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Unmasking Karoshi: The Silent Toll of Japan's Workaholic Culture

There are many people who take pride in being hardworking. Few have been so immersed in their work that they actually die from it. In Japan, the phenomenon is quite common that they have a specific word: karoshi (過労死), which means death by overwork. Usually it refers to death caused by pressures related to work, usually stress. In fact, stress is known to lead to many harmful habits, such as lack of sleep and exercise or excessive drinking. A combination of al, of the above could be fatal in the long run.

The first case of karoshi was officially reported in 1969, when a 29-year-old worker in the shipping department of Japan's largest newspaper company died because of a stroke. More incidents were to Follow and soon Japan, and the corporate world, had a very serious problem at hand. In fact, the problem is so resinous that in 1988 the Karoshi Hotline Network was established, offering help to all those in need.

Still, the problem persists and it has surpassed Japanese borders. In South Korea, one of the countries with the longest working hours in the world, many feel the burden to climb up the corporate ladder quickly. There’s even the Korean equivalent of Karoshi, gwarosa. In 2018, the number of working hours was reduced in order to resolve this problem, trying to prove that it’s not about the quantity of work but the quality.

This phenomenon must serve as a warning to the rest of us. Instead of remaining indifferent, businesses should take action to ensure that the mental and physical health of their employees is safeguarded. After all, everybody deserves to have a workplace where they feel respected and protected, reaching their maximum potential.

By Maria Zoi Michailidou - Corporate Culture Corespondent


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