In 2015, a 24-year-old Dentsu employee was required to work hundreds of hours of overtime in the months leading up to her suicide. The overtime hours required of her were in violation of Japanese labor laws.
Today, a Japanese Court issued a ruling in the case brought by prosecutors: The firm should pay a 500,000 Japanese yen (roughly $4,400) fine for violating those labor laws and contributing to the environment that caused severe depression and ultimately, the death of the employee.
The Dentsu staffer, Matsuri Takahashi, worked over 100 hours of overtime in October 2015 alone. That’s overtime. That’s in addition to the “normal” work week, which in Japan is five or six hours more than the typical 40-hour work week considered normal in the U.S.
More overtime came in November and December of that year, and on Christmas Day, she jumped from a company dormitory to her death.
I’m not going to go on a big rant about this. Takahashi’s death is a tragedy. But Japan has a well-documented labor shortage, primarily due to the fact that the country’s population is aging.
All I know is the solution isn’t working its available workforce to death. Seems to me that will just drive more young people in the nation to seek opportunities elsewhere.
And the solution also isn’t slapping companies on the wrist for violating labor laws. I’m not sure what the solution is. Possibly, it’s encouraging people from other countries where jobs are scarce to consider career opportunities in Japan. Ad agencies know a thing or two about recruitment campaigns, by the way.
Dentsu issued a statement apologizing — once again — to the “stakeholders and the general public for the concern we have caused.” That sounds so heartless. What you caused was misery and unrelenting grief. Maybe it’s a cultural thing — I don’t know.
Dentsu, you’re an advertising agency. Your mission, at least part of it, is to provide client solutions. Yes, solutions — the most overused word in Adland, but still.
So put on your thinking cap and solve this. I know it’s a huge challenge. Everyone in the problem-solving business seems focused and adept at solving everybody’s problems but their own. But in this case, lives are at stake.
So figure it out.