Matsuri Takahashi, a 24-year-old woman who worked with ad agency Dentsu, jumped to her death from a company dormitory on Christmas. She had written on Twitter of enduring harassment and grueling long hours on the job and now it is believed that she took the extreme step due to overworking, which is called karoshi in Japan.
Japan has struggled for decades to tame the issue of excessive working hours and its consequences, including karoshi.
It was found that Takahashi had logged 105 overtime hours in a month's time. Though she pretended to be fine at work, her Twitter account revealed the truth.
"They're making me work Saturdays and Sundays again," Takahashi, wrote in one post. "I seriously want to end it all. It's 4 am. My body's trembling. I'm going to die. I'm so tired," she added.
"I'm emotionless and only wish to sleep," was yet another tweet clearly portraying how exhausted she was in just six months of working with one of the world's largest advertising firms.
According to New York Times, she even revealed that her supervisors scolded her for coming to work with "messy hair and bloodshot eyes" and told her she had "no femininity."
On Wednesday, December 28, the ad agency's vice president, Tadashi Ishii, announced that he would resign in March, till the company doesn't find a new vice president.
"We are taking this seriously. I offer my heartfelt apology," Ishii said at a news conference.
Japan has been suffering from excessive working hours issue and its consequences for a long time and its government has been taking steps in order to bring about a change in its work culture. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, recently launched a work style reform in order to appeal the Japanese workers. Though the reform received mixed responses, some of the private firms have adapted it.
The work style reform aims at addressing health-related issues linked with overworking for the betterment of the public.
Various companies have also chosen to shift their overtime hours to the morning. In order to avoid the workers from staying back late, Itochu Corp. opens at 5 am, the employees who show up early are offered light breakfast and receive same salaries like they would have if they worked night shift.
According to AP, it was found that in the US, 16.4 percent of people work for an average of 29 hours or more per week, this rate was 20 percent in Japan.
The causes of death caused by overwork were found to be suicide, heart attack, heart failure or heart stroke, which are an outcome of excessive stress.
Numerous karoshi cases have been observed among Japanese men who are in the 30s and 40s. These men were found to be in managerial positions and no legal issues were involved on overtime, AP stated.