This isn't just about the companies. Many Japanese clearly take pride in working long hours. I've lost count the number of times I've met up with friends and all they talked about was work.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

My company also has a "no zangyo day" Nice idea in concept but in reality it only pushes work to the next day or (more often) the day before.

The real issue in cases such as this is, as other posters have rightly pointed out, the poor management of employees work-load and poor project management overall. If managers at Dentsu can't see that already they never will. It seems senior management at Dentsu needs to be put out to farm on the unemployment line and the "managers" who are responsible for this poor girl's death behind bars.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I don't think people understand this properly. Dentsu want to make sure their employees don't have any kind of life outside Dentsu. If they have regular overtime they can't have any hobbies. They are slaves. Exactly what Dentsu want.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It is prevalent in most companies in Japan, but in the advertising companies it is and has always been taken up a few levels , In the 90's I knew people that worked consistently a minimum of 16 hours a day and they may have called it zangyo but they didn't receive any extra pay either, sad to say the Managers didn't need to use too much persuasion to get the new staff to work these ridiculous hours.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

May justice be served...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

sadly nothing will happen in the meaningful sense of the word. Pull out the brush and pull up the carpet as ever.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How come nobody mentioned about poor labour standards in Japan?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Many Japanese clearly take pride in working long hours.

I wonder if they understand per capita GDP? That statistic proves what a bunch of time wasters the Japanese are

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Agree, if you dont arrest those maintaining these systems of abuse, nothing will ever change. Poor wee thing. Probably would have taken only a single coworker to put their arm around her, show some caring and warmth and ask her if she was doing ok. Unfortuately, the culture tends to shun people struggling. Must be a very lonely place. The true job of a real boss and a leader is to make his company members feel backed up and suported. It aint rocket science but for some reason...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Dentsu offices in several locations raided by the govt without warning last Friday. And Labor dept. ruling was in Sept., 9 months after the event.

But apparently it took 9 years and a Supreme Court ruling in the previous karoshi case against them (1991 suicide, 2000 Supreme Court ruling).

https://www.ft.com/content/cd5b55dc-31ec-315b-8e27-76fddbb68f42

Dentsu offices in Japan raided amid employee suicide investigation

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But the tragedy is that other companies that I know of are doing exactly the same thing......this is not only a Dentsu problem......

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Typical Japanese company. Too many useless managers on top dumping everything imaginable to few actual workers on bottom. Get rid of 30-40% of top heavy management. If they don't produce revenue or more jobs through connection or creativity, they should be out.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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