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2014年5月19日 (月)

過労死防止法案 働く人の心と体を守りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:13 pm, May 18, 2014
Legislation needed to prevent ‘karoshi’ death from overwork
過労死防止法案 働く人の心と体を守りたい

The number of people dying from overwork has shown no signs of declining significantly. Working conditions must be improved and further measures are needed to prevent “karoshi,” or death from excessive work.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has compiled a bill to prevent such deaths and will submit it to the current Diet session. Its feature is to make the government responsible for taking countermeasures against death from overwork and carry out a survey on hazardous health conditions caused by excessive work. According to the bill, the government should draft an outline of specific preventive measures and draw up stipulations to carry them out.

Meanwhile, six opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan, have jointly submitted a bill with similar contents to the Diet. We expect the opposition and ruling parties to work together and quickly coordinate their bills to realize the legislation.

In fiscal 2012, as many as 338 workers were recognized as suffering from brain or heart diseases caused by overwork. The number increased for the second consecutive year.

In addition, a record 475 workers were recognized as suffering from mental diseases, including depression, due to overwork, a rise of nearly 50 percent from the previous year. Of them, 93 people killed or attempted to kill themselves.

With the expanding use of computers and smartphones, people work whenever and wherever they are. According to some observers, this has contributed to the rise of work-related diseases. When employees face the pressure of work around the clock, they tend to get stressed out and lose sleep.

Reduce working hours

The number of deaths officially recognized as work-related likely represents only the tip of the iceberg. We understand the aim of the LDP-sponsored bill to conduct a survey on the hazardous health conditions caused by overwork as a prerequisite to taking effective measures.

However, we are not completely satisfied with the bill, as it does not address how working hours could be reduced. Changing long working hours is the most important action that can be taken to prevent deaths and suicides caused by overwork.

Japanese work longer than people in other advanced countries. As many as 4.8 million people work more than 60 hours a week in this country. They could be called potential victims of death from excessive work. Working unpaid overtime, which is not reflected in statistics, is also very common.

The government should include specific measures to reduce working hours in its outline on the prevention of death from overwork.

It is also necessary to review a stipulation in the Labor Standards Law that allows virtually unlimited extension of working hours if labor and the management sign an agreement.

The LDP-sponsored bill obliges companies to cooperate with the government’s policy measures.

The Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy and the Industrial Competitiveness Council, both government panels of experts, have proposed a new labor management system that evaluates employees based on not the length of their work hours, but on their achievements.

Though some have criticized the system for prompting employees to work even longer hours, it is also expected to end the inefficient practice of working overtime by remaining late at the office for no particular purpose.

Some companies have succeeded in reducing overall work hours by prohibiting overtime work at night but encouraging employees to start working earlier in the morning. Companies should work out various measures in an effort to improve productivity and cut working hours.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 18, 2014)


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