Dying from overwork in "the Land of Karoshi"

Can overwork kill you by driving you to suicide? It can in the land of Karoshi. By the word “Karoshi”, the Japanese mean “death from overwork,” a serious and profound issue in a country where more than 5,000 suicides per year are the result of depression caused by overwork. Japan has the highest proportion of employees working more than 50 hours per week. However, after too many victims of Karoshi, Japanese workers are starting to claim their rights and families are starting to claim compensation.

The Japanese journalist Misako Hida investigated the issue of Karoshi from the perspective of international labour standards concerning hours and conditions of work. “When it comes to working hours in Japan, nothing in the way of international labour standards exists, and in recent years an increasing number of temporary workers have been forced to work as long as full-time employees do,” writes Hida.

The Japanese writer’s article “The Land of Karoshi” won the journalistic prize for the best story on labour rights, awarded by the International Training Centre of the ILO. Hida’s article was selected from 15 stories, all written by professional journalists who attended the first training course on “Communicating Labour Rights”, organized by the Centre.

The award ceremony took place today in Geneva, Switzerland, during the 97th Session of the International Labour Conference. Video

The author

Misako Hida is an independent journalist who writes mainly for Japanese weekly magazines, including the Economist, Sunday Mainichi, Tokyo Business and Newsweek Japan. She is also the co-translator of non-fiction English books, including The Working Poor: Invisible in America. She is originally from Tokyo and has lived in New York City since 1997. She is a member of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and other organizations.

The course

The Centre's "Communicating Labour Rights" training course introduces journalists and media professionals, especially ones from developing countries, to international labour standards, with the aim of raising public awareness of their relevance to local labour and social issues. The next edition will take place in Turin from 4 to 9 August 2008.

For further information go to http://ilsforjournalists.itcilo.org

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