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There is no work that is more important than someone’s life.

8 Comments

Yukimi Takahashi, the mother of a 24-year-old woman who committed suicide due to grueling work hours at advertising giant Dentsu Inc last Dec 25, calling for sweeping changes in the corporate culture. (Asahi Shimbun)

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Well, there is soldiering. And the original model for many Japanese companies seems to be the military, even down to company songs and the program for new recruits. And the ethos is that you devote your life to the company. It all needs root and branch reform before Mrs Takahashi's words become widely accepted as completely obvious..

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I once got a job which I thought was quite good. The work seems to be interesting, and the salary generous. But then I found the work culture to be tedious, and the owner of the company was a tyrant. I did what sane people do when such things happen; I quit. I simply told my boss that I didn't like working at the company, and that I wouldn't be coming in the next day. The boss was not surprised, as I wasn't the first one to walk away.

The problem in Japan is that company workers cannot simply quit and walk away. They are conditioned from elementary school to conform, and not to question their seniors. The parent, teacher, team leader, manager, and president is always right (even when they are wrong). The business culture cultivates automatons incapable of independent action or criticism, making it's workers completely dependent on their companies.

Workers do indeed work long hours, but the amount of work they do is not spectacular. It is not the "overwork" that kills them, it is the knowledge that they are trapped. They are promoted only by seniority, so there is no reward for performance or new ideas, there are no shortcuts to higher pay and more responsibility. All there is to do is be at work for 10 to 12 hours day day, doing the same thing day after day, enjoying your 5 day vacation every year, and earning a very mediocre salary for the trouble. And these workers will be stuck in this rut for 40 years.

Since people can't simply quit and walk away (though some do), most find it easier to step in front of a train.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I think that in Takahashi's case, she was overworked - it appears that she was getting two hours sleep a night leading up to her death. There may have been bullying involved in forcing her to work these hours, including Saturdays and Sundays. Depression is associated with lack of sleep. Further, Dentsu has admitted its digital department where Takahashi was working, was overbilling customers. The company is not ethical, so if you have any dealings with this scum, vote with your money.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The thing that irks me is that her employer was not a hospital, emergency service or other life-support institution, such as the work she was doing was essential or valuable. It is a bloody advertising agency!

Yukimi's demise was tragic, but I feel for her mother and understand her words very well. I hope you do too.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

There is no work that is more important than someone’s life.

It should be law to repeat this mantra EVERY morning before work EVERYWHERE in Japan so that it finally sinks in

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

A major problem with Dentsu is that it allows its clients to call up before end of play on a Friday and demand that a creative proposal is completely changed by Monday morning.

For "allows," read "encourages." The consequences are identical.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Can I be honest? I don't really buy this death by 'overwork' excuse. I think it's more of a euphemism to avoid directly mentioning the nasty, aloof, unfriendly, unpleasant, mask-wearing, unsupportive, small minded and bullying co-workers/superiors that are, unfortunately, far too common in Japanese workplaces. Along with the cultural expectation that you shouldn't complain about these things.

I've known countless people who work 60-80+ hours per week doing something they absolutely love while working with a team of people who are supportive and enjoy eachothers company. Not one of them has ever dropped dead or committed suicide. As long as we keep pretending that turning out the lights by 8pm will solve some of these deeper issues in society, I'm afraid we won't solve anything.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

For many corporations and their management, work certainly is more important than someone’s life.

Like other commenters, I think it is a symptom of the hierarchical structures in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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