Media worker Miwa Sado logged 159 hours of overtime in one month before she died of heart failure.
A 31-year-old employee of Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, only took 2 days off during the July 2013 when she worked nearly double the hours considered standard for Americans — four 40-hour work weeks equates to 160 hours for the month. Her death was attributed to karoshi, a Japanese term for “death from overwork.”
Sado’s death was made public by her employer this week but is expected to increase pressure on the country’s work standards that lead to an alarming number of deaths, according to the Guardian. Last year, a young advertising agency employee’s death was ruled as karoshi and in 2015, 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi killed herself because of work-related stress after putting in over 100 hours of overtime in the months leading up to her Christmas Day suicide.
“I want to die,” Takahashi posted on social media, according to the news site. “I’m physically and mentally shattered.”
In response to her death, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and the government have proposed a monthly overtime cap at 100 hours and penalties for companies who contribute to Japan’s workplace culture of overworking to prove dedication. In 2014, a sleep study’s poll found that the Asian nation’s workforce sleeps an average of six hours and 22 minutes each work night — less than any other country.
In a “white paper,” or official government document, issued by Japan last year, one in five workers in Japan were found to be at risk of death from overworking. It found that from the beginning of the year to March, more than 2,000 citizens killed themselves over work-related stress and dozens more died from heart attacks and strokes attributed to overworking, the Guardian reported.
Sado’s employer said that it did not release her cause of death out of respect to her family. Her news team said that her suicide came three days after a grueling work schedule during an election.
“(Sado’s death reflects a) problem for our organization as a whole, including the labor system and how elections are covered,” a senior official from NHK, Masahiko Yamauchi, told the Guardian.
“Even today, four years on, we cannot accept our daughter’s death as a reality,” Sado’s parents said in a statement released through NHK. “We hope that the sorrow of a bereaved family will not be wasted.”