What is your limit while working abroad?

In an article by Julian Ryall for the UK Telegraph the Japanese government has been accused of poor labour working conditions, even stated as slave labor, because 27 foreign interns have died due to working more than 16 hours a day. The majority of the victims were rather young in their 20’s or 30’s. The victims were among an estimated 200,000 trainees from developing countries that are working in Japan under the Japanese International Training Corporation Organisation. Many of these trainees were working 100 hours of overtime on top of regular working hours of 350 hours per month.
According to Lila Abiko, a lawyer representing the family of a Chinese man who died in 2008, over the last year there have been 27 technical interns who died in Japan, many of them from causes that can be linked to overwork. For me more shocking is that the figure is actually an improvement compared to the 35 deaths in 2008! Of the total 27 interns nine died of brain diseases or heart complaints, four died in industrial accidents, three committed suicide and four died in road accidents. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare states that for the remainder the death causes are unknown. Twenty-one of the dead were from China, three from Vietnam, two from the Philippines and one was from Indonesia.
The labour standards bureau in Ibaraki Prefecture had indicated that it will recognise the death of a Chinese man in June 2008 as having been caused by overwork. The family of Jiang Xiaodong will be the first to receive a labour insurance payment of about Y10 million. Jiang was 31, when he died of heart failure in his sleep when working at the metal processing company Fuji Denka Kogyo in the Ibaraki. It seems that he had worked as many as 109 hours of overtime in the months before his death.
Most likely long working hours are going hand in hand with the ongoing global recession and I wonder for how many foreign trainees Japan will be their last stop…

Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)

2 thoughts on “What is your limit while working abroad?

  1. That aspect of Japanese working life is pretty scary. Not to mention the immense social pressures as well. Having worked there, for more than 3 of the 5 years 6 days a week I can say that it is easy to get drawn into that kind of corporate culture. Very hard to escape, especially if you’re young and impressionable.

    • Dear Brett,

      what a pleasure to get your comments! Thank you so much.
      Fully understand what you mean, because being given finally a chance to show one’s capabilities in the unique setting in Japan leads most likely pushing oneself too much. From my perspective trying to keep a work/life balance is most challenging here in Japan compared to US and Europe.
      All the best,


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