This is a case of extreme work pressure that led to the suicide of a worker in Japan as she was doing massive overtime in her initial months on the job.
Takahashi, a 24 year old woman had joined Dentsu, the world’s fifth largest advertising agency globally by revenue, in April 2015. Her workload increased manifold in October due to which she would frequently go back home around 5 in the morning after working the whole day and night. Because of immense work pressure and putting in as much as 100 hours of overtime a month, she committed suicide by jumping off her company dorm balcony in December 2015. She left a goodbye message for her mother asking her to not blame herself, “You’re the best mom in the world,” Takahashi had written. “But why do things have to be so hard?”
In September, the government pronounced that Takahashi’s death was caused by overwork. Toko-based Dentsu that was raided last month by labor regulators has constantly promised to reduce overtime. The company even turned off headquarter lights at 10 p.m so that the workers would go back home.
On Wednesday, government authorities have submitted papers to demand a prosecutorial charge against the anonymous employee of Dentsu who had driven Takahashi to take such a drastic step due to work pressure.
The President of Dentsu, Tadashi Ishii at a Tokyo news conference confirmed that he will give resignation at a board meeting in January owing to the suicide of Takahashi. He will stay through March as a courtesy to shareholders. But he acknowledged that the problem still persists. There were 100 workers in the company who were still doing more than 80 hours of overtime a month.
“This is something that should never have been allowed to happen,” Ishii told reporters of Takahashi’s suicide.
The government in September ruled that overwork caused her death. Tokyo-based Dentsu, which was raided last month by labor regulators, has repeatedly promised to curtail overtime, suspected of being widespread at the company. It started turning off headquarters lights at 10 p.m. so workers would go home.
It should be noted that the first case of suicide from overwork was also a Dentsu employee in 1991. Ichiro Oshima,24, was not given one day off for 17 months and only managed to sleep for two hours in the night. At that time, Dentsu did not agree to the charges of overtime and blamed the death on Oshima’s personal problems.
In the case of Takahashi, the company has acknowledged that work pressure took a toll on her. Her records showed monthly overtime within company regulations of 70 hours, with numbers like 69.9 hours while in reality she worked way more than that.
Japanese society highly regards conformity and admires workaholic lifestyles. The deaths that take place due to exhaustion are very common in this country and there is a special term for it,”Karoshi” which includes suicides due to overwork.
According to the government, around 2,000 people in a year commit suicide due to stress at work places. This is indeed a sad state of affairs which is affecting the mental health of people and driving them to take such extreme steps. Hard work should definitely be appreciated but excess of everything is bad.