We got to talking about Japan trialing 4 day working weeks but my colleague was oblivious to the working conditions of a typical Japanese salary man. The number one cause of death for the 20-29 age group and the 30-39 age group (in Japan) was suicide.
"Shota Nakahara, 32, a former systems engineer, has been suffering from depression caused by overwork, sleep deprivation and stress for eight years. He described his working conditions as the “death march”— excessive overwork in order to achieve unrealistic goals. He sued his company for unpaid overtime and won a lawsuit in 2006, but is still unable to return to work.
“I used to work from 8:40 a.m. to 3 a.m. for nearly two years. I was psychologically on the edge. I could not register scenery around me. I couldn’t tell what day it was or which season. The only thing I could see was the entrance to the company and the computer on my desk. I could not hear any sounds around me and my vision was really narrow and blurred. I could not even hear my boss’s voice,” he said.
Even under the harsh working conditions, he hesitated to resign. “I was afraid that once I lost my full-time job, my life would be destroyed. It is really hard to get full-time positions. With low-paid temp work, I thought I would plunge into poverty and hit the bottom of the society. That’s the end of my life." Nonetheless, he finally quit. “I came to the point where I had to choose between life or work.”
Pulitzer Center 2012