Death is not an occupational hazard that you’d associate with being a bus conductor, tailor, or a bank executive. But in Japan it is, and many instances of sudden death from being overworked have been recorded in Japan, so much that overworked Japanese have a word for such deaths — karoshi.
In 2013, Japanese workers availed less than half the number of days off that they were entitled to. And the economic scenario in Japan is not helping. Employees routinely put in 100 hours of overtime a month, often without pay.
Workers in Japan are entitled to a maximum of 20 days of paid leave in a month. At present, companies are not required to see that workers take paid leave, but a new law, which will most likely be passed this week, will require that companies compulsorily give paid leave to workers.
The law could usher in a cultural shift from the present situation, in which the Japanese traits of hard work and loyalty prevent them from taking leave and burdening their colleagues with work. They would rather court ill health than be perceived as the ones to disrupt productivity. The move could also encourage young Japanese to discover early on the right “work-life balance.”