Japanese Journalist ‘Dies From Overwork’ After Clocking 159 Hours Of Overtime In A Month

The “work” culture in Japan has been questioned after the labour inspectors adjudged that the death of a 31-year-old journalist at the country’s public broadcaster, NHK, had been caused by overwork.

It is understood that Miwa Sado, the journalist for Japan’s state-run broadcaster, spent the summer of 2013 frantically covering two local elections in Tokyo.

Over the course of a month, she clocked 159 hours of overtime.

It was also gathered that she rarely took weekends off. She worked until midnight nearly every night. Not quite a month later, just days after the second election, she died of congestive heart failure in July 2013.

A labour standards office in Tokyo later attributed her death to “karoshi” – meaning death from overwork – with her case only made public by her former employer this week.“

The revelation is expected to come as an embarrassment to NHK – Sado’s employer – which has campaigned against the nation’s long-hours culture.

She was under circumstances that she could not secure enough days off due to responsibilities that required her to stay up very late,” the labor office in the Shibuya section of Tokyo said in a statement to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper

This is just as the broadcaster said it had delayed revealing details about Ms. Sado’s death out of respect for her family, even has it timed the release to coincide with planned workplace changes.

“We decided to disclose her death to all of our employees and to the public to share the company’s resolve to prevent a recurrence and follow through with reforms,” NHK said.

The Guardian reports that Sado’s death is expected to increase pressure on Japanese authorities to address the large number of deaths attributed to the “punishingly” long hours expected of many employees.

The announcement also comes a year after a similar ruling over the death of a young employee at Dentsu advertising agency prompted a national debate over Japan’s attitude to work-life balance and calls to limit overtime.

Matsuri Takahashi was 24 when she killed herself in April 2015. Labour standards officials ruled that her death had been caused by stress brought on by long working hours. Takahashi had been working more than a 100 hours’ overtime in the months before her death.

Meanwhile, NHK’s chief has pledged to improve work conditions at the broadcaster.

“We are sorry that we lost an excellent reporter and take seriously the fact that her death was recognised as work-related,” President Ryoichi Ueda said Thursday (Oct 5). “We will continue to work for reform in cooperation with her parents,” he told reporters.