A Japanese labor agency has ruled that a contributing factor to a Dentsu employee’s suicide last December was the extraordinary number of overtime hours she had been logging in the months leading up to her death, according to reports.
The Tokyo Reporter cited records indicating that the woman, Matsuri Takahashi, 24, had logged 130 hours of overtime in October of 2015 and 99 hours of overtime last November. She jumped to her death on Christmas Day.
Death by overwork (or so-called "karoshi") is an unfortunate trend in Japan, affecting a number of industries including health care, construction and social services. Part of the problem is that there are more jobs than there are people to fill them in the country. Thus, many workers are expected to work what some consider excessive overtime hours to fill the talent pool void.
The Japanese government recognizes two kinds of work-related karoshi — mental stress-related suicide and cardiovascular illness. The Tokyo Reporter also cited comments from what the publication claimed was Takahashi’s twitter account. In one tweet she alleged company higher-ups stated: “For you to be struggling with this amount of work means a total lack of capacity.” The publication also reported Takahashi claiming she was getting two hours of sleep a night.
The publication quoted a Dentsu company statement indicating that the firm takes the matter “seriously,” but won’t comment further until it completes its own internal review of the matter.
The labor agency finding is the second recent contretemps to dog the Japanese agency holding company. Last month the firm acknowledged that a unit in Japan had botched hundreds of digital ad transactions involving more than 100 clients. An internal investigation looking into that matter is ongoing.