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Karōshi, death by overwork (wikipedia.org)
26 points by jacquesm on May 25, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 12 comments



I like the comments from the Japanese wikipedia on this:

日本語の過労死がそのまま使われるのはこれが日本特異の現象であるとの認識を示す。またKAROSHIは英語の辞書や他言語の辞書にも掲載されている。先進国であるはずの日本の封建的な労働状況を象徴する言葉として認知されるようになる。

My rough translation: The use of the Japanese word "karoshi" [in English] suggests that this is a peculiarly Japanese afflication. It has appeared in English and other foreign language dictionaries. "Karoshi" is an expression representing the belief that Japan, despite being a developed country, has feudalistic working conditions.

Incidentally, I'm inclined to believe that karoshi is overreported in Japan and underreported elsewhere, and to the extent it is overreported here, it is too bloody useful to criticize as yellow journalism.


I only found out about the term today after a reference in a dutch publication, it is really interesting that in Japan they have actually identified this as a direct cause to the point that they came up with a work for it.

Makes you wonder not just how much it is over-reported in Japan but definitely how much it is under-reported in the rest of the world (which would seem to be the bigger problem). I'm pretty sure employers would rather not know about this.

In the current economic climate there is a lot of pressure on the employees remaining at companies after lay-offs to pull just that little bit harder to make up for the workers that have left the company, it might push a few of them past the breaking point.


too late to edit, bloody typos, work=word.


I like this Dilbert quote:

“Pointy Haired Boss: In Japan employees occasionally work themselves to death. It's called Karoshi. I don't want that to happen to anybody in my department. The trick is to take a break as soon as you see a bright light and hear dead relatives beckon.” -- http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Dilbert


That would be substantially funnier if I had not been issued a pamphlet entitled "Working Hard And Living Well, Enjoyably" last year, during a period of several months of doing a whole lot of one and quite a bit less of the other.

I heard "work/life balance" once on the news. It was, naturally, rendered in English. We don't have a word for that yet, and will probably continue using the English coinage for that, like we do most foreign concepts.


I've heard things like 仕事と生活のバランス. But it's true that the concept sounds rather alien. Most of my co-workers at the lab eat, socialize, sleep (I see people sleeping at their desk regularly), etc. at the workplace, and they go out as a group often. It's their "life". It's tough, but I'd say it's quite different from the western image of someone actually working very long hours.

Your experience at a company may be different, of course. I haven't had the chance to experience it, and I'm not sure I really want to ;)


Outside of Japan if someone dies of a stroke, they call it a death by stroke. Just because the Japanese have coined a term to summarize the causes leading to the stroke does not make it a new epidemic.


"The concept of death from overwork has also been turned into a computer game, named after the phenomenon. The player must kill themselves rather than survive a level."


http://venbrux.com/work/tag/karoshi it's a puzzle game series that likes to poke the fourth wall occasionally


Also check out this video about the situation in Japan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_C_roXUPYbs

But the thing is certainly happening in other countries too, like the recent situation in France where in a couple of months there were 24 high skilled workers from the same telephone company committing suicide.



Correct me if i'm wrong but I see no reference to drugs (which includes caffeine, red bull, etc) in any of this. I can't help but think these cases scream of things like Benzedrine overdose.




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