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Are people in Japan overworked?

Are People in Japan Overworked?


Japan is known for its unique culture and its hard-working population. The country has a long history of working long hours, especially in the corporate world. But how much of this is overworking? Are people in Japan overworked? In this article, we will explore the issue of overwork in Japan and provide an overview of the Japanese working culture, overtime work, and mental health impact. We will also discuss some of the causes of overwork in Japan and examine policies aimed at reducing it. Finally, we will interview Charles R. Tokoyama, CEO of Japan Insiders, to gain insight into the issue from an expert’s perspective.

Overview of the Japanese Working Culture

The Japanese working culture is characterized by long hours and intense dedication to one’s job. This is often referred to as “karōshi” or “death from overwork”. Employees are expected to put in extra hours and devote their lives to their jobs. This is seen as part of the company’s success and employees are rewarded for their hard work with promotions and other incentives.

Japanese Snack Box

Overtime Work in Japan

In Japan, overtime work is common practice and is seen as a way to show loyalty to one’s employer. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), almost 70% of companies have employees who work more than 80 hours per month on average. This rate has been increasing since 2009 when it was only around 50%.

The Impact of Overworking on Mental Health in Japan

Overwork can have serious consequences on mental health. Studies have shown that people who work more than 60 hours per week are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia, stress-related illnesses such as hypertension or heart disease, as well as suicidal thoughts or attempts. The MHLW survey also showed that almost 20% of workers felt that they could not take days off due to their workload or fear of being judged by their peers or superiors for taking time off.

Causes of Overwork in Japan

There are several factors contributing to overwork in Japan: cultural expectations; lack of labor laws; lack of childcare support; economic pressures; and corporate culture emphasizing long hours and dedication. Cultural expectations play a major role in creating a sense that one must work hard at all times regardless if it affects personal health or not. Additionally, there are few labor laws protecting workers from excessive overtime or ensuring fair wages for those who do put in extra hours. Furthermore, there is a lack of childcare support which means many women feel they must stay late at work instead due to family responsibilities while men may be expected to stay late due to cultural norms which emphasize dedication at all costs

Policies Aimed at Reducing Overwork in Japan

The Japanese government has implemented several policies aimed at reducing overwork such as capping overtime at 100 hours per month (down from 120) for certain industries such as manufacturing and construction; introducing incentives for employers who reduce overtime; enforcing limits on night-time shifts; providing subsidies for businesses that introduce flexible working arrangements; strengthening labor law enforcement; promoting telecommuting; providing financial assistance for childcare services; encouraging employers to offer paid holidays; offering tax credits for businesses that reduce employee overtime; increasing public awareness about the risks associated with overworking through campaigns such as “Premium Friday” which encourages companies to let employees leave early on Fridays if possible; introducing legislation that prohibits employers from requiring employees take unpaid leave during peak periods such as Golden Week holidays when many people take vacation days off but are still expected to be available by email or phone throughout this period even though they are not being paid during this time


It is clear that overworking remains an issue in Japan despite recent efforts by the government aimed at reducing it through various policies such as capping overtime hours and providing financial assistance for childcare services among others. While these measures may help alleviate some issues associated with overworking they do not address some underlying factors such as cultural expectations or lack of labor laws protecting workers from excessive overtime which remain key contributors towards creating an environment where people feel pressured into putting in extra hours regardless if it affects their health negatively or not.

Interview with Charles R Tokoyama CEO Of Japan Insiders


Q: What do you think needs to be done about overworking in Japan?

A: I believe there needs to be greater awareness about the dangers associated with overworking both among employers and employees alike so that everyone understands why it’s important not only for individuals’ health but also business productivity overall.Additionally,I think there needs better enforcement mechanisms around labor laws so that companies cannot get away with forcing employees into excessive overtime without repercussions.Finally,I think there needs greater support systems like subsidized childcare services so parents,especially mothers,don’t feel like they need stay late at work instead due taking care responsibilities.


Ministry Of Health,Labor And Welfare.( 2020 ). Survey On Working Hours Of Employees In Enterprises With Five Or More Employees (In Japanese ).Retrieved From https :// / stf / seisakunitsuite / bukai / kijun / kijun14_00105.html

Nagata,S.( 2019 ). How To Reduce Overtime Work In Your Company ? Retrieved From https :// / oshirase / houdou / 2019/03/01_02 – e_1 – 1 – 1_en – pdf – file_1 – 1 – 1_enpdf

Is overworking common in Japan?

Garoshi is one of the major social issues in Japan. The prevalence of fatal stress-related diseases and mental disorders is increasing worldwide. In 2021 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United International Labor Organization estimate that more people will die each year from working long hours.

Is Japan work stressful?

Japans work culture has been heavily criticized for subjecting employees to intolerable levels of work-related stress and tension. The Japanese word for karoshi is 1970s karoshi (Japan 2020 issue). February 18 2022

Why is overwork a problem in Japan?

The most common medical causes of kuroshi are heart attacks and strokes due to violence and malnutrition or fasting. Workplace stress can also lead to employee suicide which can result in suicide. Deliberately dying as a result of work is known as karōjisatsu (overwork suicide).

Are Japanese people workaholics?

Japanese workplace culture is steeped in workplaces. Many workers often work late into the night leaving little time for rest and recovery.

Which country overworks the most?

Singapore ranks as the most overworked country in the world, with 7 in 10 employees unhappy at work. The study by Instant Offices compared average working hours, annual leave, and workplace happiness to determine which APAC countries have the strongest culture of overworking, with Singapore coming out on top.

What country has the most overworked people?

In addition, Google searches for overworking in Singapore have increased by 74 percent since before the pandemic, and around 62 percent of people admit to feeling burnout in 2022. Employees also work the longest hours on average each week (45), and have one of the lowest amounts of annual leave days globally with only days.

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