More Japanese seek stress compensation
By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press Writer Thu May 17, 8:38 PM ET
TOKYO - More Japanese workers than ever claimed and received compensation for mental-health problems caused by workplace stress last year and a similar trend was seen for families of employees who died from work-related suicides, officials said Thursday.
A government study found the number of employment-related suicides hit a record 65 in 2006, compared to 42 the previous year, Health Ministry official Junichiro Kurashige said.
The number of workers who received compensation for work-induced mental illness was 205, also a record and up 61 percent from a year earlier, he said. The number of applications for compensation for mental illness or suicide also rose sharply, to 819 cases, a 24 percent jump.
The numbers reflect a push by the government to get more workers or their families to seek compensation if they are legitimately entitled to it, and Kurashige said the recorded cases probably reflect only a tiny fraction of the overall problem.
Japan's suicide rate is among the highest in the industrialized world. More than 32,000 Japanese killed themselves in 2004, the bulk of them older Japanese suffering financial woes as the country struggled through a decade of economic stagnation.
In response, the Japanese government has earmarked substantial funds for programs to help those with depression and other mental illnesses and is more actively involved in encouraging those affected to come forward.
The figures are also seen as reflecting a change in social attitudes toward mental illness.
Though once seen as shameful, more Japanese are willing to acknowledge they suffer from depression or stress-related illnesses now than in the past, and the government has begun easing its compensation restrictions to allow more people to qualify.
"Before, people tried to hide that they were suffering from depression," said Mikio Mizuno, a lawyer specializing in death from overwork. "Now, it has become more widely known that people suffer and commit suicide from work-related depression, leading to more applications for workers' compensation. The psychological burden from work is also increasing."
Financial worries have been a problem since the world's second-largest economy stagnated in the early 1990s after a burst of high growth, leading to bankruptcies, layoffs and an increased focus on jobs with fewer benefits and long-term security.
The economic has been growing again, but more slowly, and Japanese workers often face long overtime hours with little or no compensation and must make long commutes to work.
Non-LIT specific topics about Japan and Asia - culture, customs, food, people, art, film etc.
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I think that this is a good trend.
Although maybe not enough. samwright8380's pictures of Japan are really beautiful, but there is a dark side to their culture.
Japanese working to death more than ever
Thu May 17, 1:33 AM ET
TOKYO (AFP) - A record number of Japanese people literally worked themselves to death last year despite a government campaign to ease the country's notorious office hours.
Some 355 workers fell severely ill or died from overwork in the year to March, the highest figure on record and 7.6 percent up from the previous year, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labour said.
Of the total, 147 people died, many from strokes or heart attacks.
Death from overwork grew so common during Japan's post-World War II economic miracle that a word was coined for it, "karoshi."
The government has tried to address the problem by promoting telecommuting and encouraging workers to take leave when they start families or need to care for elderly parents.
But as Japan's economy posts a record-long expansion, critics point to the rising number of part-time jobs, saying new employees lack the security that would allow them to resist pressure to overwork.
The labour ministry said it rejected nearly half of the record 938 worker claims filed in the last financial year seeking compensation for suspected illness or death from overwork.
Separately, another 819 workers contended they became mentally ill due to overwork, with 205 cases given compensation, according to the ministry data released Wednesday.
Mentally troubled workers killed themselves or attempted to do so in 176 cases, of which a record 66 cases were found eligible for benefits, the ministry report said.
Japan has one of the world's highest suicide rates with the figure topping 30,000 for an eighth straight year in 2005.